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Administrative penalty notice- how do they expect us to pay?

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Hi there,


Please help me. I'm terrified right now.


I received a letter out of nowhere yesterday saying that I was being investigated and interviewed under caution for alleged undeclared work. It is in 2 weeks time. No other information than that. Just that it would be under caution. I feel like a criminal when I read that.


Of course I rang up to say that I would be attending - the man on the phone was horrible and cold and downright rude - refused to give me any more information.


I am signed off work long term sick due to mental health problems and currently on ESA (have been for many years) as wellas housing benefit and council tax benefit - I have had mental illness problems since my early teens but I had a nervous breakdown last year which made things a whole lot worse. My head went totally west. My partner looked after me single handedly for the whole of last year. He worked for two weeks so we could have a Christmas because of the horrible year we both had, even though he was not fit for work at that time.


My partner is named on my ESA claim and worked 2pm-10pm Monday to Friday for 2 weeks from the end of November until mid-December as he also has depression and anxiety and really couldn't do it anymore. I sent the DWP the payslips as soon as he had finished work in December. I heard nothing back from them so I thought they had received them and everything was okay.


I sent the original payslips which I realise now was a really bad decision as I can't now resend them.

I wasn't in the right headspace during this as recently I'd had a total mental collapse - I was in a really bad place. I automatically assumed they would get them so sent them as quickly as possible.


He has worked every Christmas since 2014 for no more than four weeks a time and hasn't had any employment other than Christmas work in a financial year. We have always sent the payslips. Always heard nothing back so assumed we were under the threshold that we can earn and that we wouldn't have any money deducted because of this.


We are not criminals. Neither of us have ever had a criminal record. I'm terrified of going to prison just because for some reason they must not have received the payslips.


I can't sleep right now because of the fear of going to prison. There was no fraud or deception involved. That wasn't our intention at all. Far from it. We have always been honest from the start. I made a stupid decision by sending the original payslips that I can't now resend and I was neglectful with that because of my illness. I am still on diazepam and have been for 11 months since my breakdown (as is my partner more recently) and also I see my psychiatrist every two months as well as my partner is on the waiting list to see a psychiatrist.


I/We don't deserve to go to prison because the payslips were lost. I always assumed that no news is good news and that they would write to us if anything was amiss. If they have lost the payslips - I don't deserve to be sent to prison because of that.


We don't have the money to hire a solicitor and we are pretty much estranged from both of our families so we have to go through this alone. We really need some advice.


To receive a letter like this is really scary and this has made me really paranoid that the DWP have been watching us because of the new Snoopers Charter.


Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Terrified right now. This is a big part of why I am awake at 4am in the morning. I just can't sleep through fear of them sending me to prison for this. :|:|:|:|



Please help because I am at my wits end. Only positive responses please.



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Hello and welcome to CAG.


Things are always quieter here at the weekend, but people should be along later with advice for you.


From reading threads here, prison is highly unlikely, please don't worry about that. You haven't deliberately misled the DWP and need to go along and tell them the truth.


My best, HB

Illegitimi non carborundum




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Hello dragon29,


I have read through what you have put and the only thing I can think of is that they have never received any of the wage slips you have sent in since 2014 and have investigated this following receipt of current wageslips r have had a data match via HMRC on tax paid/earnings and have 3 years or so of undeclared earnings at Christmas time.


I say this as 2 weeks work wouldn't warrant a criminal investigation and/or an interview under caution as any potential over payment would have to be over £2,000 from the outset as that is the policy and you would normally be seen by a compliance officer.


Can you do online banking? If so can you check for any further work that may have been done without you knowing or that you may have forgotten about? I am not saying this has happened but you would be surprised what partners do without each other knowing in order to make Christmas, birthdays special occasions nicer when on benefits.


Undeclared work is vague on the letters, I would call the investigator again and ask who the work is allegedly with and/or the dates involved. He should tell you this, if he refuses state you cannot decide whether to obtain legal advice with so little information. Investigators have to give you sufficient information to decide if you want to obtain legal advice.


If he refuses, he will have to give disclosure via an MG6A form on the day of interview prior to the CD machine being turned on, this should have dates etc on advising what they are looking at. You could wait to get this and then postpone the interview so that you can review if it need be.


Is your ESA, Contribution or Income Related? If Income Related, did the amount go down after the work owing to an over payment, presuming it was for the same hours every year, as this would be more than the permitted work rules allows? If not then I am certain this will probably be the reason for the interview, if it did go down then they must have found some other work for one of you.


