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  • FIRST POST
    • PIRATEGRRL
    • By PIRATEGRRL 12th Oct 18, 2:36 PM
    • 5Posts
    • 3Thanks
    PIRATEGRRL
    Overpayment in Universal Credit (Official Error)
    • #1
    • 12th Oct 18, 2:36 PM
    Overpayment in Universal Credit (Official Error) 12th Oct 18 at 2:36 PM
    Please could somebody sensible help me understand this muddle?

    I signed up to UC in July and declared every bit of information correctly and on time. My award was for 814 in August which I was shocked by, considering my tax credits were previously 220p/m. Everything is clearly explained in how and why the payment was made, but I was very sceptical why it was so much.

    I contacted them:

    "Hello,
    I have received a payment on 28th August. Please could you explain:
    -assuming ALL my circumstances remain exactly the same, will I expect the same payment on the 28th September?
    I need to understand a little more about what I am expected to receive so I can budget accordingly.
    Many thanks for your help"

    Their response was:
    "Assuming that your circumstances are exactly the same at the end of this assessment period then there should be no change to the amount you receive. It is calculated each month depending on your circumstances at that time."

    After six weeks of waiting for some financial assistance, it is understandable that I couldn't afford to keep the money aside, even though I was still very sceptical.

    The next month, my award was 23.

    So, what happened, I hear you ask?!

    I queried this, and was given the response:
    "It appears there was a system error when setting up the earnings feed request for your partner. It was cleared after the end of the assessment period 19/07/18 - 18/08/2018 which resulted in no earnings being pulled through from HMRC for this period. As your partner received earnings in this assessment period there will be an overpayment of Universal Credit. You will need to self-report his earnings for just that assessment period and the overpayment will be calculated and if necessary deducted from your Universal Credit each month to repay it. There will be no need to self-report for your partner after that assessment period as the earnings are now pulling through from HMRC. Apologies for the inconvenience."

    I like the apology. Nice touch.

    I have hunted for how and if I can appeal this. I fear the answer is no and I'm so anxious.

    This is what I found out from the Benefit Overpayment Recovery Guide:
    Official Error
    1.24 This is usually an overpayment caused by an error or omission by an officer of the Department for Work and Pensions, or another government agency or department. However, these overpayments (or part of them), that fall to be determined under S71 of the Social Security Administration Act 1992, are routinely classified as Official Error, where the overpayment (or part of it) is not as a result of a failure to disclose or misrepresentation by the claimant but is as a result of an error arising under an award of benefit. Such overpayments are not recoverable under social security legislation. In December 2010 the Supreme Court1 held that for any payments made as part of an award of benefit, the social security framework provided the only powers of recovery and these official error overpayments where the error arose under an award of benefit are therefore written off without any recovery action being taken as they cannot be recovered by common law principles as the payment is made within a valid benefit award.
    1.25 For Universal Credit and New Style JSA & ESA claims, any overprovision, including Official Error overpayments, can be recovered under Social Security Legislation.

    It's the last paragraph that gets me. It sounds like a 'tag-you're-it-no-return' playground rule. Totally and completely unfair.

    Can anyone offer any advice if I am in the right here?
    Thank you for your time.
    Last edited by PIRATEGRRL; 12-10-2018 at 5:38 PM.
Page 1
    • pmlindyloo
    • By pmlindyloo 12th Oct 18, 2:54 PM
    • 11,897 Posts
    • 13,755 Thanks
    pmlindyloo
    • #2
    • 12th Oct 18, 2:54 PM
    • #2
    • 12th Oct 18, 2:54 PM
    You say everything was clearly and how and why the payment was made so did you not notice that your partner's wages had not been taken into account?

    Not being judgemental just trying to understand if you should have noticed or not.

    Anyway, overpayments, even those due to an official error are recoverable for Universal Credit - another link here:

    http://england.shelter.org.uk/legal/benefits/universal_credit/payment_of_universal_credit/overpayments_of_universal_credit#_ednref3

    They can be waived but only in exceptional circumstances.

