2019 saw a significant increase in police reports of child sickness benefit fraud, with the national social insurance agency (Försäkringskassan) claiming back more than 81 million kronor in damages.
The worst fraudsters had attempted to claim around half a million kronor through the benefit.
Parents in Sweden can claim a so-called VAB (Vård av barn, or 'care of child') payment, of up to 80 percent of their usual wage up to a fixed cap, if they need to stay home from work when their child aged under 12 is unwell. That's in contrast to standard sick leave, if the employee themselves needs to stay home from work due to sickness, in which case there is an unpaid karensdag or 'waiting day' at the start of any period of illness.
But new figures from the Social Insurance Agency show that the number of parents suspected of incorrectly or falsely claiming the VAB benefit increased by almost 50 percent in 2019 compared to the previous year. And the total sum which the agency asked to be repaid rose from 69 million kronor in 2018 to more than 81 million last year.
Alexandra Wallin, who leads the Children and Family department at the agency, said she viewed the increase less as proof of increased fraud but rather as evidence that the agency's efforts to crack down on benefits fraud were effective.
“We carried out a detailed analysis in 2017 and saw we had a problem with wrong payments. Since then, we have worked hard and intensified our checks in several areas, and did a lot of work on this last year,” she explained.
One of the most significant instances occurred in Örebro, where a woman was required to pay back 540,000 kronor after applying for temporary child sickness benefit on 138 occasions over three years.
Another woman, in the Jönköping area, applied for benefit 189 times over five and a half years, and was asked to pay back 495,000 kronor. And the third largest amount paid back was 420,000 kronor, requested of a man in Stockholm who had made 82 applications for the benefit.
“We haven't seen any differences in geography or gender. A few more checks were carried out into women, but more women take out the benefit,” said Wallin.
“When we find errors, some of these were made unknowingly. Then there's a small group who do it deliberately, and we take that very seriously. When we suspect a crime we have a duty to report it to the police,” she added.