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Accused of Benefit Fraud - HELP!!


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Afternoon,

 

I am posting on behalf o my mother.

 

First of all a brief background. 3 years ago my father died, prior to that he was in a Residential Home who cared for him due to him suffering from the latter stages of Alzheimer's. He had ben in there for around 3 years prior to his death. Whilst he was in the home my mother had 2 hip replacements also.

 

My father was the sole wage earner, my mum had never worked as she had no need. She also never claimed benefits until my dad went into a home.

 

All of the private pension that my dad had (around 800 per month) while he was in the home was taken by the home to pay for his care along with his state pension.

 

My mum literally had nothing to live on and given that she could not work due to her hips received benefits to help her out. Included in these benefits were housing and council tax as she lived in a council house. These benefits were paid directly to the local authority.

 

My dad died three years ago and his private pension was turned over to my mother.

 

As part of the benefit review she was asked to fill out all sorts of forms, no really knowing how to do this she asked for assistance and she went to meet a representative of the local authority/benefits office and she took all of her bank statements and letters regarding my dads pension with her.

 

They filled the forms out for her and took them to process whatever benefits she should receive. They calculated that she should still receive the housing benefit, which meant that she only paid a small proportion of the council house rent and that she would receive council tax benefit so she had to pay no council tax.

 

This was pretty much the same for the next three years.

 

Now she is of a pensionable age and receives a state pension a further review has ben carried out and she now receives no benefit at all and she is happy to pay her full rent and full (Single occupancy) council tax. However it seems that during the review they have found that she should not have had any benefit for the last 3 years since my dad died as she was receiving his private pension of around £800.

 

They have advised that she now owes £13k. She has ben to a meeting today with the local authority, which is Staffordshire Moorlands, under caution and they have advised that they have reason to believe that she is guilty of fraudulently obtaining the benefits as she never told them that she was receiving my late fathers private pension.

 

I find this quite ludicrous, all she ever did, as neither my mother, myself or my brother, knew anything about the benefits system, was take the bank statements, which clearly showed any income (the private pension was paid into the only account that she has) and she also always took the details of the private pension with her. At no time has she attempted to mislead anybody and to be quite honest she would not know how to mislead somebody as she has no idea how the benefit system works.

 

So for the last three years she has had a benefit she thought that she was entitled to having had the member of the LA or benefits office fill out the details of the form with her. She had no idea that she was not entitle to this benefit.

 

It is my opinion, as a relative layman, that as she has not set out to mislead anyone and that it seems that the error has been made by the LA or benefits office then she should not be expected to pay back the money that she has been paid. At least not the £50 a month (at least) that they are now demanding.

 

She has ben threatened with court proceedings and prosecution today should she not agree that she will pay all of this money back.

 

I have done a little research and I have found this rule:

 

"(2) Subject to paragraph (4) this paragraph applies to an overpayment caused by an official error where the claimant or a person acting on his behalf or any other person to whom the payment is made could not, at the time of receipt of the payment or of any notice relating to the payment, reasonably have been expected to realise that it was an overpayment."

 

My view is that this is exactly what has happened with my mother and I intend to fight this. However I would appreciate any input anyone has on here that may help.

 

Also can I request from the local authority (or more accurately can my mother) all details that they hold on her and any prior meeting that have been held where assistance was given with the filling out of forms.

 

Finally as a coincidence the lady that my mother always met to fill out the forms does not work for the LA/benefits people anymore so cannot corroborate my mother's version of events.

 

thanks in advance for your help

 

Mark

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Did she get a receipt when she provided bank statements and pension details?

 

Has she sent a SAR for all the details held on her claim - there should be some record of her at least providing bank statements, and if those show pension payments, then this counts as notification.

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

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I have sent a subject access request to the Staffs Morrlands today, the only trouble is that this is just an e-mail address, its not the proper form and there is no info on what to send, they have advised that they will get back to me within 20 days but I don't want to wait 20 days to find out that I then have to fill out a form and send proofs.

 

I am going to call them this afternoon, as I though the same thing, they must have a record of what documents were submitted to them to substantiate any claim she has and therefore if there are bank statements then she has not misrepresented her claim and would not be eligible for the repayment as it is their error.

 

She is happy to repay but at what she can afford, but the issue is that she does not want to have a Fraud charge hanging over her head and her name in the paper for it.

 

thanks for your help

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From what you say your mother would be unlikely to be found guilty of fraud in court as it would be difficult for the LA to prove that your mother was trying to commit fraud when they will admit she went there with her financial paperwork to work out what benefits she should receive, even if you are unable to prove they saw her bank statements and knew her full income. But, I suspect the lady who has left made an error and the money is now owed so the action needed now is to work out affordable weekly payments, do approach the CAB about this as they will help work out legal budgets and will know the available figures courts would not push past and the LA would therefore be unlikely to disagree with.

 

My points though are that if your mother was not of pensionable age and therefore not receiving her pension, what did they think she was living on? That point alone makes me think they must have been aware and seen her income when that assessment was done. But hey ho, annoying and stressful as this very much is, working out the repayments now are what is needed.

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Hi

So this is a council rather than the DWP so I assume this is overpayments of HB/CTB

 

Your mum did everything that was required of her to supply the information requested and as such if the LA was short of info, they should have contacted her, not leave it for 3 years. This makes me think that paperwork has been misplaced.

 

What I would do (if you haven't already) is to get your mums written authorisation to act on her behalf then submit a formal complaint explaining what you believe to be the case and let them respond.

 

Some councils have a 2 stage complaints procedure, others have 3. Either way, if it comes to the end with no resolution, you can involve the Local Government Ombudsman who can investigate and if needed, physically visit the council offices and examine the case paperwork (they did that for me and found my council severely lacking)

 

I would suggest that you ask that collection attempts be suspended whilst the complaint is investigated.

If you are asked to deal with any matter via private message, PLEASE report it.

Everything I say is opinion only. If you are unsure on any comment made, you should see a qualified solicitor

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hi, im going through something like this at the moment can someone please help me.

 

ive been accused of benefit fraud, they are saying that i have someone living with me.

 

my childrens dad visits everyday, i have 3 girls one 8yrs (not his daughter) and twin 4yr olds that are a bit of a handful. so he visits everyday to help with bath time, bed etc.he stays maybe once or twice a week as he watches the younger two for a few hours in the evening while i take my older one to her brownies and dancing. we havent been in a relationship for many years and never lived together, we are very good friend and have been since we were children, i explained this all at my interview and was told that i would be investigated, ive done nothing wrong so this is fine, but im so worried that they might stop my money, how will i feed my childen? ive now received a letter for another interview??

 

can someone please help i really dont no what to do ive heard so many stories of innocent people having to pay so much money back because they were not believed. when i asked the lady at my interview what happens next she said it all depends if they believe my statement.

 

please help a very sad mummy

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