Without prying into your mental health, if the interview would cause you harm mentally, you can tell the investigator this and he has to act on it and follow certain protocol i.e. advise you to see a doctor to review suitability to be interviewed and rearrange the interview for you to do this.


Has he asked you to take an appropriate adult with you owing to you're current mental health state? This is something he should have discussed with his manager and have signed off, the letter should have this in it, but I normally state in the letter that the customer needs to bring someone to act as an appropriate adult as per PACE guidance.


If you do attend the interview take someone with you to act as an appropriate adult and make sure you state they are there as an appropriate adult and not just a friend as support, as certain protocol has to be covered with appropriate adults and they have more rights than just a friend.


Tell the truth about what actions you took and if you feel during the interview you want to leave as it's getting too much or overwhelming you, then leave, you are free to do so any anytime, this is a legal right.


I would also take all the wage slips with you if you still have them and dates/times you believe you notified the DWP of this work, so that he can check if he hasn't already done so, on the various systems we use. If you have copies of any covering letters as well even better. If you don't though, do not create any.


As to potential legal action, a court case will only happen if an over payment of £2,000 or more occurs, however again depending on your mental health status, they may (should) look at not going down this route as it could be detrimental to health and goes against DWP policy. An administrative penalty would more likely, however if they would not prosecute, they should not offer you this but sometimes do.


If it did go to court, the chances of going to prison are very slim, this action is normally for very high over payments and/or repeat offenders, but judges are quite lenient. If you google benefit fraud prosecutions you will see that not very many people go to prison, it's normally a fine, a curfew order and a tag or a conditional discharge. The odd few cases get suspended prison sentences but not many.

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Thank you so much for your reply!


I will call the company tomorrow and request the payslips to be sent to me. I will also call the fraud investigator and ask once again what the alleged undeclared work pertains to. He flat out refused to tell me when I rang up to say I was attending. He was very cold and it made me feel like I was talking to the police. He said "You'll find out when you get here. It's in two weeks. Bye." - That's when I knew I had to get some form of advice. As we can't afford a solicitor I googled and this site came up and I really appreciate all the help you people are giving me.


There is no other work it could be. At all. Due to my mental health my partner only works at Christmas time. We have always sent the payslips to DWP so I need to acquire the slips again from the company. Are they legally obligated to send me the payslips again? Are there any other documents I should ask for from the company?


If I turn up with all the payslips would this go in my favour? We have always sent the payslips directly to DWP. We are honest people and just want this straightened out. Is it possible that DWP have lost the payslips or that they didn't receive them at all even though I sent them.



Can my partner act as my appropriate adult and attend the interview with me?


Once again thank you so much for your help. It is much appreciated.

Edited by dragon29
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No your partner cannot be the appropriate adult or attend the interview with you as he could either be a suspect as well or a witness to any potential offence. As they have done the work they may speak with them separately.


The payslips may or may not go in your favour as the investigator may/should already have obtained these or at least have a completed wage enquiry to prove any earnings.

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We have nobody else to act as an appropriate adult.


The letter has just my name on it. Nothing mentions my partner. We are on income based ESA.


At no point have we tried to defraud the DWP.


I'm so terrified of going to prison. Felt so sick since receiving the letter. How likely do you think it is that they throw the book at me?

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Relax and breath.


From what you have said you have informed the DWP of the work. They have either acted on it or haven't.


The letter won't mention your partner at this point as you are the main claimant and they will speak with you first.


As for prison highly unlikely even if they throw the book at you. Worst case scenario is an overpayment and a suspended sentence, but more likely a small fine or conditional discharge, if it even gets to court in the first place.


You could ask the investigator to being the interview forward to get it sorted quicker if you wish, but this would depend on room availability.

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I'm trying to breath. I'm just picturing prison and preparing for the worst.


Me and my partner have had a really tough few years - in September 2014 I finally revealed to my family after years that I had been sexually abused for years so that added to my mental health problems. In 2015 the CPS got involved so that made my mental health spiral even more. This may go a long way to explaining why I didn't chase the payslips up with the DWP. In April 2016 I had a full mental collapse and I am still nowhere near my best. As I said I am on diazepam and have been for 11 months. My partner has singlehandedly looked after me for the last year despite him having mental health problems too. He has severe depression and anxiety and despite this he has worked. He is on diazepam also more recently as his mental health has spiralled this year and he is waiting to see a psychiatrist.


Receiving this letter hasn't helped either of our mental health.