    I believe they work on the principle that you received the actual money and they are now taking it back.

    I
    • PIRATEGRRL
    • By PIRATEGRRL 12th Oct 18, 3:04 PM
    • 5 Posts
    • 3 Thanks
    PIRATEGRRL
    • #3
    • 12th Oct 18, 3:04 PM
    • #3
    • 12th Oct 18, 3:04 PM
    It was my first dealing with Universal Credit so I had no previous experience to compare it to.

    They only asked me to declare any additional income, other than wages. They did not ask for wages for either me or my partner. I wouldn't have known that they need this information. Besides, it is now collected automatically by HMRC (as it should have been in the first instance - although I only know this now, by the information received today).

    Thanks for the link. It is as I suspected.

    It's so unfair. I know I've received the money, but after all assurances, double checking and queries, it's still my fault, I'm in the wrong, even though I made sure I wasn't.

    I need to go and scream into a pillow!
    • marliepanda
    • By marliepanda 12th Oct 18, 3:11 PM
    • 6,679 Posts
    • 14,480 Thanks
    marliepanda
    • #4
    • 12th Oct 18, 3:11 PM
    • #4
    • 12th Oct 18, 3:11 PM
    Mistakes happen and they were quickly rectified after only one payment.

    You have previously been budgeting using 220pm, and therefore you were right to be skeptical of the 4x payment, as with the best will in the world, its unlikely anyone will be entitled to 4x the benefits on UC.

    A sensible approach would have been to keep at least SOME of the money aside. You will need to repay it, they will just take it out of your UC. You won't get much choice in the matter. I appreciate you say you are on a low wage, but it is jumping the gun to immediately spend 600 over your previous budget after just one payment.
    • Tomsdottir
    • By Tomsdottir 12th Oct 18, 5:20 PM
    • 34 Posts
    • 23 Thanks
    Tomsdottir
    • #5
    • 12th Oct 18, 5:20 PM
    • #5
    • 12th Oct 18, 5:20 PM
    Although all UC overpayments (including those caused by official error) are recoverable, that doesn't mean they should be recovered. Back in 2011, Chris Grayling (then Minister for Work and Pensions) told parliament, in connection with UC:

    "The practical reality is that we do not have to recover money from people where official error has been made, and we do not intend, in many cases, to recover money where official error has been made. There will be an absolutely clear code of practice that will govern the circumstances in which recovery action will or will not be taken, to ensure consistent, considered decision making. "

    https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmpublic/welfare/110519/am/110519s01.htm

    The government recently withdrew the relevant COP (code of practice from gov.uk) however. what of the undertaking given to parliament?

    This leaves you with two options: 1) Complain, using the DWP's complaints procedure) referring to both of these points (the Minister's undertaking and the absence of guidance promised) and pointing out that the removal of the COP means you are unable effectively to argue your case and b) seek judicial review arguing that the DWP is fettering its discretion or failing to exercise discretion on recovery. A pre-action letter from a solicitor (if you qualify for legal aid) or welfare rights organisation can sometimes achieve a write off. If you are making a complaint, you may wish to do with with the assistance of your MP, given the fact that an undertaking was given to MPs about this.

    I've seen a couple of letters recently where the DWP said that because the overpayment arose "as the result of official error" it would not be recovered.
    Last edited by Tomsdottir; 12-10-2018 at 5:24 PM.
    • PIRATEGRRL
    • By PIRATEGRRL 12th Oct 18, 5:35 PM
    • 5 Posts
    • 3 Thanks
    PIRATEGRRL
    • #6
    • 12th Oct 18, 5:35 PM
    • #6
    • 12th Oct 18, 5:35 PM
    Thank you for your advice Tomsdottir - it's very helpful. Now you have pointed me in the right direction, I have a lead to follow up, and a little bit of hope that I can work around this. Much appreciated.
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