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.

£19.99 + £1.50 (P&P)

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  1. #1
    Basic Account Holder mystical Novitiate

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    Default Accused of Benefit Fraud, worried about prosecution

    I'm a student teacher soon to complete my training. I've never been in trouble before. Other relevant circumstances: I have several children and a history of mental health problems (namely depression for which I have been hospitalised in the past). I went back to university to turn my life around and have so far succeeded.

    I have been accused of benefit fraud. It's related to a failure to declare student status. All of the finance other than the loan is NOT used when assessing entitlement (this has been confirmed) due to my specific circumstances. I'm sure everyone says this, but I'm imploring you all to either give me the benefit of the doubt or not bother replying (I don't need people hurling further accusations at me, I can't take it right now)- I did NOT realise I was doing something wrong. I declared my income to the student loans company and consented to share all the information with the DWP, I cancelled my DLA when I began my course and explained why in the letter. I was still entitled to benefits as far as I'm aware- but not as much as I was paid. To the best of my current knowledge, the dispute relates to an overpaymenticon due to my failure to declare a change in circumstances, not to my entitlement to the benefit per se. I have never made a false declaration, I just failed to inform of the change of circumstances due to misleading information I had received. I was told that due to my circumstances, I was entitled to certain benefits as well as student finance and to put in a claim. I was already receiving these benefits so obviously did not reclaim. I can see now how I should have informed the DWP of the student status, but my intentions genuinely weren't dishonest- to the extent that I was called to an IUC and had no idea why.

    The IUC has taken place, it was an awful experience and I couldn't stop crying. I took a solicitor with me. She told me that the investigator told her they are planning to prosecute me as the overpayment will exceed 2k due to the length of time my payments have been incorrect. I was totally honest in the IUC and agreed I hadn't informed them but explained that it was error on my part rather than blatant dishonesty. I can't prove this. I can only say what I know to be true. If I had done it deliberately I know it would be in my best interests to admit it, but I was not about to lie under caution, especially if that included me admitting guilt to something I did not deliberately do. I feel so stupid now, and ashamed. I have screwed everything up. The extra money made very little difference to my family, it was used towards normal household outlays. I was also told that I had failed to inform them of the births of some of my children, which is true, but they are not investigating that as it wouldn't affect my claim. I have been lousy with communicating things to them, I admit that, but it was never an act of fraud! In my mind, that insinuates deliberate intent and there was none. I genuinely believed I was entitled to the money I received (and that was true for some of it).

    In other circumstances I would just accept it if it went to court, explain my side of the story and see what happened. However, if I receive any sort of criminal record, it will stop me from being employed as a teacher- essentially meaning I have wasted 4 years of my life and got into huge amounts of student debt for nothing. I am absolutely devastated. I have been suicidal this week, and have seen the Doctor for medication and been referred back to mental health services. I have been unable to attend Uni because I can't stop crying. I can't sleep and have had to be given sleeping tablets.

    The investigator was a kind and sympathetic woman, not at all like the image of monsters portrayed in this forum, and she said that my career prospects WILL be considered when the decision whether to prosecute or not is made, but the amount of overpayment will, too- which I have taken to be bad news. I realise they will receive bonus payments if they successfully prosecute me and I just feel utterly devastated and on the brink that my life could now be ruined due to a stupid, foolish error. I am not a criminal or even a dishonest person, just a disorganised one with an enormously stressful life who failed to read guidelines properly and just took the payments into my bank for granted I suppose- I didn't think about whether I was entitled to AS MUCH money as I received because I'd been given the advice that my circumstances meant I would be entitled to those benefits.

    I know the truth and everyone who knows me does, too. My Doctor, tutors etc have all offered to write in support of my good character and explain the impact this could have, but the more I'm reading, the more I'm realising that they are just going to take me to court and accuse me of dishonesty regardless. It will literally ruin my life. I can't do the job I've spent four years training to do with a conviction, it will sentence me and my children to a life at the expense of the state because the only jobs accessible to me are those in school hours and low paid jobs make it pointless for me to leave my children (including a baby) for long hours for the sake of a LOSS of income compared to benefits. All I wanted to do was support my own family and I was about to reach the stage I could do that.

    Am I basically doomed here? I have never felt so near the edge before in my life, I just feel like quitting my degree at the last hurdle and giving in to a life of poverty. My mental health is deteriorating and my children are suffering because I am so unhappy and tearful all the time. I am happy to pay back anything I was overpaidicon, twice over if I need to, I don't care about the money at all. I just care about my future. Do they ever give adminicon penalties for amounts over the threshold? I'm clutching at straws, I know. Do they have to prove dishonest intent? Or is the fact I failed to declare enough to get me prosecuted? I didn't actually commit fraud by the general definition. But I did receive money I shouldn't have received and I can't prove to them I didn't do it out of greed or dishonesty despite the fact that I really didn't.

    Do they ever NOT prosecute? Are there any grounds for it not being in the public interesticon to prosecute me considering the devastating effect it will have on my future and the futures of my children and the fact that it could just sentence us to a life on benefits?


  2. #2
    Site Team honeybee13 Authoritative honeybee13 Authoritative honeybee13 Authoritative honeybee13 Authoritative honeybee13 Authoritative honeybee13 Authoritative honeybee13 Authoritative honeybee13 Authoritative honeybee13 Authoritative honeybee13 Authoritative honeybee13 Authoritative honeybee13's Avatar

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    Default Re: I need help

    Hello and welcome to CAGicon.

    People here don't judge, so stop worrying about that. You're not alone in this if you have time to read around the forum. Someone who's in the same boat turns up most days I would estimate.

    We have people who know the system and someone who was an investigator, so you should get your information. What I can't tell you is exactly when, because it depends who's around, but someone will be along.

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  3. #3
    Basic Account Holder tinafromeast Novitiate

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    Default Re: I need help

    Just wanted to say that I hope you get some help. It's horrible to hear someone sound so near the end. I've been there at the bottom too. Somebody on this lovely forum will help you.
    Well done for studying to be a teacher. xxxxxxx


  4. #4
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    Default Re: I need help

    The DWP do have to refer any overpaymenticon in excess of 2000 which arose as a result of failure to declare (or misrepresentation) to the prosecution division; it is the prosecution division (DWP solicitors) who will make the final decision on whether or not to prosecute.

    For prosecution to take place, as well as it having to be in the public interesticon to prosecute, a prosecutor must also be satisfied that there is a reasonable prospect of conviction. That is, that there is enough evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt, that fraud was committed. The DWP's decision on the other hand, is based in civil law where the standard of proof is far lower (on the balance of probability). So, where a Decision Maker feels that on the balance of probability, fraud was committed and will seek to recover the overpayment, the prosecution division must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that fraud was committed and if they feel that there is insufficient evidence to meet the standard of proof required in criminal law, criminal proceedings would not go ahead - even if they believe that on the balance of probability, fraud was committed. The prosecution division must be able to satifsy the criminal standard of proof in order to undertake criminal proceedings.

    For any criminal prosecution to be successful, they must be able to show that not only did you fail to declare, but that either you knew the fact in question should have been declared, or failing that, that a reasonable person could have been expected to know that the fact in question ought to have been declared in order to show intent.

    You may find this post by Jabba Jones helpful, in seeing the varying stages a case must go through before whether to proceed with prosecution is decided. (third paragraph from the bottom of his post numbered 7).

    If the DWP solicitors decide not to prosecute, they will refer back to the DWP who will seek to recover the overpayment (if they haven't already).

    If it does go to court, the burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. However, as you are now aware that you were not entitled to some of the money, it would do your case good if you began to make arrangements with DWP to repay the funds.

    In respect of the DLA aspect - I'm a little concerned about this. You say you ended your claim and it is inferred that you did this because you had started college.
    I cancelled my DLA when I began my course and explained why in the letter
    If your care/mobility needs hadn't changed there was no need to stop your DLA claim. DLA is awarded according to care/mobility needs, not income or work/student status. If you believe from this information that you have incorrectly cancelled your DLA entitlement and DWP did nothing to inform you that you attending a course did not disentitle you (assuming you told them that this was the sole reason you were ending your claim), you should mention this to your solicitor and re-apply for DLA. You may also be able to receive backdating or a consolitary payment for maladministration if they failed to inform you that starting a course did not disentitle you and there was no other reason for stopping your claim.

