Patricia Pearl - Small Claims Procedure - A Practical Guide


An excellent guide for the layperson in how to use the County Court - a must if you are intending to start a claim.

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  1. #1
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    Default Fraud investigation by DWP

    Hi everyone,

    I am new here and I have been browsing this forum and its seems quite useful, so i joined. This is a long story, but I hope that someone is able to help with advise. I have been a victim of domestic violence nearly all my teenage life and early 20's (my mother abused me) and I have lived in a refuge before I got housed. Way back in 2004, I was working part time and claiming JCA and to be honest I didnt know much about benefits at the time and even now I dont know that much. At the time I was told by the JC that I have to fill out these forms to declare work, which I did and that was it. However, a few months ago before I left the refuge I got a letter from DWP fraud department telling me that I was overpaidicon JCA in 2004 and that I have to pay this money back. I didnt think I had much of a choice, so they started deducting money from my benefits to pay back the overpaymenticon. Before I left the refuge, I used to get letters from the DWP literally forcing me to attend a program that helps me to get back into work, even though I was on Income Support, because of mental illness reasons and am unable to work. They threatened me that if i didnt attend these 'workdirections' meetings to look for work, I could loose my benefits. I kept telling the advisor that I dont feel able to work, as I am trying to deal with my illness etc. He didnt really care and kept telling me (indirectly) that I had to, whether I liked it or not. Since I moved and got my housing I they havent been forcing me to look for work, probably because I moved to another area and another JC. However, when I moved I felt that my life was getting better and I wanted to help myself get better, so I thought that it might be a good idea to try working and see how it goes. I called DWP before I started working to get some advise about what would happen to my benefits if i decided to try working part time. They said that if I worked 16 hours or less per week, then my benefits shouldnt be affected. My social worker attached to the NHS Community Mental Health Team also confirmed this when I asked her - and she thought it was a good idea. So, I started working part time and it only lasted for about 2-3 months when I gave up becuase I couldn't handle it and the pressure. I still wanted to do something that allowed me to meet people and generally get me out of the house, (and help me to stop thinking about suicide) so I started doing voluntary work for 2 days a week. Even though sometimes I feel like I cannot cope with it, I have made some friends at the charity that I volunteer for (they dont know about my mental health) and I generally think that if I stick to it, I could get a perm job and it could help turn my life around for the better. Sometimes, however I do struggle a lot. To help me re-gain confidence and self esteem, I started studying part-time whilst I was at the refuge and I had told the jobcentre at the time and they made a record of it. I dont know whether this info has been exported from JSA to IS as I am still studying part time, even though its not the same course that I was doing at the time that I had told them (I have progressed from one course to another). A few days ago, out of the blue, i got a notice saying something along the lines of me possibly having committed a criminal offence and they want me to attend for an Interview under caution at a JCP (not my local one). This seems to be only about my income support and not my housing benefit and CT. Since I got this letter I have been crying non-stop and my depression is setting in again and feelings of suicide are starting to kick in. I feel like that whenever I try to make progress in my life, the DWP haunts me. A friend of mine called the JC where the interview will be and spoke with the person who will be conducting it and apparently she told my friend that I shouldnt worry and that she only wants to ask me a couple of questions and apparently she kept telling my friend "tell her (me) that its only me!" and not to worry - this dosnt help. I went to the CAB today and they basicially told me to get a solictior involved and that they couldnt attend with me or help in anyway. They looked at me like I was already a criminal. I found a solicitor who seems willing to help me as she took down a lot of details, but she told me that she cannot attend the interview with me and she can/will only help if the DWP take this further, i.e. throw me in jail or put me into court.

    What can I expect? Will I be thrown into jail? I feel like throwing myself in front of a train right now.


  2. #2
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    Default Re: Fraud investigation by DWP

    902.

    I have no expertise in these matters, but would like too offer you a reassuring reply.. i would suggest, on the information that you have provided, that a "jail" term, is VERY unlikley.

    As for the depression, and recurring thoughts of self harm, perfectly understandable, and easy too fall back into, in a stessfull situation.

    Believe me, i talk from experience, look at everything you have achieved, and are achieving, the stress and the thoughts,, will pass, you KNOW that, as you've been there before etc.


    Someone more knowledgeable as regards this process will, i'm sure be along and be more help than i.

    Until then, honestly..and you know it.......... it aint the end of the world..


    Steve.


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    Default Re: Fraud investigation by DWP

    dont let them bother you...they are all idiots please dont feel like throughing yourself under a train ....never let anyone get to you that much...we live once and only once and lets fight our corner till our day comes....up to you if you go but there is nowt to worry about answer there questions and tell them what you think and how they have upset you and stressed you out...please theres more to life then them


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    Default Re: Fraud investigation by DWP

    Okay, it seems very scary but it isnt.

    I had something similar because I moved house and wasnt getting the 10p a week (paid quarterly into my bank) that I had previously said I was.

    The 2 women who interviewed me were very nice, although it is incredibly formal (taped and they read you your rights). Make sure they know that you have mental health issues, and if possible get your social worker to go with you, even if he/she cant go into the room with you it will help if they are aware that you have a health professional with you, and it will help you knowing you have someone on your side waiting outside for you.

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    Default Re: Fraud investigation by DWP

    Ok. If the CAB won't or can't help, enlist the help of a Welfare Rights Worker, your Social worker or your CPN iof you have one. You can Welfare Rights via your local council. Re the work focused interviews, your benefit can be stopped if you don't attend them as they are compulsory unless you belong to an excluded category. The excluded categories are as follows:
    • you are aged 60 or over.
    • you are about to start work
    • you are working 16 hours or more a week
    • you are placed in the employment and support allowance support group
    • you are claiming Income Support or Incapacity Benefit and are exempt from the personal capability assessment (PCA)
    It's not exactly clear what they are investigating. Did you declare your part time work? Did you declare your voluntary work? What benefits are they investigating and for what period? What benefits are you currently receiving? Do you know what you are being accused of?

    My advice is based on my opinion, my experience and my education. I do not profess to be an expert in any given field. If requested, I will provide a link where possible to relevant legislation or guidance, so that advice provided can be confirmed and I do encourage others to follow those links for their own peace of mind. Sometimes my advice is not what people necesserily want to hear, but I will advise on facts as I know them - although it may not be what a person wants to hear it helps to know where you stand. Advice on the internet should never be a substitute for advice from your own legal professional with full knowledge of your individual case.

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    Default Re: Fraud investigation by DWP

    Hi, it seems as though you had duplicated your thread somehow. I have merged them in order to keep all your responses in one place.

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    Default Re: Fraud investigation by DWP

    Knew someone would be along....

    Hats off too that Erica.. i'd let her wed me, if i didn't have so many other offers too consider...


    Seriously though... plenty of people know that kind of black pit/despair your feeling at the moment, and it does pass, you'll realise that again once through this episode.... and that's all it is, an episode in your life, and you'll come through it...


    Steve.

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    Default Re: Fraud investigation by DWP

    Quote Originally Posted by scouse12345 View Post
    Knew someone would be along....

    Seriously though... plenty of people know that kind of black pit/despair your feeling at the moment, and it does pass, you'll realise that again once through this episode.... and that's all it is, an episode in your life, and you'll come through it...


    Steve.
    So so True!


  9. #9
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    Default Re: Fraud investigation by DWP

    Thanks for the reassuring messages, everyone. It really does help. I have attempted to call my ex-social worker (who isnt my SW now because I moved borough's) I havent yet been appointed Social Worker in my new place, my appointment with the CMHT is in September. I think I will contact the council to get help from Welfare right worker. Do you know if they will attend the interview with me? As far as I know, I should belong to excluded category re. work focused interviews, because I was exempted from sending in Medical Certs. for a year for income support supposes. I am assuming this puts me into the exempted category, but I could be wrong. I still currently am exempt, but they have sent me an IB500/50 (?) form to fill out, which I have done and sent back last week - I am assuming that this would assess as to whether I should continue to be exempt from sending in medical certs. Its seems a bit of a coincidence that all this happens exactly one year after I was exempt from sending med. certs. in. The personal capability assessment thing you mentioned rings a bell. I get a bit more money paid on top of my Income Support because of my illness, so I do not know if that makes a difference or not. This benefit thing really confuses me

    The letter that I got just said that they are suspecting me for not declaring work whilst being on income support. Before I started the part time work I called DWP for advise and they just said to me that if I am working 16 hours or less, then it will not affect my benefits. Because of this, I gathered that I don't need to 'declare' it as it wont affect anyway. This is the impression that I got when I called them. Same for voluntary work. I might be crazy, but its a given that if I am not earning money for voluntary work, then I dont need to 'declare' this and I had called the benefits advise line about this. Its not like I am purposfully or intentionally hiding something from them - I had called and asked and this was their response. They wont tell me before the interview what period they are investigating for and the letter says that its about my claim to income support.

    I am also on Housing benefit and CT, and they are investigating Income Support. They didnt mention HB and CT in the letter.

    I am being accussed of failing to declare work whilst claiming income support and that they are suspecting that I have committed a criminal offence.


    Quote Originally Posted by ErikaPNP View Post
    Ok. If the CAB won't or can't help, enlist the help of a Welfare Rights Worker, your Social worker or your CPN iof you have one. You can Welfare Rights via your local council. Re the work focused interviews, your benefit can be stopped if you don't attend them as they are compulsory unless you belong to an excluded category. The excluded categories are as follows:
    • you are aged 60 or over.
    • you are about to start work
    • you are working 16 hours or more a week
    • you are placed in the employment and support allowance support group
    • you are claiming Income Support or Incapacity Benefit and are exempt from the personal capability assessment (PCA)
    It's not exactly clear what they are investigating. Did you declare your part time work? Did you declare your voluntary work? What benefits are they investigating and for what period? What benefits are you currently receiving? Do you know what you are being accused of?



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    Default Re: Fraud investigation by DWP

    I forgot to mention that after I was rejected help from the CAB - i found a solicitor who took down all my details and info about this 'case' and she took a photo copy of my benefits letter and the letter about Interview under Caution. She said that she will call my ex-social worker as well (as she confirmed to me what the DWP told me about benefits not being affected if I work 16 hours or less per week). She told me not to worry and that although she cannot come with me to the Interview, if the DWP take this issue further I should notify her and she will take on the case and write them letters etc. She filled out a legal aid form, which she made me sign.


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    Default Re: Fraud investigation by DWP

    You do have to declare any work you do, whether it is paid or voluntary. It's right in that it probably won't affect your benefit enititlement but it still has to be declared, I'm afraid as it is a change in circumstances.

    My advice is based on my opinion, my experience and my education. I do not profess to be an expert in any given field. If requested, I will provide a link where possible to relevant legislation or guidance, so that advice provided can be confirmed and I do encourage others to follow those links for their own peace of mind. Sometimes my advice is not what people necesserily want to hear, but I will advise on facts as I know them - although it may not be what a person wants to hear it helps to know where you stand. Advice on the internet should never be a substitute for advice from your own legal professional with full knowledge of your individual case.

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  12. #12
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    Default Re: Fraud investigation by DWP

    Before I started the part time work I called DWP for advise and they just said to me that if I am working 16 hours or less, then it will not affect my benefits. Because of this, I gathered that I don't need to 'declare' it as it wont affect anyway. This is the impression that I got when I called them. Same for voluntary work. I might be crazy, but its a given that if I am not earning money for voluntary work, then I dont need to 'declare' this and I had called the benefits advise line about this.
    This isn't quite right. Work always needs to be declared, it's just that if you work for less than 16 hours per week you aren't automatically disqualified from receiving the benefit. The amount of benefit you are entitled to can still be affected.

    In the case of voluntary work, it should be declared and discussed with the DWP, since (in the case of JSA) it affects your availability for paid work, though they do encourage it these days; and (in the case of benefits paid because of illness or incapacity) it is relevant to any decision about whether or not you are fit for paid work.


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    Default Re: Fraud investigation by DWP

    So does this mean that I am 'guilty' then? You would think that when I called the DWP, they would have told me that I have to declare any work that I do, but they didnt mention anything about declaring anything. This is why I called in the first place, to see where I stand if I did work. They didnt mention anything about declaring. I am so upset about this now. The worst thing is that my ex-social worker confirmed this - if i had to declare this, surely the social worker would have told me that? I dont know what to do now


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    Default Re: Fraud investigation by DWP

    As a general rule, declare anything and everything to the DWP. That's a mantra that people should drill into their heads. Call them if you start work. Call them if you stop work. Call them if your cat gets fleas. The reason for this is simple: you do not want to appear to have intentionally defrauded the system. For political reasons, this is a big thing at the DWP right now. I know you didn't do anything intentionally - people who've intentionally committed fraud don't post about it on message boards - but this is just a general warning to be careful.

    Now, as to whether you are "guilty", at this stage it isn't really the issue. You're not "guilty" of a crime until a court finds you so. If you were overpaidicon benefit because you failed to declare earnings, the DWP will primarily want to get the money back.

