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£5500 housing benefit overpayment. Please help! So scared.


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Hi everyone,Thank you for taking the time to read my post.

 

I really appreciate any advice you can give me.

 

today we have found out we have had a £5500 housing benefit overpayment over 9 months.

We are totally in shock and absolutely devastated about the situation

 

.

The council were not aware that my partner had started part time work in Dec 2014 and that I returned to work part time after my maternity leave in April 2015.

 

We did not know that we had to inform the council as we thought it was all automatically done through tax credits/hmrc.

 

We didn't think anything of the amount of payment as we just assumed it was right and put it towards our rent. I know it sounds stupid but it's true.

 

Our housing award kept being updated when our tax credits were, so we just assumed that they were aware of our income through tax credits/PAYE.

 

We have three children and I am so concerned about what will happen to us.

 

I have been told that the case will be referred to the fraud investigations department due to the amount involved.

 

I have been frantically phoning around trying to get some answers in what will happen to us.

Will we be prosecuted?

If anything goes in the paper my partner will lose his job almost certainly.

What are the next stages?

 

We have agreed a payment plan, but I've been told that this doesn't make any difference to anything to do with the prosecution side.

 

I manage the money side of things so my partner is blaming me for this, which I guess is understandable.

 

I'm just freaking out totally at the moment and don't know how long this will go on for.

 

Will I be invited to an interview under caution?

All we will say is that we didn't know as this is the truth.

We never meant to defraud anyone and our

 

Sorry it wouldn't let me type at the end for some reason.I was just saying that this is a total mistake and the words benefit fraud scare the hell out of me.

 

I'm so sorry for going on but I would really appreciate any advice on what happens next or any similar circumstances anyone knows about.

Thank you so much

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The Council/DWP have a number of options available.

 

They may decide:

  1. just to recover the overpayment
  2. offer an official caution
  3. apply an administrative penalty (this is a fine on top of the overpayment)
  4. prosecute you

 

First of all, whose name was the HB claim in? Yours or your partner's?

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It's in my partners name but I'm on the award.

Thank you for your response.

I have be told that it is being referred to the DWP as the council don't deal with it themselves.

In what situations do they just recover the overpayment? Presumably they're not just doing this as it's going to be referred.

Thank you

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Will a caution and/or penalty apply incur case due to the high amount involved! Or is just for amounts below £2000? Can I take full responsibility as my partner really doesn't have anything to do with our finances and it's really my fault. The claim is in his name as I moved back in with him several years ago after we were temporarily separated due to a breakdown I had,

Thanks

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As the claim was in your partner's name, it was his responsibility to notify the Council of any changes in income.

 

Councils used to do their own fraud cases, however most investigations have been transferred to DWP.

 

Based upon amount of overpayment, it is fairly likely that your partner will be interviewed to clarify exactly what has happened.

 

To minimise risk of prosecution, I would advise that your partner lay it on thick about the fact that a prosecution would be likely to result in loss of employment, I would also advise being open and up front about the fact that you accept in hindsight that you made a mistake in not notifying changes and that you now realise your error.

 

If your partner has any special circumstances that would have affected his ability to deal with the claim, make sure you bring those up - examples would be health issues, literacy issues

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due to amount of overpayment being greater than £2k, the probable starting point in terms of possible sanction could be prosecution (rather than caution or penalty) - but that does not mean they are unable to offer lower sanction - you need to focus on mitigating circs - i would wait and see if your partner gets invited for interview - if so, seek immediate legal advice - take solicitor to interview if possible

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Thank you so much for your advice.

My partner has no special circumstances, only that I deal with the finances and usually sort the benefits out (tax credits, child benefit etc) he knows even less than me about how it works.

So will I not be interviewed and am I unable to take full responsibility for the mistake?

If he lost his job we would be on unemployment benefits almost certainly as I no longer work, do you think the DWP will take this into consideration?

