I would be very grateful for any advice regarding my situation.
I was employed by the NHS for around 11 years - My last working day was late November 2009 at which time I left London and travelled to New Zealand to live. I gave a friends address in London for any mail that was still coming in, as well as my address in NZ. My employer had all of these details.
Since leaving the UK I've had correspondence in the UK and NZ from HMRC, NHS Pensions, my old employer and so on with no mention of any problem.
Around March this year my friend in London received a letter from a debt collection agency stating that in December 2008 I had been mistakingly overpaid and I should now repay this money immediately or face further action. The debt collection agency said it was working for my previous employer and I should not contact them (the NHS) and only to correspond directly with the debt collection agency.
Of course I thought this was a hoax, or a mistake. I checked this agency (CCI legal) and they seemed legit, so I contacted them to see what this was all about. They claimed that I had been overpaid around 2800 GBP and that I must repay this immediately.
At first I was utterly shocked especially because I had worked for the same NHS Trust a whole year after this alleged overpayment and even when the final salary etc was done nothing had come up.
It is now well over 4 years since this 'happened' and over 3 years since I left the UK. My circumstances have dramatically changed, the money is most certainly spent, and I am not currently employed, nor am I living in NZ. At the moment I don't have any of my old work diaries, statements, payslips etc to check the data for sure.
The NHS Trust has admitted this is completely their error in a letter they have provided CCI legal. When I asked them to provide clear evidence it turns out that perhaps I only owe 1500 GBP now. I can't quite work it all out as NHS payslips are notoriously complicated with codes etc and added to that I worked alot of overtime/out of hours so no payslip was ever the same (that's why I didn't notice if there was an error in the first place). On top of that quite a good chunk of the pay was correctly paid.
Since the Debt people first contacted me I have politely requested all information about this 'overpayment'. This has proved to have errors in it by their admission. I can't be sure if the figure is even now correct. However, the next problem is that I am not currently employed and do not have the means to even enter into a repayment plan if I wanted. And I am reluctant to enter into anything if I am not sure if I even owe them this money!
Around the start of July I sent a letter stating that I had no way to pay off this alleged overpayment (not employed, no assets, no savings) and I would like them to write this 'debt' off.
The response from them was that they had reason to believe that I was in NZ and that I should provide my contact details there so that they could pursue me through the local legal system.
I have written to them today stating that I no longer reside in NZ, have no means to pay this 'debt' and that I would like them to close this case. (Well the letter was a bit longer, but simple, pleasant and honest). I am currently working as a seasonal harvester in return for food and lodging - I'm serious - I don't earn any money!
The question is: Can they really chase me for this old mistake that they have entirely accepted as their own - which is over 4 years old?!! And if I don't have any means to repay them, even if they are right, can this be written off? I had no idea that a possible overpayment had been made, my pay slip was different every month and I never actually checked it at the time. They never mentioned it while I continued to work for them (and at that time it would've been ok to try and repay some of it). But now I really can't.
What are my rights? Shall I provide them with my new contact details? Can they really take this to court wherever I am living? I have noticed that they do have an agent in the country I am in now. I am happy to correspond with them by email, but it is pointless trying to send me something by post these days. And more to the point, any legal action will result in trying to get water from a stone.
Any advice heartily accepted!