State cracks down on welfare cheats

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Police in Bergen have arrested a dozen parents of small children in recent weeks, charging them with swindling the state welfare system. Most have fraudulently claimed they were single parents, and thus collected extra child welfare payments.

Parents in Norway are given a generous lump-sum payment when they have a child, and then receive child welfare payments of about NOK 1,000 a month (called barnetrygd) every month until the child is 16, regardless of their household income. Single parents get double the amount, and can be eligible for extra aid as well, sometimes amounting to as much as NOK 15,000 a month (USD 2,500).

Newspaper Bergens Tidende (BT) reported this week that police and officials at state welfare agency NAV received so many tips of suspected fraud that they mounted an offensive called Operation Trygd. Plain-clothed police officers kept several apartments under surveillance, watching the comings and goings of their residents.

In one case, reports BT, they rang the doorbell at 8am and arrested a 37-year-old woman and 40-year-old man living there with several small children. They also had search warrants, and could prove that the couple was living together even though the mother had told authorities she was caring for the children on her own. All told, they’re suspected of swindling the welfare system for NOK 928,000 over the past four years.

Operation Trygd has resulted in 10 other arrests, eight of them ethnic Norwegians and four of them immigrants. Cases of welfare fraud within the immigrant community have been widely reported, but in the Bergen crackdown, Norwegians made up the majority of the culprits.

“We have a good social welfare system in Norway that’s based on the honor system,” prosecutor Trine Dyngeland of the Hordaland Police District told BT. “Theft from the system of fellowship is serious.”

Police think the welfare fraud revealed through Operation Trygd can amount to nearly NOK 3 million.

Views and News staff