    Also, if your overpayment was because you were receiving a benefit that you are not entitled to as a student unless you were receiving DLA alongside it, the fact that your DLA may have been stopped incorrectly (yes by you - but DWP also should have ensured that the reason for your wishing to end the claim would actually disentitle you and if not should have advised you accordingly, enabling you to make a properly informed decision), there may be scope to get the whole thing thrown out altogether. This would only be an option if you would have been entitled to DLA and thus entitled to the benefit that was overpaidicon, but did not get DLA because DWP failed to note that the reason for ending the claim was actually not reason for disentitlement. For some benefits you can receive them as a student if you are receiving DLA as well. It is a long shot - but one worth exploring.

    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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  5. #5
    Basic Account Holder mystical Novitiate

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    Default Re: I need help

    Thanks so much for your informative reply

    My letter regarding the DLA stated that as I was beginning a course, I didn't think I would be entitled to the money anymore and would like to cease my claim. However, I still had the disability- I believed that I had to need a carer in order to claim DLA and felt it was unreasonable to continue to claim it if I could attend college without a carer. All I received back was a standard letter stating that they had reviewed my claim to DLA and decided I was no longer entitled so my payments would cease- there was no other contact made me with me and no one assessed my needs. Ironically, I just didn't want to claim something I may not be entitled to!


  6. #6
    Basic Account Holder jabba jones Informative jabba jones Informative jabba jones Informative jabba jones Informative

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    Default Re: I need help

    Quote Originally Posted by mystical View Post
    The investigator was a kind and sympathetic woman, not at all like the image of monsters portrayed in this forum, I realise they will receive bonus payments if they successfully prosecute me
    This is not the first time I've had to explain this, this week. The investigator will NOT receive a bonus if you are succesfully prosecuted. They have strict targets, but it is not bonus related.

    Quote Originally Posted by mystical View Post
    Do they ever NOT prosecute? Are there any grounds for it not being in the public interesticon to prosecute me considering the devastating effect it will have on my future and the futures of my children and the fact that it could just sentence us to a life on benefits?
    Benefit decisions are based on probability. Court prosecutions have to be beyond all reasonable doubt, so just because an overpaymenticon is over 2000 doesn't definitely mean you will be prosecuted. However having read your story I would be surprised if a prosecution attempt was not to follow.

    One thing you MIGHT want to try is. Wait for your overpaymenticon decision to arrive & if it is over 2000 try writing to the Fraud team manager (you will already have the address on the form you were given about getting copies of the IUC tape). They make the first decision as to whether prosecution should be attempted. Explain everything you have put in your message above. Make a point about public interest & how prosecuting you now will ultimately cost the public purse more due to wrecking your career prospects & keeping you on benefits long term. Say you would be more than willing to accept a Caution or an Administrative Penalty & then keep your fingers crossed. I fear it's a long shot, but if you manage to pull at the heart strings you might get lucky & you've got nothing to lose.

    I notice Erica has replyed whilst I was busy typing & as per usual she has made some very good points.


  7. #7
    Basic Account Holder mystical Novitiate

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    Default Re: I need help

    Quote Originally Posted by jabba jones View Post
    This is not the first time I've had to explain this, this week. The investigator will NOT receive a bonus if you are succesfully prosecuted. They have strict targets, but it is not bonus related.
    I didn't mean the investigator herself, I meant the department. The dept apparently have financial incentives to prosecute people, or so I'm led to believe?

    Thanks for your reply.


  8. #8
    Basic Account Holder jabba jones Informative jabba jones Informative jabba jones Informative jabba jones Informative

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    Default Re: I need help

    Quote Originally Posted by mystical View Post
    I didn't mean the investigator herself, I meant the department. The dept apparently have financial incentives to prosecute people, or so I'm led to believe?
    Not as far as I'm aware. Although if it is true it is certainly not something that is considered when the fraud manager is making their recommendation.

    However the DWP will try to claim a % of any money that is clawed back via the proceeds of crime act, so maybe that is where this has come from. But that is not something you've got to worry about in your case


  9. #9
    Basic Account Holder mystical Novitiate

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    Default Re: I need help

    I don't know Jabba, I was told yesterday that via the SAFE initiative, there are financial incentives to fraud depts to prosecute, of around 1200 for a penalty or caution and 2k+ for a successful prosecution. I don't know anything about it personally, it's what I was told by someone advising me.

