Sheffield Roma families “fabricate illness” in children for higher benefit payments

Councillor Jim Steinke, cabinet member for neighbourhoods and community safety.Councillor Jim Steinke, cabinet member for neighbourhoods and community safety.
Councillor Jim Steinke, cabinet member for neighbourhoods and community safety.
A large proportion of families within Sheffield’s Roma community are being exploited to lie about their children being ill to get higher benefit payments, says the council.

Sheffield Council is working with the Department of Work and Pensioners (DWP) and GPs to increase awareness of “fabricated illnesses”.

Council chiefs say gangs are encouraging parents to not only commit fraud but also exploit children.

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A council report says: “There is work with partners to ensure an appropriate response to the exploitation of Roma families.

“It has been noted that there is a large proportion of families within the Roma community who are being exploited to fabricate illnesses within their children to obtain higher benefit payments.

“This has resulted in greater links with the DWP and the safeguarding GP, who has increased awareness of the health policy around fabricated illness.

“This allows partners to refer to the GP under the protocol to ensure a more appropriate response to the issue to try to reduce instances of fabricated illness in children within the Roma community.”

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Coun Jim Steinke, cabinet member for neighbourhoods and community safety, said it was unclear how widespread the problem was.

“We are concerned about gangs working with parents to encourage them to defraud the DWP and our officers are really clamping down on this illegal activity.

“The fraud is bad enough but there is also serious exploitation of children. There seems to be a variety of illnesses and we are working with schools as we rely on their judgement when parents tell them their child is ill.”

The council’s Multi Agency Support Teams (MAST) struggled to work with Roma families because of the fraud.

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The report adds: “MAST have been engaging with partners to address this as many of the referrals into the service were as a result of this issue, which prevented effective work on other issues that the families were facing.”

The DWP said it did not comment on ongoing fraud operations but says it works closely with local authorities as a matter of course to tackle benefit fraud in all its forms.

The children and young people’s scrutiny committee will discuss the report on Monday, March 11.

The report can be read here: