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I have been dumb-ass re Housing benefit and am worried sick - can anyone advise - ** RESOLVED **


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Hi everyone,

 

I have been a total pleb and due to various circumstances left it rather late to inform the council that I had a wage rise last year. I know I should have done it immediately later but at the time of the rise I was under incredible pressure with debt worries after separating from my husband who left me in huge financial difficulty together with the fact that i was undergoing various medical tests which at the hospital as I was (an still am) showing symptoms of MS.

 

This ommission came about because I was sorting through this years paperwork and unusually for me have left the tax credit renewal rather late. I rang the council to tell them about my wage rise in April 2012 and that I think I had forgotten to tell them about my rise last year. The lady on the phone said that due to my 2012 rise I would not be entitled to which I said that I expected that. This meant that I would have been overpaid by 3 months. Whilst talking to her I explained that I could not remember if I had told about last years rise, and when I confirmed my normal pay, she said no. Today I have realised that my tax credits figure has reduced from the original one I gave when claiming and Have tried to call them back about this but was on hold for over 45 minutes during my lunch hour then had to hang up.

 

SO, I know I have been overpaid by 3 months for defo and am sure that for the majority of last year I was also overpaid by some and I have tried to create a spreadsheet to work it out which includes the rise in salary and drop in tax credits. I make it approx £1000 overpaid.

 

In addition, I think I am currently being investigated as my employer explained that he had received a request for an Employers statement wanting details of my pay and pay dates.

 

I am totally worried sick that I am about to be called in for investigation and wonder what is going to happen next. Shall keep trying to ring them to explain or has it gone too far??

 

Any help would be really appreciated. I know have been totally stupid for not telling them last year but I genuinely did forget due to over-rising circumstances......

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you dont know they are ging to call you in so please stop worrying

they have contacted your employer who will fill out the form regarding the wages.

they are probably looking at raising an overpayment and need all the supporting evidence.

 

they are at fault as well why didnt they send out for your payslips, they do usually.

It doesnt sound a huge overpayment and for 1k you may have to go in but I dont think they will haul you over the coals,

and you may not have to go in either.

So I would wait and see dont ring again if you can help it you have notiifed them now of your COC, let them gather what they need, supply them with any more info if they request it

 

You have not knowingly committed fraud, see a lot worse believe me

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If & when you get any overpayment of tax credits, go see CAB or other advice service - they may be able to limit the damage of paying back so much.

Work for my local CAB but my views and advice are my own. Try AdviceGuide or Adviceline (08444 111 444) for CAB help ;)

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  • 2 weeks later...

Update: I received a letter yesterday stating that I had been overpaid by £1050 and that I had to pay it back by 28 days. I am currently in a DMP so should I ring CCCS or the council first to arrange a repayment schedule.

 

Also, might I still be asked to go in for interview and or prosecuted???? I'm so scared :-(

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Update: I received a letter yesterday stating that I had been overpaid by £1050 and that I had to pay it back by 28 days. I am currently in a DMP so should I ring CCCS or the council first to arrange a repayment schedule.

 

Also, might I still be asked to go in for interview and or prosecuted???? I'm so scared :-(

 

First you need advice to ensure that the overpayment has been calculated correctly. Write to the LA and ask for a breakdown of how the overpayment has been calculated (ie, have they included the correct amounts and correct tax credit details).

 

Once you've done this then you can contact your DMP provider to see how you can manage repayment.

We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office ~ Aesop

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First you need advice to ensure that the overpayment has been calculated correctly. Write to the LA and ask for a breakdown of how the overpayment has been calculated (ie, have they included the correct amounts and correct tax credit details).

 

Once you've done this then you can contact your DMP provider to see how you can manage repayment.

 

Hi, Now the letter has sunk in and after a few nights of not sleeping, I am ready to write to the council to ask for a breakdown. Am I right in thinking that I should not come across in an aggressive manner by say I don't think I should pay etc etc cos I did make a mistake at the end of the day, BUT do I admit that in the letter. Should I just keep it simple and ask for a further breakdown of how they have calculated my 'new' income?

 

Sorry if it seems like I'm panicking, but I am!

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Hi, Now the letter has sunk in and after a few nights of not sleeping, I am ready to write to the council to ask for a breakdown. Am I right in thinking that I should not come across in an aggressive manner by say I don't think I should pay etc etc cos I did make a mistake at the end of the day, BUT do I admit that in the letter. Should I just keep it simple and ask for a further breakdown of how they have calculated my 'new' income?

 

Sorry if it seems like I'm panicking, but I am!

 

Just keep it simple. By asking for an explanation of the decision and a breakdown, you will be extendeding the time limit you have to appeal the overpayment decision if you need to. Don't make any admissions and don't make any accusations. Be specific about what information you want to know - ie a week by week explanation of how your income and the overpayment has been calculated.

 

they may have calculated it correctly, but they may not have - its always worth checking.

We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office ~ Aesop

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Just keep it simple. By asking for an explanation of the decision and a breakdown, you will be extendeding the time limit you have to appeal the overpayment decision if you need to. Don't make any admissions and don't make any accusations. Be specific about what information you want to know - ie a week by week explanation of how your income and the overpayment has been calculated.

 

they may have calculated it correctly, but they may not have - its always worth checking.

 

Hi Estellyn, and thank you. Do you think this letter will suffice? I don't to say the wrong thing!

"I am writing in regard to the overpayment notice I have received dated 24 July 2012.

So that I can understand the calculation on the attached sheets, I am writing to ask if you could provide a more detailed breakdown of my revised weekly income figure showing the earned income and the tax credits figure, and how the ‘benefit due’ part has been worked out please.

I await your reply.

Thank you"

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Hi Estellyn, and thank you. Do you think this letter will suffice? I don't to say the wrong thing!

"I am writing in regard to the overpayment notice I have received dated 24 July 2012.

So that I can understand the calculation on the attached sheets, I am writing to ask if you could provide a more detailed breakdown of my revised weekly income figure showing the earned income and the tax credits figure, and how the ‘benefit due’ part has been worked out please.

I await your reply.

Thank you"

 

Yes, that sounds Ok - the only addition I would make is is add 'a written statement of reasons giving' after the word provide - this is to ensure that they extend your appeal time limit by two weeks.

We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office ~ Aesop

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  • 2 weeks later...
I think I am gonna cry :-( I received a letter yesterday asking me to go for an Interview under caution regarding this overpayment. I'm so scared.

 

Are there any other issues you might have? Normally the IUC is before the overpayment calculation.

We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office ~ Aesop

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Are there any other issues you might have? Normally the IUC is before the overpayment calculation.

 

Not that I know of? Such as what? Do you think it might be for something else?

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Firstly, definitely ask for a "statement of reasons", expressly asking the local authority to explain how it has calculated particularly your earnings and tax credits. Further, ask whether any regard has been given to "underlying entitlement" in respect of retrospectively reduced tax credits. Make sure your letter is clearly headed "Request for statement of reason".

 

Once you have the statement of reasons, you have 14 days within which an appeal has to be made (assuming there was less than this time left of the original one month appeal time limit when you asked for the statement). Even if you don't have time to get proper advice, simply submit a letter stating you wish to appeal against the decision of [date], the grounds being you don't agree with the calculation - that bare information is sufficient for an appeal to be legally valid. Additional grounds and submissions can always be sent later when you have been able to seek proper advice.

 

The issue of an IUC is separate, even though it is plainly about the same matter. I have copied a paraphrased extract from another post I have made elsewhere:

 

My firm advice is not to attend the IUC - there is no legal basis on which you can be required to attend, despite the DWP and local authorities often implying the contrary. If you do attend, my firm advice is to "no comment" EVERY question, including the most benign such as "Can you confirm "X" is your date of birth?". My advice about IUCs is because the ONLY person(s) that can intervene on your behalf is a lawyer. You are allowed to take friends, you are allowed to take specialist welfare rights workers but none of those can speak - only a lawyer can. Even with a lawyer, my advice would be (usually) to "no comment" and only offer a prepared statement along the lines of (if true!) "To the best of my recollection, knowledge, belief and understanding, I have not been guilty of any criminal wrongdoing".

 

Prior to deciding whether or not you wish to attend, you *could* write a simple letter along these lines:

 

Dear ...

 

I refer to your letter requesting that I attend an interview.

 

Having taken advice, I am asking you to set out clearly and transparently exactly what it is you intend to interview me about. This information will enable me to check any relevant records and prepare for the interview should I decide to attend.

 

Yours....

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The issue of an IUC is separate, even though it is plainly about the same matter. I have copied a paraphrased extract from another post I have made elsewhere:

 

My firm advice is not to attend the IUC - there is no legal basis on which you can be required to attend, despite the DWP and local authorities often implying the contrary. If you do attend, my firm advice is to "no comment" EVERY question, including the most benign such as "Can you confirm "X" is your date of birth?". My advice about IUCs is because the ONLY person(s) that can intervene on your behalf is a lawyer. You are allowed to take friends, you are allowed to take specialist welfare rights workers but none of those can speak - only a lawyer can. Even with a lawyer, my advice would be (usually) to "no comment" and only offer a prepared statement along the lines of (if true!) "To the best of my recollection, knowledge, belief and understanding, I have not been guilty of any criminal wrongdoing".

 

Prior to deciding whether or not you wish to attend, you *could* write a simple letter along these lines:

 

Dear ...

 

I refer to your letter requesting that I attend an interview.

 

Having taken advice, I am asking you to set out clearly and transparently exactly what it is you intend to interview me about. This information will enable me to check any relevant records and prepare for the interview should I decide to attend.

 

Yours....

 

Sometimes a solicitors advice isn't always the best. Each case is individual & to recommend not attending or no commenting every IUC regardless of the circumstances is just stupid IMO.

 

In a contentious case that may result in a prosecution then fair enough, but in this case where employment & wages are involved, denying it or no commenting is not going to alter the amount of the overpayment. They will have all the evidence needed from either employers &/or bank statements.

 

It all depends on the particular councils guidelines but:

 

If the overpayment is £1000 then a prosecution is unlikely.

 

If the IUC was attended & the offence admitted with an apology then a department Caution should be the likely result.

 

If the IUC is refused, no commented etc then the likely result would be the offer of an Administrative Penalty which is a 30% fine on top of the overpayment. Refusal should result in prosecution.

 

So like I've mentioned it depends on the individual Council but potentially the solicitors advice could cost an extra £300.

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Sometimes a solicitors advice isn't always the best. Each case is individual & to recommend not attending or no commenting every IUC regardless of the circumstances is just stupid IMO.

 

It's very disappointing to note that within 10 posts, personal abuse rears its rather ugly and unpleasant head on yet another forum. "Stupid"? Please tell me this is not yet another forum where someone with relevant knowledge and substantial first hand experience is subject to this kind of post? If this really is the standard of response, I shall be happy to leave as soon as I have arrived - just let me know.

 

Rather more importantly for the OP, I absolutely stand by my advice which was based on the facts stated. I do not offer the advice given lightly or without thought. The harsh reality is that attending an IUC on the basis of the info given so far is likely to be of little benefit to the OP. Also, to suggest that the "likely result" of failing to attend an IUC "would be the offer of an Administrative Penalty" is a gross generalisation. That *may* happen but it certainly cannot be described as "likely". It goes without saying in any case that if the person is innocent of a criminal offence, any offer of an AdPen should be firmly rejected.

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I give in. I really don't know why I bother sometimes.

 

Please feel free to carry on advising people not to attend their IUC's regardless of their situation. It won't happen in this case but with they way things are going at the moment you'll be responsible for quite a few people getting needlessly arrested.

 

More money for solicitors I guess. Hmmmm.

 

Anyway. I'm out of here.

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It's very disappointing to note that within 10 posts, personal abuse rears its rather ugly and unpleasant head on yet another forum. "Stupid"? Please tell me this is not yet another forum where someone with relevant knowledge and substantial first hand experience is subject to this kind of post? If this really is the standard of response, I shall be happy to leave as soon as I have arrived - just let me know.

 

Rather more importantly for the OP, I absolutely stand by my advice which was based on the facts stated. I do not offer the advice given lightly or without thought. The harsh reality is that attending an IUC on the basis of the info given so far is likely to be of little benefit to the OP. Also, to suggest that the "likely result" of failing to attend an IUC "would be the offer of an Administrative Penalty" is a gross generalisation. That *may* happen but it certainly cannot be described as "likely". It goes without saying in any case that if the person is innocent of a criminal offence, any offer of an AdPen should be firmly rejected.

 

The OP has only your word that you have 'relevant knowledge and substantial first hand experience'. To the people seeking help we're just words on a screen. Other people claiming relevant experience and knowledge may see the matter differently to you, and the OP deserves to have all points of view, and to seek further advice in person from a benefits advisor.

 

Personally I don't see a problem attending the IUC in this case, as scary as it is. The times where I've recommended caution with an IUC, or ended an IUC is where the client has commited deliberate fraud, and is likely to make the prospects for any criminal case, much worse.

We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office ~ Aesop

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*olive branch"

 

Jabba, the tone of both posts shows you care and feel strongly - I do too. So, let's try and get it right between us.

 

{edited to add}: Estellyn - experience outlined.

 

Firstly, the one point I do agree with you on is that advice from a solicitor is not always best when it comes to social security law. It depends on whether the solicitor has a specialist knowledge in that area. If s/he doesn't, it's quite feasible for any input from a solicitor to be even more damaging.

 

I would not say NEVER attend an IUC. Sometimes, especially where someone is entirely innocent ANDit's a straightforward yes/no situation rather than a judgement of facts, it can be positively helpful to attend an IUC. However, where judgement calls are required, I have lost count of the number of occasions where claimants, in all innocence, have made statements that can be presented by the prosecution in a way that *appears* damning in Court.

 

Amongst many issues is that those conducting IUCs all too often have a lamentable grasp of benefits law. The trouble is, ridiculous as it seems, it is quite possible to "admit" to something when in fact there was nothing to admit to. For example, "Is "X" your boyfriend?". A: "Well, yeah..." and that gets seized upon as being evidence of being a member of a couple - to the exclusion of other relevant evidence and completely overlooking the legal definition of "couple" for social security purposes. There are other examples: "Do you own that villa in Spain?" "Yeah..." and the questioning then completely fails to establish whether it has any value or indeed whether anyone else is the lawful beneficial owner. Because criminal lawyers rarely have any depth of knowledge relating to social security law, this kind of crucial info can (and does) end up being ignored.

 

Is it really that bad? Sadly, in my experience, it is. It shouldn't be, but it is. I have personally assisted in approximately 70 cases of alleged benefit fraud, including one in the capacity of being an expert witness. It is that experience, along with 20+ years within "the system", which leads to the advice offered. Could I be wrong in the case of the OP to this thread? Yes, absolutely. But, I advise in good faith based on the info available.

 

Just for info, I am not a lawyer and have no interest in lining the pockets of solicitors. That said, legal aid is no longer a feather bed for a luxurious lifestyle (assuming it ever was) - certainly not in cases of alleged benefit fraud. With the reductions in legal aid that have already taken place, the amounts now payable to lawyers and experts has been slashed to a point where many have simply walked away as it isn't commercially viable to assist. When the next batch of cuts take place, many many people will have nowhere to turn to at all. There simply won't be the capacity.

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Not every IUC results in a prosecution.

 

Not every IUC results in a sanction.

 

Not every IUC results in an overpayment.

 

Not every overpayment calculated after an IUC is classed as fraud.

 

That's because as this forum shows sometimes there is a good reason or excuse for the alleged offence & often no offence at all. The IUC is your chance to explain this & explain away all the evidence that has been obtained.

 

If you don't attend you lose your opportunity to do that & a decision on your benefit will be made based purely on one sided evidence. Its not hard to guess what happens next.

 

I've been personally involved with several cases where solicitors have advised their clients not to attend & in due course have received a rude early morning awakening when the police smash their front door in & arrested them. Sometimes they had good reason not to attend but those type of people don't normally ask for advice on this site.

 

Like I've said previously every case is individual & to say that the same advice can be given on EVERY case (which is what the above advice does suggest) is blatantly wrong & could make things much worse.

 

This is a straightforward case. The OP knew to report the change but due to circumstances forgot. She didn't try to hide because in the end she has reported herself. Intentional fraud? Probably not, but still good enough for the LA fraud team to obtain a sanction.

 

Explain it at an IUC, apologise & if a caution is offered bite their hand off.

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This is a straightforward case. The OP knew to report the change but due to circumstances forgot. She didn't try to hide because in the end she has reported herself. Intentional fraud? Probably not, but still good enough for the LA fraud team to obtain a sanction.

 

Explain it at an IUC, apologise & if a caution is offered bite their hand off.

 

Wow. So much for the olive branch. I couldn't disagree more strongly with this advice. It's basically saying "Even if you are entirely innocent of any criminal wrongdoing, give up and take whatever is meted out". No lawyer properly competent and conversant in both social security and criminal law would support such a response.

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Wow. So much for the olive branch. I couldn't disagree more strongly with this advice. It's basically saying "Even if you are entirely innocent of any criminal wrongdoing, give up and take whatever is meted out". No lawyer properly competent and conversant in both social security and criminal law would support such a response.

 

I really don't know where you think I've slagged you off in that reply.