Have you got any time scales from now and when the interview could be? If he tells the truth, ie I manage the money and he knows nothing about benefits and obviously that I was unaware that information about employment wasn't shared with them, do you think this will make any difference?

Many thanks

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Some benefits have joint claimants where both parties are responsible for notifying changes - in those cases, the DWP could take action against either or both

 

However for Housing Benefit - there is one main person (the claimant) who is responsible for administering the claim and notifying changes - the other person (the partner) has very little responsibility and is rarely interviewed or investigated in their own right

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Ok that is even worse. I could deal with this a bit better if I could take responsibility. I know he in trusts me to deal with those things.

I feel terrible and we absolutely admit to our stupid mistake and there was not any intention there to commit fraud at all.

What would our mitigating circumstances be? Surely if i take the blame/he blames me they would have to take notice?

Also, if we are prosecuted where would the matter go to court? Would it be in the area the offence was committed in or the area we are living in now? It's two separate counties.

Also do you have any idea regarding timescales?

Thank you so much

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There are instances where the partner on the claim is interviewed & have "carried the can" (for want of a better phrase). But the starting point will be your partner - it was in his name.

 

An overpayment of that size may well result in court- although repayment is "without prejudice", if it does go to court it will go in your favour at sentencing. For 5k, assuming there are no previous offences, prison is very very unlikely. It is also very likely that the case wouldn't make the papers - cases such as yours are generally not really of interest to the media. Any court hearing would probably be in the magistrates court where you live now.

Sometimes it can take a couple of months to be sent the IUC letter.

 

All you can do is put it to the back of your mind & not worry about it until you get the IUC letter.

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Thank you.

Do you know of any cases with that amount of money involved where it hasn't gone to court? It really was a genuine mistake and there are no previous offences. It will be certain that my partner will lose his job if this went into the papers as we live in a small community and everybody would find out. Is there any way we could ask for the hearing to be held in a different court? I know it's a long shot, but benefit fraud cases seem to appear in the papers and on the internet here. They even take photos outside the court! I've been going crazy googling things.

If my partner changed his name by deed poll would the new name go in the papers?

Ahh I'm going crazy here, sorry.

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I feel so stupid and to think that we may lose everything and end up on benefits because of this stupid mistake is horrible.

I've been up all night and it's suddenly dawned on me that there was 2 months in the year before where my partner had a part time job and that wasn't declared either. Do they go back through the past years?

Also do they access bank accounts and contact your employers? My partner is with a new employer now.

I've had the occasional money from my grandad to help with car problems/to buy a new washing machine. Will this go against us too?

Ah this is such a mess! Is there anything we can do to stop it from going to court?

Thank you

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where necessary for an investigation, fraud officers can obtain copies of statements from banks/building societies, they can also obtain information from past or present employers

 

at this moment in time, you need to try and take a deep breath

 

you are in panic mode, this will just make you feel worse, as you are focussing on worst case scenarios

 

you need to wait until a decision is made by DWP as to whether they intend to IUC your partner - if you are worried, try speaking to a solicitor

 

the decision as to whether to prosecute or not is outside your hands - it is a waiting game

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Thank you, I am definitely in panic mode. I feel so bad and take full responsibility for our mistake.

Looking at our situation with the facts you can see, in your experience what could the outcome be?

Will the dwp take into account the devastating consequences a prosecution would have on our family?

Surely they won't do nothing and just recover the overpayment?

Thanks

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I would think if you could manage to pay it back they would be less likely to go for prosecution and all the expense of that… but I have no experience of this kind of scenario… it would be mad to waste taxpayers money on going to court for a genuine mistake which has been repaid, though, surely?

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I would think if you could manage to pay it back they would be less likely to go for prosecution and all the expense of that… but I have no experience of this kind of scenario… it would be mad to waste taxpayers money on going to court for a genuine mistake which has been repaid, though, surely?

