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Social fund forcing repayments for loan already paid back


jillymill
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Hi,

 

I'm hoping someone can help me with this.

 

The Social Fund have started taking £8.43 a week from my ESA for a loan, which had an outstanding amount of £243, that I had in 2005 when I was (last) on JSA.

 

However, they forcibly took the same amount back out of my Maternity Allowance in 2011 (£9 a week for 6 months) with their only explanation being that it was for when I was on JSA.

 

They have ignored both of my letters requesting that they answer whether I have already repaid this debt and that, in the interim, they reduce my repayments as we cannot afford £8.43 a week. We are in dire straights financially and the £9 a week they took from my Maternity allowance ultimately drove us into homelessness.

 

I have autism spectrum disorder and find bureaucratic mazes like this impossible to deal with, especially as I find talking on the phone extremely difficult and can't afford to dial their 087- numbers anyway (no alternatives on saynoto0870.com), Though I do try. The local mental health liaison service have agreed to communicate with the Social Fund about this on my behalf, but they seem to be giving them the run around and have claimed they have no information about the money they took from my Maternity Allowance. They have agreed to let me pay £3 less a week (which we still can't afford), two weeks after I send a form back to them agreeing to this. Alternatively, they said, I can appeal the repayment amount, which I'm guessing would take even longer.

 

In the meantime, I am extremely anxious about our financial situation because of the rate of money they are taking off my benefit. We are desperately short of money and can't afford to heat our home properly, etc. We've had 2 direct debits fail already, which has resulted in a total of £25's worth of fines.

 

My questions are:

 

1) What would be the most direct route to getting them to find their records of the money they took out of my Maternity Allowance?

 

2) What would be the quickest way to get them to reduce the amount of/stop the repayments?

 

I could ask the mental health liaison team to refer me to a CAB specialist (my current CAB rep can't or won't help with this issue), but this again would take time we can't afford. Also, my experience with the CAB, and their insistence on making me wait for phone calls from them, has been extremely stressful and I would prefer, if it's at all possible, to avoid this route.

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Hi

 

Now the initial letter you received saying they were taking payment of £8.43 from your ESA exactly who is the letter from address at to of letter?

 

Do you still have any of the correspondence when they previously took this from Maternity payments?

 

You may need to do a Subject Access Request to DWP and this is available from CAGS Library in the Data Protection Section (the library link is to the top left of the webpage)

 

Please be patient as I am sure others with expertise in this area will be along to assist you

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I cannot give any advice by PM - If you provide a link to your Thread then I will be happy to offer advice there.

I advise to the best of my ability, but I am not a qualified professional, benefits lawyer nor Welfare Rights Adviser.

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Thank you for this. What you say gives me some hope that there might be a way to sort this out.

 

The first letter I got about these repayments (which eventually started in October) was addressed from my local Job Centre and dated 25th March. It has my notes on it from the series of 084- phone calls I made. The notes say:

1) Debt managers number = 08450850 0293

2) 2005 budgeting loan. £327. Outstanding £248.24

3) The number 0845 603 6967 (which Google tells me is DWP and corresponds to the number provided on a later letter I received)

4) The address of 'recovery section' at a London Job Centre Plus, post code SW9 5AD, which was where I sent my first (ignored) letter to. I'm not sure what London has to do with this, as I have never lived there.

 

Unfortunately, I no longer have any correspondence about the money taken off my Maternity Allowance. Just my own notes saying "Job Seekewrs Allowance. £9 a week until 29th Nov"

 

I don't know if this is of any help?

 

I tried asking my bank for statements covering the period the money was taken out in 2011, but I'd have to pay a steep fee for each one (there'd be about 12 in total). All they'd show anyway would be my Maternity Allowance being £18 per week instead of £27

 

Do subject access requests take much time to come through? At least I now know they exist

 

Thanks again

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Do subject access requests take much time to come through? At least I now know they exist

 

To add to stu007's suggestion, please see: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/dwp-request-for-personal-information - The DWP do not charge a fee for a SAR which they should respond to within 40 calender days of receiving the request. You will need to ask for information held by ALL offices, if you can provide addresses, so much better.

 

You can also send a SAR to your bank (enclosing the standard £10 fee) which should produce copies of statements - Saves having to pay for them individually :wink:

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It's good to know this is an option, but – for our current budget where we have to spend every spare penny on heating or food (plus other bills) – it's not easily affordable or going to show very quick results.

 

Does anyone know of any other route that might work?

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It's good to know this is an option, but – for our current budget where we have to spend every spare penny on heating or food (plus other bills) – it's not easily affordable or going to show very quick results.

 

Does anyone know of any other route that might work?

 

Even if you can't afford to SAR your bank, still send a SAR to the DWP - it doesn't cost more than the price of a stamp. There isn't a "magic bullet" solution to this - you will have to speak to them one way or another. A SAR will help you to see what you owe (or don't owe, as the case may be) and what repayments you have already made.

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As Antone said, there is no quick solution for this. You basically have to make the DWP review their own records, the only way you can, which is to present them with direct evidence from the SAR. You are quite correct that bank statements are useless, as they have no info as to how your maternity allowance was calculated.

 

 

In the meantime, write a letter requesting that the payments are reduced to whatever you can more easily afford - getting help from an organisation will help with this, and send details of income and expenditure to prove lack of affordability - this is key to getting repayments reduced.

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Depending on who you bank with, if you can access you bank account on line you may be able to obtain statements form previous years. If you do not have internet access at home then visit your nearest public library who should have free internet access, you will probably have t pay for printouts but 15-25p per page probably works out a lot less than what the bank would charge for the same information.

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Hi,

 

Unfortunately, my internet bank statements only go back two years.: I checked

 

Mr.P: I have started filling in the SAR form and, remembering your advice about requesting information from ALL offices, just want to check that under Part C (as pasted below):

 

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Part C: Location of records

Please list the names and addresses of DWP offices which may have your records

It would be helpful if you could also list any telephone numbers or names of staff you have dealt with.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

I should write     "information held by ALL offices"

 

I have got lost about which office is dealing with what. So, is it OK just to write ALL offices? Should I provide the random selection of phone numbers and addresses I have also?

 

Lily

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Yes, you can say "all offices", but any information you can provide regarding names, addresses and contact numbers of these offices will help them to process your request faster.

 

So you could say, in that section, something like "I require information held by all offices, but I have dealt with the following telephone numbers: 0845 XXXXXX..." and so on. As you can imagine, the DWP holds a mountain of files and paperwork as well as whatever they have on their computer systems. Any information you can give to help them find your records would be good.

 

Of course, they still have to comply with your SAR even if you can't supply info, but giving them what you have is nonetheless a good idea.

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Continuing on Mr P advice regarding obtaining bank statements I seem to remember that you can obtain a printout of your account statements at a lower price, however, I cant back this up with a link.

 

 

Further to his subject access request advice £10 would be the maximum they can charge. I would word the request in such a way where its up to them to advise you there is a charge. The benefit of that is if they have already commenced with the subject access request then realise they have not requested a fee they still have to proceed and not use it as a way of extending the time to comply.

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