 

The OP has admitted in the 1st post forgetting to report a change even though she knew she should report it. I don't think it was intentional but she will have signed declarations stating she understood otherwise, so I forgot may not treated as a reasonable excuse despite the mitigation.

 

Thats not me been nasty or vindictive, thats the way it works. For a Caution to be offered the case must also be suitable for prosecution if it is refused. I'm sure you can quote me why this won't happen here but rightly or wrongly on a simple employment case it really doesn't take much for the dept solicitors to decide a prosecution will be successful. For a £1000 overpayment to end in a possible criminal record would be crazy, hence why I would accept a departmental (not police) caution.

 

Anyway I really have had enough now so I'll leave it to the excellent regular posters (we all know who they are) to help from now on. See ya.

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Thanks for the second backhander - i.e. the inference that I am not an excellent poster.

 

Simply put jabba, a late notification of a change in circumstances in not, in itself, even remotely close to satisfying the criteria for a criminal offence in the context of benefit fraud. In both HB/CTB legislation, the duty to notify a change in circumstances has no time limit. Under sections 111A and 112 (respectively) of the Social Security Administration Act 1992, there are several limbs that MUST be satisfied in order for an offence to have been committed. So far, nothing in the info from the OP suggests such an offence has been committed. Even the provisions under The Fraud Act 2006, or The Theft Act, require rather more than a late notification to amount to an offence.

 

My firm advice to the OP, in light of the wildly contradictory responses, is to get advice away from this forum, preferably from a welfare rights org / law centre that has someone specialising in social security law. It will soon become apparent whose posts are, legally, the most accurate.

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I wonder if this arguing amongst yourselves is probably not the best for the OP, who is almost certainly stressed beyond belief.

 

I know absolutely nothing so am not able to contribute.

 

However, having looked round the internet I have found information that seems to support ALL the advice given. I guess it is up to the OP to decide how best (s)he should move forward.

 

acfoster, have you approached Ciitzen's advice bureau and asked if someone can attend this with you or give you advice before you go? If CAB cant see you in time for the scheduled meeting, then you should write and advise that you are seeking advice and you would like the meeting postponed until you have received that advice.

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My firm advice to the OP, in light of the wildly contradictory responses, is to get advice away from this forum, preferably from a welfare rights org / law centre that has someone specialising in social security law. It will soon become apparent whose posts are, legally, the most accurate.

 

Having worked at a law centre, every advisor there would in these circumstances advise attending the IUC and being honest about circumstances. If someone fears they will get confused by the interviewers then we would have advised a prepared statement regarding the matter. More complex matters which we fear may be prosecuted would be referred on to a solicitor to give appropriate legal advice. However we have found that solicitors are often unhelpful where IUC is concerned and don't consider the ramifications of complex cases.

 

As Jabba stated an IUC doesn't mean a criminal conviction is being sought, it just seems to be standard practice nowadays even with potential small overpayments, to have the interview taped and under caution, in case anything else comes out of the interview.

 

As benefit advisers we're not there to help someone get away with overpayments that haven't been discovered. Quite frankly, its always better to come clean, than later be found to have held back information - especially where prosecution is concerned.

 

I've also had a client who didn't attend the IUC and things were much worse than they should have been.

 

A good solicitor can argue the points you've made regarding whether there has been a criminal offense commited - but the time for this is after the IUC, once the overpayment has been decided upon, and a decision is being made regarding prosecution - sadly bad solicitors are not proactive at this stage, preferring to wait until a court date has been set.

 

We all have different experiences and can give our point of view without becoming adversarial, which doesn't help those seeking advice.

We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office ~ Aesop

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Estellyn: I guess my experiences have been with different law centres.

 

Your own post makes a reference that perfectly illustrates why IUCs are, normally, more beneficial to the DWP / local authorities than to claimants (exceptions readily agreed). "...in case anything else comes out of the interview". That will rarely be in the claimant's interest. I would agree with the use of prepared statements and I also strongly agree that solicitors are often unhelpful in IUCs. Just to be clear, nothing in my posts is intended to convey that ANYONE, whether or not an advisor, should be trying to get claimants off the hook other than within the law. I have never done so and never will but I freely acknowledge using the law to the benefit of a client even if the outcome appeared contrary to what might otherwise be perceived as "fair". As Upper Tribunal Judges have pointed out, the law must be applied as it is, not as we might like it to be.

 

Anyway, good luck to you. I will consider whether or not to continue posting.

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