    Also, the DWP cannot "throw you in jail". Only a court could do that. It's not like you would walk out of that interview in handcuffs or anything like that. So I would suggest that you go to the interview under caution and explain the situation honestly, making it clear that this was a result of confusion and that you would be quite prepared to clear any overpaymenticon.

    If you're told that they will be proceeding to courts, you will need a lawyer. But taking people to court costs the DWP money, so try your best to present your case clearly and it may well not come to that.


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    Default Re: Fraud investigation by DWP

    I have to say when I was interviewed, as soon as they realised it was a genuine mistake, and I wanst trying to hide anything or cover anything up they made it very clear that I had nothing to worry about and no action would be taken against me.

    As long as you are honest with them, I think you will be fine.

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    Default Re: Fraud investigation by DWP

    people who've intentionally committed fraud don't post about it on message boards
    Oh believe me, they do. We have seen our fair share of people who outright admit to it. Some are genuinely remorseful and are seeking assurances that they won't go to jail, wheras some want you to tell them how to get out of the mess they are in by commiting more fraud!

    As Natalie said though, if you are upfront from the outset, even if they do decide you have committed fraud (unintentionally) they are far more lenient.

    My advice is based on my opinion, my experience and my education. I do not profess to be an expert in any given field. If requested, I will provide a link where possible to relevant legislation or guidance, so that advice provided can be confirmed and I do encourage others to follow those links for their own peace of mind. Sometimes my advice is not what people necesserily want to hear, but I will advise on facts as I know them - although it may not be what a person wants to hear it helps to know where you stand. Advice on the internet should never be a substitute for advice from your own legal professional with full knowledge of your individual case.

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    Default Re: Fraud investigation by DWP

    Quote Originally Posted by ErikaPNP View Post
    Oh believe me, they do. We have seen our fair share of people who outright admit to it. Some are genuinely remorseful and are seeking assurances that they won't go to jail, wheras some want you to tell them how to get out of the mess they are in by commiting more fraud!
    I must be so naive I suppose I can understand people who have made bad judgements, but I always made the assumption that if I had committed a crime, I would probably not broadcast the details to the entire world. I mean, call me old-fashioned, but...


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    Hi,
    The other thing you need to do is get letters from dr, hospital etc., stating that your health is suffering etc., from the stress they are putting you under.

    Have you got all the dates, payments that you received while you were working and also who you were working for?
    If you were excempt from sending in certificates on reasons of your health, was the work you undertook - Permitted work - under the rules there is only certain jobs that I think they will let you do under these rules, and for certain hours and it must not last over so many weeks.

    I think you must work less than 16 hours a week.
    Also, You must tell the income support people how much you earned and how many hours a week you worked. This would affect the amount of benefit that they pay you. You should also tell them that you were doing voluntary work and where and hours (this should not affect benefit).

    The main thing is dig out all of your letters regarding this matter and read through them carefully, did your social worker etc., put it in writing that work would help you.
    Did you have a medical that concluded that you could not work?
    If you have and they said that you could not work, then you should have really got the go ahead from your dr etc.,

    If you think that you will be put under undue stress regarding the interview under caution then please get letters from your health professionals that deal with you, as if the IS are aware of the effects it might have on your health then they may drop it. You could also send them a list with dates you worked, worked for, pay etc., so they can check themselves state that you did notify the relevant authorities but obviously it hasnt been noted.

    If you attend the interview, do not be afraid. They wont send you to prison there and then. They will have to go through all the right steps. You can get a solicitor to fight your case and you will be able to put your evidence forward.

    I have found though that solicitors are very reluctant to get involved unless you have been found guilty and charged. (I have been in simular situation).

    I hope I have been able to help you abit.

    Bub1


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    Default Re: Fraud investigation by DWP

    Thanks to everyone here who has been so supportive. This board has really helped to ease things for me.

    I had my interview today, this morning and I wanted to update everyone here - this could also be helpful to someone else in my situation.

