What makes people commit benefit fraud

What makes people commit benefit fraud?


Benefit fraud is, harmonizing to some members of the authorities and some media beginnings, committed by dishonorable people and is a blight on our state which sucks up immense sum of money that could otherwise be used for the betterment of public services. Another position might reason that benefit fraud is a symptom and contemplation of our unequal society. The first position tends to put the incrimination on the person while the latter tends to put the incrimination on society. The attitude that a textual beginning adopts towards this inquiries can supply some penetration into the manner in which they construct the issue.

Social psychological science has analysed the manner in which we make determinations about why something happens in footings of ascriptions. Hogg & A ; Vaughan ( 2002 ) explain that ascriptions in societal psychological science depict how people make determinations about the actions of other people – specifically what is it that motivates their actions? One of the most well-known of these theoretical accounts of ascriptions was put frontward by Kelley ( 1967, 1973 ) . Within this theoretical account, people ‘s behavior is either attributed to external causes or to internal causes on the footing of how their behavior varies with the undermentioned factors: its peculiarity, its consistence and the consensus.

Attribution theory has been farther extended by the work of Weiner ( 1986 ) which breaks down how ascriptions are made into three classs. The first is the venue of control – this refers to the boundary between internal and external causes. The 2nd is stability – this refers to the extent to which the cause is capable of alteration. The 3rd is the controllability – this refers to how much control a individual is perceived to hold over their future public presentation.

The manner in which the examined texts make ascriptions about people ‘s behavior, in this instance benefit fraud, should demo their attitudes towards those types of people. For this survey, four infusions from The Guardian newspaper were used. The Guardian is traditionally a politically left-leaning publication. The hypothesis for this survey was that The Guardian newspaper, in its inexplicit accounts of the grounds people commit benefit fraud, would be given to underscore those grounds that focussed on the effects that society has on persons instead than on single factors such as personal aberrance. In footings of ascription theory, so, the ascriptions made for benefit fraud would be given to be external to people, would be given to be lasting and beyond people ‘s control.


Contented analysis is a type of qualitative research method that involves numbering the cases of words and so doing illations from these figures. Thematic analysis, nevertheless, is a related process that involves looking at a text in order to detect the subjects that emerge from it, but it does non hold the same accent on word frequences. From this difference it can be seen that a thematic analysis purposes to understand the information instead than cognize it.

The process used for this thematic analysis was to read the infusions associating to profit fraud and to do notes in the border as subjects arose in the cryptography. The subjects that arose from all the infusions were so examined in entire and any possible connexions between the subjects were analysed in footings of societal psychological theories.

In transporting out this analysis, one of the most of import factors was keeping a province of reflexiveness. Marks & A ; Yardley ( 2004 ) point to two of import constituents of reflexiveness in this type of survey. The first is a societal review – this means analyzing how the subjects relate to power constructions in society. The 2nd is the research worker sing their ain attitudes towards the topic being investigated.


From the analyses of four extracts from The Guardian, the undermentioned three subjects emerged.

Subject 1: The Catch 22 & A ; Administrative Complexity

The first subject emphasises the thought that there are frequently high degrees of administrative burden involved in using for benefits. Davies ( 2005 ) for illustration emphasised the sum of form-filling involved for people and how complicated the procedure is:

“ Many ( … ) fear eternal form-filling while traveling off benefits, into revenue enhancement credits and so, heaven forbid, reapplying for benefits if work falls through – trusting that between the Inland Revenue, occupation Centre and the lodging office, no 1 misplaces their signifier. ” ( Davies, 2005 )

This focal point on the complications of the procedure can besides be seen in Tickle ‘s ( 2006 ) article which focuses on the troubles of the system. In peculiar for one 19-year old seeking to set himself through the instruction system in order to derive A-levels so that he can acquire a grade, the benefits system seems to be working against him. Not merely that but the administrative system has him caught in a ‘Catch 22 ‘ :

“ Harmonizing to the benefit regulations, if you turn 19 and are stateless, the instruction game alterations. You are no longer eligible for income support, which in bend entitles you to lodging benefit. This benefit requires claimants to hold an income. Alternatively, you must claim jobseeker ‘s allowance ( JSA ) , which means declaring yourself available for work, and finally go toing government-approved New Deal preparation. This will really probably have nil to make with your surveies, or those you might wish to get down. ” ( Tickle, 2006 )

Harmonizing to this history, the adult male in this article has clearly been caught in the administrative complexnesss of the state of affairs, something for which he can non be personally blamed.

Subject 2: Social Hardship

A strong subject throughout these articles emphasises the trouble of the fortunes of many of the people that may be involved in benefit fraud. The immature adult male described by Tickle ( 2006 ) had been forced to travel out from the household place because of jobs there and had moved into stateless adjustment. These points are farther highlighted in the letters page of The Guardian which points to some of the societal fortunes of those who might be claiming benefits fraudulently. Serwotka ( 2005 ) points out that:

“ We besides see from estimations reported to the public histories commission that while benefit fraud is worsening, mistakes in payments are on the addition. As the brotherhood stand foring the workers who have to implement these tough conditions, PCS does non believe that acquiring tough is the best manner of assisting some of the most vulnerable in society to obtain and maintain occupations. ” ( Serwotka, 2005 )

This places benefit inquiries within a wider context of take downing rates of deceitful behavior and the inexplicit persecution of those who are the most vulnerable.

