15 October 2009
Children Poverty Action Group (CPAG) have won a court order to stop the DWP threatening legal action against claimants in order to recover money the department has no right to. The DWP may even have to pay back money it has already bullied claimants into handing over.
Social security law makes it clear that the DWP has no legal grounds to recover overpayments where the claimant was not at fault.
However, between 2006 and 2007 the DWP sent out letters to 65,000 claimants telling them they wanted their overpaid money back and that they would sue them using common law rights if they didn’t get it.
CPAG took on the DWP, arguing that they had no right to recover money in this way and the DWP stopped sending out the letters whilst the matter was decided in the courts. CPAG initially lost their case in the High Court, but carried on undaunted to the Court of Appeal.
This week the court decided in favour of CPAG after seeing examples of claimants living ‘in or close to penury’ who were pursued by the DWP for sums of £2,055 and £796 which they should never have been asked to repay.
CPAG is now considering whether it may be possible to force the DWP to hand back money already repaid by claimants who received the threatening letters.