    I went there and as soon as we both walked into the room (me and interviewer), I burst out crying. A friend had called and spoke with the interviewer on my behalf a day after I got the letter, because I was in such a mess, so the interviewer knew that I have a mental condition (thats why I am on IS after all) and she had told my friend to attend with me as I need an 'appropriate adult' with me at the interview. My friend couldnt come, due to a falling out we have had in between the time the letter came and the interview date (today). Today, when the interviewer asked me where my friend was, I told her that she had troubles finding childcare for her kids and was unable to come. She (interviewer) seemed very reluctant to interview me without an 'appropriate adult', as it states in the leaflet they sent me that I should have one due to my illness. She asked me about ten times whether I am OK to commence with the interview and I said that I was and that I wanted to get this over and done with. She still seemed reluctant and told me that she is worried that if she interviewed me without an 'appropriate adult', then she may be critized later on and that it may go against her. She wanted to protect herself - understandable. I informed her that I am attending the interview with the advise of my solicitor and that my solicitor couldn't come with me to the interview as its not covered by legal aid. Finally, after I told her that she seemed OK and continued with the interview. I just wanted to get it over and done with and get out of there. However, I must say that she was very very nice and not one ounce of her personality was intimidating. I think that was why I cried, because of a mixture of fear and joy that she was so nice.

    She opened the tapes in front of me and dictated protocol in her calm and reassuring way. She made sure that I understood everything about what seemed like ten million times. She said the caution message (You do not have to say anything. But it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court.....) in such a way that it didnt even sound like I was being cautioned, thats how nice she was!

    She opened a file of evidence, which had my benefit rapid reclaim form filled out by me. A few months back, whilst I was in the refuge and whilst I was being forced to go for work focused interviews, I managed to get a job as an English teacher to foreign students. I called the DWP to tell them as soon as I got the job - as it was a full time job over 16 hours per week. The consequence of that was that my IS claim was stopped straight away. However, after just 2-3 days of working at the job, I found that I couldnt handle it. Imagine this scenario: You are suffering from mental health conditions, you have no self - esteem and no self confidance and you have never taught before in your life. This is also the first job you have had in at least a year. You walk into a class room and you get these tiny Indonesian kids staring at you and expecting something from you, especially when their parents have paid good money for English classes. I literally collapsed - couldnt handle the pressure. I ran out (not literally out of the classsroom!) as fast as I came in! I then called the DWP for a rapid reclaim. This was the form that the Fraud Interviewer showed me. She confirmed with me that this was my writing and my form.

    So far, so good. I have done nothing wrong, why was she showing me this?

    Then she takes out another form. She asks me whether I had worked again after the teaching job. I was honest and answered that I had taken a part time job which was less then 16 hours. I also told her that I wanted to help myself get better, make friends and generally become 'normal' - she seemed to really appreciate that. This second form was a form filled out by this employer and the interviewer told me that they are quering this job (not the teaching job) the form had details of my job, salary, hours I worked per week (14 hours) and that I had worked for them for about a month. I had confirmed that this was correct. I also told her that before taking this job I had called the DWP and they told me that as long as I work for less then 16 hours, then my benefits will not get affected. When I told her the latter, she seemed stumped. She kept saying again and again (in a way that showed she was 'defeated') that none of their advisors would say that and that what they would have said is I should report any work that I do and if it is less then 16 hours per week, then it doesnt nessesarily mean that I am not entitled to IS, but that I would get an adjusted amount. She said this about a ten million times. I told her that this is what I understood (that less then 16 hours = IS not affected) and maybe there was a lack of communication between me and the advisor. When I told her that, it seemed like she appreciated that. When the taped stopped recording, she gave me papers explaining my rights etc etc and she told me what would happen next. She basically spoke on the assumption that I would just have to pay the money back for the period that I worked and thats it - however this still needs the approval of the manager, who will listen to the tape and make a desicion, but she was saying that more then likely this is what will happen. I asked her if I now have a criminal record and she gave me a half smile and said "no". I was so relieved that I started balling again and she said "stop crying now, I know that you were a teacher"... I dont know what she meant by that, did she mean to say that because I declared the teaching job, it shows that I didnt intend to commit fraud with the second job and that she believes me, in that it was a lack of understanding between phone advisor and me?

    She told me to sit still and that I will get a letter with a desicion as to what will happen, but more then likely I will have to pay the money back and thats it.

    I tell ya, it was such a relief when I walked out of the jobcentre. Big weight lifted off me. A few days ago, I found out that I will be debt free come January and I am planning to go back to University September. I think I have many reasons to be happy and to celebrate! Thank you, everyone!


  20. #20
    Basic Account Holder upallnightworrying Novitiate

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    Cagger since
    Jul 2009
    Posts
    11

    Default Re: Fraud investigation by DWP

    Hi,

    I think the interviewer was saying that because you are a teacher you would be CRB checked (criminal record bureaux) and a criminal record could or prevent you from getting such a job. Thats all she was talking about.

    Im glad you feel better.



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