From 1 October 2012 a new civil penalty of £​50 can be imposed where an overpayment occurs due to claimant error. The whole of the overpayment must have been incurred after 1 October.

A civil penalty can be imposed in a number of circumstances. It can be imposed where a claimant has negligently made an incorrect statement or representation, or has negligently given incorrect information or evidence, and fails to take reasonable steps to correct the error. Negligently is defined as “​carelessly, not paying sufficient attention to the task in hand, or disregarding the importance of what is required to be done”​. Reasonable steps are described as sensible or practicable steps to correct an error.

A civil penalty can also be imposed where a claimant, without “​reasonable excuse”​ fails to provide information or evidence required for a claim. Reasonable excuse is defined as “​where there is a credible reason or justification for the person failing to do what was required of them, or for doing it late”​.

Finally a civil penalty can also be imposed where, without reasonable excuse, a claimant fails to notify the appropriate authority of a relevant change in circumstances. A relevant change of circumstances is any change affecting entitlement to benefit.

A civil penalty can only be imposed where an overpayment has arisen and only where a claimant has not been charged with an offence or cautioned in relation to the overpayment. It can be imposed on a claimant or appointee. In respect of joint claims only one civil penalty can be imposed for any one overpayment but it can be imposed on either one member of the couple or both if they are jointly liable for the circumstances resulting in the overpayment.

As the civil penalty will be added to the overpayment amount, a right of appeal exists against the civil penalty as well as the overpayment.

The Decision Makers Guide (DMG 33/12) on overpayments and civil penalties can be found here.

A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) factsheet on civil penalties can be found here


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