    I don't understand the reasoning behind prosecuting people who have made mistakes. According to what has been said above, I have probably not received money I AM entitled to because no one informed me that I was mistaken in my understanding of the claiming rules for DLA. The sad irony of that is that I'm sure they would believe me that I misunderstood the rules for a claim which led to me LOSING money, but because I GAINED money by failing to understand the rules of the other benefit, I'm automatically presumed to be dishonest . I'm an intelligent enough person and I find the rules on claiming a complete minefield. It's almost like the system is designed to discourage people from claiming things they are entitled to. I was informed that due to my circumstances, I WAS entitled to extra support in the way of benefits and at no stage did anyone inform me that there were different "rates" of the benefits. I was under the impression that there was a threshold and if your household income was under that threshold, you were entitled to the benefit and if it exceeded the threshold, you were not. I was also correct that the grants I received did not class as income, so find it bizarre that loans do- you'd think it would be the other way around, it makes no good sense. I feel totally disillusioned by it all.

    I am absolutely desperate to pay back every penny regardless of whether or not they prosecute, I don't want to owe them money and I was looking forward to the time when I didn't need to claim a thing. In the unlikely event that they don't push for prosecution and I am able to secure employment, I hope I never have to deal with them again. This entire situation has made me feel victimised- I know and accept that the fault essentially lies with me, but the system is flawed when someone who claims without fraudulent intent is penalised in the same manner as someone who deliberately sets out to con the authorities Or maybe it's just assumed that every single person has done it on purpose and should be treated with suspicion- probably.

    Does anyone know the average length of time between an IUC and a court summons? I'm living on nervous energy and am unable to sleep right now, is this likely to be a matter of weeks, months, years? Regardless of what they think of me, my children don't deserve to be cared for by an exhausted, emotionally flattened mother who isn't getting any sleep. We need some sort of closure on this, good or bad.


  10. #10
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    Default Re: I need help

    Quote Originally Posted by mystical View Post
    Thanks so much for your informative reply

    My letter regarding the DLA stated that as I was beginning a course, I didn't think I would be entitled to the money anymore and would like to cease my claim. However, I still had the disability- I believed that I had to need a carer in order to claim DLA and felt it was unreasonable to continue to claim it if I could attend college without a carer. All I received back was a standard letter stating that they had reviewed my claim to DLA and decided I was no longer entitled so my payments would cease- there was no other contact made me with me and no one assessed my needs. Ironically, I just didn't want to claim something I may not be entitled to!
    If your DLA was paid because you required care in the form of supervision or attention and required a carer for this, and your needs altered so that you no longer required the same level of supervision or attention in that you were able to go for prolonged periods without a carer (go to college) then it may be the case that the termination of your DLA claim was a correct decision. Without knowing exactly what qualified you for DLA and exactly what the DWP reviewed (looked at) when they decided to terminate your claim, I can't say for certain. In view of this, it may be worthwhile submitting a subjet access request in respect of your DLA claim - for mitigation if nothing else. The DWP do not charge for SARicon's. Your solicitor will be able to help with this but it is easy enough to request yourself - you just complete this form and send it to the DLA address that dealt with your claim at the time.

    In respect to the length of time between an IUC and court summons, it's not really possible to say, because it varies on each case. There was one poster on here a while ago who got a court summons within 6 months, and another who waited over 18 months. Jabba would be the best person to answer in respect of approximate time scales but as I said, it's almost impossible to guesstimate.

    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.

    Please do not seek, offer or produce advice on a consumer issue via private message; it is against forum rules to advise via private message, therefore pm's requesting private advice will not receive a response.
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  11. #11
    Basic Account Holder mystical Novitiate

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    Default Re: I need help

    Thankyou Erica. The replies here have been very helpful and I am grateful that people are not simply being judgemental about the situation. I will apply for the information as I don't really understand the DLA rules, I thought it was only paid if you needed a carer hence me cancelling my claim. Hopefully I can find out whether or not cancelling the claim was the correct action when I get the information.


  12. #12
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    Default Re: I need help

    Nope, DLA's paid if you have care or mobility needs. Whether or not you get the help you need isn't relevant, there just has to be a need for the help.

    I'll change your thread title to accurately reflect the content - might attract more responses.

    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.