Paying it back won't stop them prosecuting. That's what " without prejudice to any action" on all the overpayment letters means.

 

You can't ask for the hearing to move.

Please do not ask me for advice via PM as I will not reply.

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Hi shoelover. Thanks for your response.

Sorry what do you mean by 'the hearing cannot be moved?'

Also, I have seen your other post, in your experience in our situation what will happen most likely?

Thanks everyone for your time x

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Sorry, dashed that off in a hurry!! I meant they are unlikely to move the hearing to another court. Most of the cases that are in the press are the more "interesting" ones- this is especially true of the ones where the person is photographed outside court. The majority of cases don't make it into the papers.

Honest answer is possibly not what you want to hear. What you have described is mitigation but may well not prevent the case going to court. I'm not saying that's what I think should happen, just what is likely.

However, don't panic yet. Not all cases referred over for IUC are interviewed- you may well not be seen.

I wouldn't even see a solicitor at this point- if you do get invited in for interview then do so then.

If the worst happens & you are prosecuted, then the sentence would be up to the court. But prison is extremely unlikely for £5k. Most cases for that level seem to end up as a conditional discharge or curfew/unpaid work. But you are not there yet!!

Sorry if that wasn't what you wanted to hear, but no point me replying and not being straight with you.

Please do not ask me for advice via PM as I will not reply.

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Thank you shoelover.

Are the chances of it not even going to an ICU very slim then? Obviously as we've not had to say anything yet as to why the overpayment occurred and give are side of the story, presumably they just assume it's fraud??

As I've said before, I handle the finances, so it's really my mistake. If my partner says this and essentially blames me for the mistake, could I take the blame instead of him??

What will they do in their investigation? Surely that's already done, as they have identified we didn't inform them of a change in circumstances due to my ignorance. They know how much we earnt in that overpayment period so is that all they need?

You help is very much appreciated x

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The overpayment has already been calculated. The job of the investigator will be to interview you to establish if you have committed an offence and if so why. The IUC is your chance to give your explaination and also ask any questions.

Certainly if you are the person that looks after finances and the claims then they may well decide you are the one to interview. But until your partner has told them that at interview himself then they have no way of knowing that.

I think your partner is being harsh on you though.. The letters were addressed to him & the claim in his name. So really he can blame you entirely (not my business I know but I feel for you).

What I will say is, what is done is done & there is no point you making yourself ill over it. If it happens then cross the bridge then. Give yourself a break X

Please do not ask me for advice via PM as I will not reply.

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Thank you so much for taking the time out to help me.

Our relationship is difficult at the best of times to be honest and this is just making things horrendous as he is solely blaming me for the mistake. In his defence I do deal with the finances and he knows nothing about benefits.

Why could it take a couple of months before an ICU if the overpayment investigation has already been completed? Surely it's just a case of talking to us straight away? What else do they need to prepare?

How do they prove benefit fraud when it isn't and is just an oversight? It's not like we did it on purpose to live the high life.. We have 3 children and life is hard, we are really in debt too.

The horrible irony in all of this is that my partner has finally got his career back on track and is in a good job again and if this is made public knowledge he will lose it and we will be on benefits again!!

So so so stupid, I've made a lot of mistakes in my life but this takes the biscuit.

Thank you, I don't have anybody else to talk to about this x

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It can take some time to work its way through the system & to an investigator.

Unfortunately you don't need to have done it on purpose to have committed the offence of failing to report a change, there are two main offences the DWP prosecute under & the less serious of the two just needs the Change to have occurred & not been reported to the benefit office for them to get a conviction. Your lack of intent (ie it was a mistake) is mitigation. The effect that a court case may have needs to be drawn to their attention but how much weight is attached to it is up to their manager.

I will refrain from going on about how your partner is equally to blame- his name is on the letters & therefore he needs to accept that when he signed the form he accepted responsibility too.

Please do not ask me for advice via PM as I will not reply.

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