Publication - Strategy/plan

Social Security Fraud: Code of Practice for Investigations

Published: 14 Feb 2020
Social Security Directorate
Part of:
Equality and rights, Law and order, Money and tax

Document setting out how Social Security Scotland will conduct investigations into benefit fraud and use the Social Security Assistance (Investigation of Offences) (Scotland) regulations 2020.

Social Security Fraud: Code of Practice for Investigations
Chapter 2

Chapter 2

Standards for Counter Fraud Officers

58. Social Security Scotland Counter Fraud Officers investigating social security offences in Scotland will be directly employed by the public sector. This provides assurance that they will be appropriately trained, accountable for the way they treat people they investigate, and that their use of powers is closely monitored and controlled.

59. The Civil Service Code sets out the standards of behaviour expected of all civil servants when performing their duties. They are expected to carry out their role with integrity, honesty, objectivity, and impartiality. This expectation extends to all Counter Fraud Officers of Social Security Scotland.

60. Counter Fraud Officers will have to show:

  • Integrity: putting the obligations of public service above personal interests;
  • Honesty: being truthful and open;
  • Objectivity: basing advice and decisions on thorough analysis of the evidence; and
  • Impartiality: acting only according to the merits of the case.

61. More information about the Civil Service Code can be found at the Scottish Government website[15].

62. All Counter Fraud Officers will be specially trained members of staff who have the permission, expertise and skills to use their particular powers effectively and lawfully to gather the appropriate evidence. Some specialist investigators will be specifically authorised in accordance with regulation 3 of the Social Security Assistance (Investigation of Offences) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 to use the additional powers set out in those regulations. This authorisation may be revoked at any time. This provides further assurance that checks will be in place on whether use of the powers is proportionate and necessary.

63. Where a Counter Fraud Officer identifies a need to obtain information using the powers in the regulations, they will be required to complete a request for information, and submit this to an Authorised Officer, who is not directly connected to the investigation.

64. As part of this request, the Counter Fraud Officer will provide details of the investigation and how they have measured relevancy and proportionality considerations before making their request. The Authorised Officer will consider this request, and only use their powers if they are satisfied that the Counter Fraud Officer has provided sufficient justification to obtain the required information. If the Counter Fraud Officer does not provide the relevant justification, the Authorised Officer will reject the request in its entirety.

65. Counter Fraud Officers will be subject to civil or criminal proceedings as well as disciplinary action if they are found to be abusing these powers. They will also be subject to Codes of Practice relating to the other relevant legislation listed in the annex to this document and will have regard to the principles of the Act and our Charter.

66. As public sector employees, all Social Security Scotland staff will receive mandatory data protection, equality and diversity training as part of their induction and subsequent ongoing training. This will ensure that Social Security Scotland put dignity, fairness and respect at the heart of everything it does. In addition, Counter Fraud Officers will receive specialist training tailored to their role. They will also be subject to internal disciplinary action for wrong-doing. Any officer who unlawfully reveals information that they learned in the course of their work that relates to individuals under investigation may be prosecuted, whether or not they still work for Social Security Scotland.

67. Compliance with data protection legislation is an important aspect of any investigation, both in terms of administrative processes and the conduct of Counter Fraud Officers. As part of their remit, the Information Commissioner is responsible for: enforcement of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA), the promotion of good practice and public awareness of risks regarding the processing of personal data and investigating breaches of the DPA. They also provide advice to government and other state bodies on their obligations on legislative and administrative measures relating to the protection of natural persons' rights and freedoms with regard to processing personal information. Further information can be found on the Information Commissioner's Office website[16].