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Record number of Swedish parents caught faking child's sick leave

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Record number of Swedish parents caught faking child's sick leave
Parents and a child. Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT'
08:32 CET+01:00
Sweden's Social Insurance Agency claimed back 86 million kronor ($9.44 million) from parents wrongfully claiming benefits to look after their sick children in 2016.

Sweden's generous welfare politics include paying out up to 80 percent of a salary to mums and dads who stay at home to look after their children if they are ill. It is called 'VAB', which stands for 'vård av barn' (care of children), and famously even exists as a verb, 'to vabba'.

But the number of parents getting caught claiming the payments in error is growing, as The Local has previously reported, after social insurance agency Försäkringskassan stepped up its controls.

In 2016 (until December 21st), a total of 615 mums, 431 dads and one person with protected identity investigated by the agency were reported to the police on suspicion of trying to cheat the system.

That compares to a total of 224 police reports filed against parents in 2014.

“Those who do it systematically, they report the child as sick for a whole week and then work at the same time that week. And so they receive both salary and compensation from their social insurance. Then the week after, they do it in a different way, and then the next week they 'vabbar' again,” explained Försäkringskassan's family economics spokesperson Niklas Löfgren to Swedish radio.

Not all cases of wrongful payouts are necessarily due to intentional benefit crimes, and those parents won't get reported to the police but do have to pay back. In 2016 Försäkringskassan claimed back a total of 86 million kronor from parents. In 2014 the equivalent figure was 15 million kronor.

The main reason behind the increase is that the agency has stepped up its work to crack down on the phenomenon. Last year it investigated 3,000 parents compared to around 1,700 parents in 2014.

“On top of doing randomized checks, we now carry out systematic controls using certain criteria that point in the direction of potential offenders. (…) It is not totally uncomplicated and we can't reveal the exact method because then it may no longer work,” Löfgren told The Local in 2015.

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