    Please do not seek, offer or produce advice on a consumer issue via private message; it is against forum rules to advise via private message, therefore pm's requesting private advice will not receive a response.
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  13. #13
    Basic Account Holder jabba jones Informative jabba jones Informative jabba jones Informative jabba jones Informative

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    Default Re: I need help

    Quote Originally Posted by mystical View Post
    I don't know Jabba, I was told yesterday that via the SAFE initiative, there are financial incentives to fraud depts to prosecute, of around 1200 for a penalty or caution and 2k+ for a successful prosecution. I don't know anything about it personally, it's what I was told by someone advising me.
    Fair enough it's probably true then, but the fact that I am unaware of it (or ignored it in my training more like!) shows just how little it means on the section itself.

    Quote Originally Posted by mystical View Post
    Does anyone know the average length of time between an IUC and a court summons? I'm living on nervous energy and am unable to sleep right now, is this likely to be a matter of weeks, months, years? Regardless of what they think of me, my children don't deserve to be cared for by an exhausted, emotionally flattened mother who isn't getting any sleep. We need some sort of closure on this, good or bad.
    It will be months & months. Presuming your IUC was in the last couple of weeks, you'll be lucky to get the benefit decision before Xmas & then if they decide to prosecute it's a very long winded process before you receive any notification of intent.

    You are just going to have to wait I'm afraid.


  14. #14
    Basic Account Holder mystical Novitiate

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    Default Re: Accused of Benefit Fraud, worried about prosecution

    Months and months? So it could easily be summer before it even goes to court?


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    Default Re: I need help

    hello there first time i have used one of these forms so bear with me im have the same sort of problem as the lady above thing is i had the police and the benefit officers raid my house witch was one of the worse things of me life i have kids aswell sort of half and half with what i have done but i did not relies i was i know its no excuse for it the prob i have i had the interview and then was to return to bail on the 17th but tonight the police came to mine and said i have to wait for a court summons in the new year is that how it works ive not been charged with anything yet either im really scared of maybe going to prison Ive not had a good past and worked hard to stay on the straight but still don't look good for me does please i hope you may have some answer s and some advise


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    Default Re: Accused of Benefit Fraud, worried about prosecution

    There is a big difference between deliberate fraud and a mistake. More than likley they may not be able to prove fraaud but will claim back the overpaymenticon ov er time. If you have been totally honest about it, I doubt if you would be prosecuted.


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    Default Re: Accused of Benefit Fraud, worried about prosecution

    thankyou for replying so quick yes i was straight with from the start so hopefully it all works out learned a dear price with this hopefully the new year brings some luck well thankyou again i will reply on here to let you all no the outcome it nice to see there is help and advise out there thanks again marc


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    Default Re: Accused of Benefit Fraud, worried about prosecution

    well updated so far apparently they said they are going to take it to court ive not been charged for it can they do that i had a letter to say that it has all been investigated and being forward to the prosecution department to find out thing is they started to try and get statements of my family does this mean they dont have enough evidence against me or just a part of how they do things


  19. #19
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    Default Re: Accused of Benefit Fraud, worried about prosecution

    Your family do not have to put anything in writting , get legal advice asap .. i hope that your ok cat xx


  20. #20
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    Default Re: Accused of Benefit Fraud, worried about prosecution

    I think you are worrying too much over this, for two reasons.

    1. I am convinced you received an overpaymenticon of benefits, but I am not convinced that fraud occurred. Fraud occurs when you intended to deceive for material benefit. To successfully prosecute you, they need to show beyond reasonable doubt your intention to claim benefits by providing misleading or wrong information that you knew you were not entitled to, or they need you to accept a caution or plead guilty.

    2. A conviction only means that your future employers will be aware of the fraud conviction. It does not mean that cannot employ you. If they are sensible and look at the circumstances and the risks you pose in carrying out your duties, they are quite likely to decide that you pose no risk to 7 year old children.

    Remember about 10 years ago, when there was a bit of a scandal of so many sex offenders working as teachers. One case seemed particularly worrying, about a teacher working in a girls boarding school who had been cautioned for under age sex. In the end the full story got published. in this case, the "under age sex" occurred 15 years earlier, when he was 16, and the under-age victim was 15y and 11 months old at the time. The victim is now his wife. The school headmistress (his wife) was fully aware of the conviction.

    I also know of a trainee teacher getting a cannabis possession caution whilst still training to be a teacher. He found that working in desirable jobs was not an option, but in some of the rough inner city schools, it was almost an advantage.



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