Subject 3: Fraud Despite Labeling

A consistent manner in which the authors in The Guardian talked about benefit fraud was in mention to the negative effects of labelling. The deduction of this was that while grounds for benefit fraud might include societal fortunes and administrative complexness, as discussed above, fraud was carried out despite the strong negative intensions attached to it by the authorities and others. Davies ( 2005 ) , for illustration, points out that many people:

“ …feel targeted and blamed for anti-social behavior, benefit fraud, foraging on incapacity benefit. They fear being punished for their kids ‘s school attending, accused of bad parenting and holding their kids put into attention. ” ( Davies, 2005 ) .

A civilization of fright is emphasised by Beresford ( 2005 ) in that vulnerable people are systematically bombarded by messages that fraud should be avoided. Reporting on a Department of Health survey it was found that:

“ One of the strongest messages from the survey is the existent committedness of many people who have been written off as “ dependent ” to do a part to their community. But this is hindered by official talk of “ benefit darnels ” ; of acquiring “ a million people off incapacity benefit ” ; a preoccupation with paid employment ; and an frequently inflexible and unsupportive labor market. ” ( Beresford, 2005 )

Implicit within this analysis is the thought that people who do perpetrate profit fraud must hold a good ground for making so because the societal force per unit area created by the authorities non to transport out fraud is so great.


The subjects found in this textual analysis of why people commit benefit fraud points to the engagement of a figure of established societal psychological theories. Each of the subjects examined clearly shows how societal and systemic grounds were seen, by these articles in The Guardian, to be at the root of why people commit benefit fraud.

The first subject of administrative complexness tended to impute the causes for deceitful benefit claims to administrative quandary and ‘catch-22 ‘ jobs. This clearly places the grounds for behavior outside a individual ‘s venue of control and implicitly places the cause for the behavior onto the system. As the system is being blamed this will be given to be a comparatively stable factor that will go on into the hereafter. Finally, administrative factors are mostly beyond the control of the person as they are determinations made by the province.

The 2nd subject of societal adversity is non rather every bit clear-cut as the first but there are similar inclinations in the analysed ascriptions. Here societal adversity is seen to move as an external force but the determination of the adult male discussed in this instance to perpetrate benefit fraud is seen, to some extent, to be internal. The grounds given for this, nevertheless, are external in that it is the system, once more, and its complexnesss and evident loopholes, that has forced him to take this determination.

The concluding subject did non suit easy into the thoughts provided by ascription theory, but, is better suited to those of conformance. Asch ( 1952 ) posited that people tend to organize the norms for their ain behavior by looking at those around them and come to a decision about how they should move based on this. What was clear from Asch ‘s ( 1952 ) experiments is that people are extremely affected by other people ‘s behavior. The 3rd subject, hence, tends to underscore the stigma attached to profit fraud. It follows that people who do perpetrate profit fraud must hold really good grounds for making so as they are contending against the normalising force per unit area of what is by and large considered right.

Taking a measure up in degree of analysis, the manner that The Guardian makes ascriptions about people perpetrating benefit fraud can be examined in footings of in-group and out-group ascriptions. Research workers have found that when doing in-group ascriptions, people tend to expose a self-seeking prejudice ( Hewstone, 1989 ) . It is assumed that The Guardian newspaper, as it has been traditionally considered a politically leftist newspaper, is likely to see itself as at least sympathetic to those perpetrating benefit fraud. This would be explained in the thoughts of intergroup ascription theory as a self-seeking in-group prejudice.

In general so, the hypothesis that textual infusions from The Guardian would be given to support those perpetrating benefit fraud was supported. This was analysed in footings of ascriptions with the consequences demoing that they tended to be outside a individual ‘s venue of control, tended to be on-going and lasting. Through these ascriptions the causes, or even ‘blame ‘ , for people ‘s actions tended to be situated externally. From the position of power constructions, the thought that The Guardian should support those who are most vulnerable in society was besides systematically supported.


Asch, S. ( 1952 )Social psychological science. New York: Prentice Hall.

Beresford, P. ( 2005 )No-win state of affairs. Guardian [ online ] 19 October. Available from: hypertext transfer protocol: //society.guardian.co.uk/secondopinion/story/0, ,1594942,00.html [ Accessed 29 March 2006 ]

Davies, M. ( 2005 )Stop faulting the hapless. Guardian [ online ] 4 April. Available from: hypertext transfer protocol: //www.guardian.co.uk/letters/story/0, ,1451473,00.html [ Accessed 29 March 2006 ]

Hewstone, M. ( 1989 )Causal Attribution: From Cognitive Processes to Cognitive Beliefs, Oxford: Blackwell.

Hogg, M. A. , Vaughan, G. M. ( 2002 )Social Psychology, Third Edition, London: Prentice Hall

Kelley, H. H. ( 1967 )Attribution in societal psychological science. Nebraska Symposium on Motivation, 15, 192-238.

Kelley, H. H. ( 1973 ) The procedures of causal ascription.American Psychologist, 28, 107-128.

Marks, D. , Yardley, L. , ( 2004 )Research methods for clinical and wellness psychological science. Sage, London.

Serwotka, M. ( 2005 )Blunkett ‘s stigmatization of benefit claimants( Letterss to the editor ) . Guardian [ online ] 13 October. Available from: hypertext transfer protocol: //www.guardian.co.uk/letters/story/0, ,1590682,00.html [ Accessed 29 March 2006 ]

Tickle, L. ( 2006 )Between a stone and a difficult topographic point. Guardian [ online ] 10 January. Available from: hypertext transfer protocol: //education.guardian.co.uk/egweekly/story/0, ,1682421,00.html [ Accessed 29 March 2006 ]

Weiner, B. ( 1986 )An attributional theory of motive and emotion. New York: Springer-Verlag.