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6 December 2006

Centrelink, the Australian version of the DWP is to get the power to search disabled claimants homes under proposed new laws. Much of the UK government's current thinking on benefits is copied from the Australian system, including placing Pathways to Work interviews in the hands of the private and voluntary sector.

Under the proposed law, rather than simply accompanying police with a search warrant where fraud is suspected, Centrelink will be able to apply to a magistrate for a search warrant itself, even doing so by phone or email if it considers the case urgent. Centrelink staff will then be able to carry out raids on disabled claimants homes without needing the police to be in attendance.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard claimed the move was needed because the present system "puts a lot of stress on police". He added that, provided benefits staff follow the same procedures as the police he couldn't see that it was "any different".

Centrelink is already using private contractors to secretly film carers and the elderly where benefits fraud is suspected. Claimants will just have to hope that these particular Australian ideas don't also appeal to the UK government.