The UK Government has been criticised after apparently comparing those who defraud the benefits system to the human traffickers in the film Taken.
The suggestion was made in a Department for Work and Pensions video, which was released on Twitter alongside the caption: “‘We will track you down. We will find you. And we will bring you to justice’ – minister for disabled people Tom Pursglove.
“At DWP we have a very particular set of skills that we use in conjunction with the police to tackle fraud,” it continued.
The warning is an apparent reference to a scene in the film taken, starring Liam Neeson, in which he threatens the drug gang which has kidnapped his daughter.
The 2008 blockbuster follows the ex-secret service agent as he tries to save his teenage daughter after she was abducted by criminals while on a trip to Paris.
In the DWP video, at least half a dozen officers are seen ascending a staircase before making an arrest on an alleged benefit fraudster. All the while action film-like music is playing in the background.
As the footage continues, the Tory minister says: “We will track you down. We will find you. And we will bring you to justice.
“I’ve been here at dawn to see for myself a joint operation, a raid that’s been carried out between the DWP Economic and Serious Organised Crime Team and the Metropolitan Police to make sure we bring to justice the fraudsters that are cheating the benefits system.
“We take our responsibilities to root out fraud extremely seriously.
“That’s what the fraud plan is all about, helping us to identify and track down and bring to justice those responsible for perpetrating £9bn of fraud over the coming years.
“We of course want a safety net that supports the most vulnerable in our society and those who find themselves in difficult circumstances but we just cannot have people cheating the system.
“We are determined to crack down on benefit fraudsters to ensure government support reaches those who really need it.”
The video has been criticised by opposition politicians.
“Tom Pursglove is no Liam Neeson,” said Liberal Democrat Scottish affairs spokesperson Christine Jardine MP.
“The threatening techno music and the bullet proof vest aren’t fooling anyone.
“This ridiculous, heavy-handed video is yet another example of a grossly out-of-touch Tory government neglecting the needs of the most vulnerable every day. Now, it looks like they’re trying to make a Z-list movie out of it.”
SNP MP David Linden, the party’s social justice spokesperson, said: “This is a nasty, distasteful piece of propaganda which, once again, highlights how out of touch the Tories are with reality.
“Nobody wants to see the benefit system abused, but the Tories approach to tackling this is all wrong.”
Scottish Green MSP Maggie Chapman said: “This is a sinister and intimidating video from the DWP. But it tells us everything we need to know about the UK Government.
“A decade of Tory economic failure has left disabled people with significantly higher poverty rates, facing severe food, shelter and mobility pressures.
“In response we get the Minister for disabled people spending taxpayer’s money to play dress up and pretend he’s in a Hollywood film.
“This government presided over a feeding frenzy of fraud during Covid where Tory funders received billions of pounds in public money for nothing at all of any worth.
“We know benefit fraud makes up a minuscule amount of money lost to the system. This is just grotesque targeting of the already vulnerable.
“It shows the depth of their cruelty and should have no place in today’s world.”
Westminster’s public audit committee found £6.5bn worth of estimated benefit fraud was committed in 2021-2022.
A further £2.1bn was lost through error, it said.
It follows unprecedented levels of fraud and error in the benefit system during the pandemic, with UK Government losing an estimated £8.5bn.
Fraud levels across all benefits are at around 3%.
A DWP spokesperson said: “It’s our duty to keep the public informed about the vital work of the Department in cracking down on fraud. This video sends out a strong message to fraudsters and those considering attempting to defraud the benefits system, that fraud won’t be tolerated and they will be pursued.
“This was a very serious alleged attack of the benefits system, with the suspects alleged to have created 15 identities between 2019 and 2023 to defraud £800,000 from the public purse.
“We make no apology for using our channels to both deter fraudsters and reassure the public that we are using every tool in our armoury to protect taxpayers’ money.”
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