The cheating increased after the Social Insurance Agency removed the requirement of providing a certificate from the school or preschool proving the child was actually absent. The aim was to alleviate parents and guardians and to cut down on administration for teachers and preschool staff.
However, the new, softer rules seem to have encouraged some parents to cheat. According to figures published by Swedish Radio News, the cheating has almost doubled since 2013. As a consequence, parents have been forced to pay back almost SEK 32 million to the Social Insurance Agency so far this year.
"We think it is because we have done more controls in this area in the past two or three years. We have also begun with correlation searches to find out if there are parents who are systematically doing the wrong thing," Peter Fausö, chief of control at the Social Insurance Agency, told Radio Sweden.
Parents and guardians can claim the so-called VAB benefit when they need to stay home from work or refrain from seeking work in order to care for a sick child. The compensation they receive is a temporary parental benefit. Parents are given a total of 480 “VAB days” to use before their child turns eight and are allowed to take up to 120 days off work each year to care for their child in case he or she falls ill.
Jonas, father of one-year-old Marcelo, is currently on parental leave and told Radio Sweden that he has not yet claimed any VAB days, but said he does not rule out potentially being tempted to misuse the system in the future. "Probably, but I don't know," he said.
In order to catch suspected VAB-cheaters, the Swedish Social Insurance Agency sometimes carries out joint operations along with the police and Swedish Customs. In October, one such operation took place at the ferry terminal in the southern Swedish town of Helsingborg, where so-called booze cruises depart to Denmark. In that specific case, one father was caught red-handed and he later changed his absence reason from VAB to vacation.
Fausö confirms that operations of this type are carried out a couple of times each year.
Asked if people are often caught cheating, he said: "Yes, it does unfortunately. We catch a couple of people each time," he says.