We have always sent in any payslips that we have received but due to the abuse coming out in 2014 and then not having the greatest year mentally in 2015 due to CPS getting involved (it went no further as the CPS didn't have enough evidence) and then my horrific 2016 I was neglectful in chasing up whether they had received any of the payslips from my partner working. It wasn't the thing at the forefront of my mind.


Can they send me and my partner to prison for negligence?


I'm so scared.

I'm going to ring the investigator tomorrow to see if I can find out any more information.


I was hoping that 2017 was going to be a better year than the previous three but it doesn't look like it's going to be.


Sorry for moaning but I'm really terrified of what is going to happen to me and my partner. I've heard horror stories about the DWP and how they are cold and don't understand or take mitigating circumstances into consideration.


I can't bring the interview forward as I have to acquire the payslips.

Edited by dragon29
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Hello again.


People have told you that prison is unlikely. I think you should put that out of your mind. :)




My anxiety is just running wild. I'm not in a good place right now and this has made things worse.


I've just heard so many horror stories.

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how did you send your wageslips?


I sent the originals by post which in hindsight wasn't the best idea but at the time it wasn't at the forefront of my mind to copy them and certainly not to chase it up. I had bigger fish to fry at that time. If they haven't received them it's going to look like I didn't send any of them and that I was being deceitful which is ABSOLUTELY not the case! I would never do that.

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Just for your info, I am one of the cold DWP investigators people talk about. Remember you only hear about the ones that behave poorly.


A lot of it is also policy led and nothing to do with the DWP employee.


Seriously explain what you have put here and let the decision makers decide.

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I certainly didn't mean to offend. I'm just really scared.


From what I've told you and the mitigating circumstances, in your experience, do you think I have a good case for it to be settled out of court?


Never even been near a court and don't want to.

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Thank you for all your help. You have been really helpful. I'm going to ring the investigator tomorrow and ask if he can tell me more about what I'm accused of. Going to try and get hold of the payslips as quickly as I can and then try and get the interview brought forward as it's really affecting mine and my partners mental health. The 'What ifs' - don't know if I can wait two weeks.


Once again thank you so much!


A bit of an update - I rang the investigator today and he informed me that it's to do with 'undeclared work of my partner' but he could not tell me whether to seek legal advice. Said they will speak with my partner too. So scared. If they haven't received the payslips it's going to look really really bad. Like we tried to deceive when we didn't. I just didn't chase it up because of the abuse coming out/dealing with the CPS and then my breakdown last year.


I just hope they understand and take my mitigating circumstances into consideration and don't send us to prison. I haven't had a wink of sleep due to worry of going to prison. We just want to settle this out of court.

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if it's interview under caution you should take a solicitor with you. You are not going to prison, you see in the news those that have committed fraud in the tens of thousands get suspended sentences. try and work out roughly how much you have been overpaid.

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We cannot afford a solicitor. There is no legal aid anymore. We just cannot afford a solicitor.


We have managed to get one of my friends to agree to accompany me to the interview as my 'appropriate adult' per TomTom256's advice.


It's difficult to work out how much we have been overpaid because I assume they include housing benefit and council tax within this too.


Just got to hope that it gets sorted.

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I'm frightened that they will want any overpayment in a lump sum and this just isn't possible in the financial situation we are in - also my anxiety makes me think that because we won't be able to pay the overpayment in a lump sum they will prosecute us and send us to prison.


@pottyprincess - Thank you so much for your PM - It was most helpful! I wanted to reply but I don't have 30 posts. @dx100uk messaged me to tell me

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No they won't ask for any overpayment in a lump sum. If you are still entitled to benefit they will deduct an amount from this on going award.


As previously stated as well highly unlikely that either you or your partner will go to prison.

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no they won't expect you to pay in a lump sum. I have a housing benefit overpayment of £212, originally over £1000 but they had my earnings wrong so it was reduced. I'm paying back £11.10 a week. My best friend was caught working for 2 weeks in 2009 she paid in installments too.

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Thank you once again tomtom256.


Something else I wanted to ask you - with us having an interview on the 24th - will our benefit on the 21st still be paid or will it be stopped?


You've been a great help. We both really appreciate it.

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no they won't expect you to pay in a lump sum. I have a housing benefit overpayment of £212, originally over £1000 but they had my earnings wrong so it was reduced. I'm paying back £11.10 a week. My best friend was caught working for 2 weeks in 2009 she paid in installments too.


That is a relief to hear!


Thank you so much. You've put my mind at ease a little bit. Thank you kayleigh89!

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