Claimants are being illegally forced to repay their entire universal credit (UC) award even though they were fully entitled to it, the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has revealed.  Third party debt collectors are even being used to carry out the unlawful recoveries.

According to CPAG, the DWP relaxed some of the evidence rules for UC claims during the pandemic. 

But in January 2021 the DWP began a process of reverification, looking again at those claims and making a decision about whether they were legitimate. 

This process is to be ramped up dramatically, with the DWP announcing it will establish a team of 2,000 staff to look again at 2 million claims over the next five years including, but not limited to, claims made during the pandemic.

CPAG says that they are hearing from an increasing number of people who have had their UC stopped, have been ordered to repay all the UC they received in the past and who often don’t understand the reasons for the DWP’s decision or how they can challenge it.

CPAG say that they have serious concerns about the process, including:

Claimants who appear to be fully entitled to what they received being ordered to repay all their UC.

The DWP’s approach to retrospectively deciding claimants were not entitled and beginning recovery is unlawful.

Claimants are not given enough information to understand why the DWP think they have been overpaid or how they can challenge the decision.

The DWP asked for evidence of entitlement via the online journal, even from claimants who were no longer getting UC and would have no reason to check their journal.

Some claimants only finding out about the alleged overpayment when they received a letter from DWP Debt Management, therefore missing the one month deadline for challenging a decision and not knowing that they could make a late challenge if they have good cause.

Some claimants who do challenge the decision make repayments they do not need to make whilst waiting many months for the DWP to carry out a mandatory reconsideration or may face demands from third party debt collectors.

CPAG are asking the DWP to make a range of changes, including pausing the recovery of overpayments whilst a decision is being challenged, as happens with other benefit,s and making decisions that actually comply with the law.

CPAG have been around for over 50 years.  They write handbooks that are relied upon by anyone connected with welfare rights and take numerous cases to court on behalf of claimants.  They are not headline seekers or sensationalists.  

If they say that the DWP is acting unlawfully, you can rely on it being true.

The thought that a government department that behaves like this is to be given powers of  search, seizure and arrest, along with the right to impose fines where there isn’t sufficient evidence for a criminal trial, is truly frightening.  

You can read the full story on CPAG’s website

 

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    Margaret Veall · 2 months ago
    Yes this is true.  I’m appalled that the government are allowing this to happen.  I’ve just become a victim with DWP stating I owe them money for budgeting loans!!! When requested details of when nothing was forthcoming.  They went ahead and contacted my employee.  Yet not proven I owe them money 🤬
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    Fergus Mckenzie · 2 months ago
    I can't believe that the government are cutting benefit and making it harder for people with health/disabilities to claim its like they are persecuting you if your disabled I am a carer for my wife and it is unnerving that the government thinks it can do anything it wants with the people while fat cats get fatter 
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    A.R.Dakers · 2 months ago
    I was claiming carers allowance for my wife, who  receives PIP @ enhanced rates. I became eligible for state pension 23/05/22 after finding out I would not get any extra for deferring my pension. I got my carers allowance taken off me from 23/05/22 £3000+. I Then got a bill from DWP wanting £1157.69 from me.
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    Robbi · 2 months ago
    How much does it cost to employ 2000 people? And how much will they claw back? it's counterproductive.  They must love their jobs,,,, what kind of person works within this "industry" jackals and hyenas! Obviously  not all of them, I know there are some good people who genuinely want to help people but the others they know who they are...... Probably secretly would have us all up against the wall...! 
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    Gail · 2 months ago
    If you, CPAG, can prove that the DWP are acting against the law, why are they still getting away with it ? If this were you or I we would be in prison, but the DWP get away with it alot. As a claimant and a volunteer Welfare Rights Caseworker myself I deal with them regularly and they are often so incompetent. 
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Claire · 2 months ago
      @Gail Hi Gail, CPAG have sent several pre-action judicial review letters to the Department on this issue on behalf of people affected by the process. In each case the DWP resolve the issue and change their decision for that individual, but do not accept that their overall process is unlawful. We disagree. If you have a client facing this issue (ie. was subjected to the reverification process and is now having to repay their full award as a result of failure to provide ID before the requested deadline) who is eligible for legal aid please do get in touch via testcases@cpag.org.uk. And thank you to Benefits and Work for raising awareness of this important issue. Best, Claire 
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    Soosie · 2 months ago
    This happened to my niece, they decided she had to repay all her UC rent benefit as she never sent in her rent agreement when she claimed as this was not requested or needed at the time of her applying. And then she returned to work so no longer needed to check her online journal as she was no longer claiming, which meant she didn't see the message from the DWP retrospectively asking her to send in proof of her rental agreement with a month's deadline to action it. She only found out when they started taking money out her wages. She's sorted it now but took months to get them to stop them taking money back after she complained and sent in her proof of rent. Having her wages docked for 3 or 4 months caused her cashflow problems for paying her current rent and bills, even after they agreed she didn't owe anything and they refunded her everything back, they forgot to stop the order on her wages and she had another chunk taken out her pay, before they corrected that too. It wasn't easy getting through to anyone either, it cost her a lot of time and phone calls. Luckily I was able to advice her and encourage her to challenge it but it's caused her a lot of bother and worry. It's all very wrong and cannot be lawful, everything they do is sneaky and underhand, relying on people not knowing or understanding their rights. 
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    Catherine Salaman · 2 months ago
    This happened exactly as you describe to my granddaughter who was encouraged by  Social services who had been supporting her to apply for UC during the covid lockdown after she turned 18 . The first she knew of problem was a year later she got a DWP debt collection letter demanding £4,000. By that time her claim, and access to the journal was closed and no information was given as to the reason. Meanwhile I had to agree to set up a direct debit for repayment of her supposed debt to stop them sending bailiffs round while we tried to help her sort it out  (as she had no income or savings at that time herself and was still living with me and looking for a job). She is a vulnerable care leaver and the stress on her was appalling and she could not have sorted it herself. The way forward was to open a fresh claim for UC (even though by then she did not need it as she had a job) which gave her access to a fresh UC journal on which she could get permission to post a statement and upload the identity documents and the case was dropped . They did not bother notifying her-  I just saw that my Direct debit was no longer  being taken . Awful!! 
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    Caz2 · 2 months ago
    So thats what they are doing with the DWP employees who used to work in the various benefit depts then? They've made them the 2000 spy on benefits staff? Its like weve become a Nazi state- who the hell made them their own (unlawful) rules up???If they try to claim back anything i was already legally entitled to they will have a fight on their hands- i will sue them, its been done before- successfully i believe?
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    Alan Jones · 2 months ago
    I have this morning been slammed with a claim for nearly £7500 from Debt Management, when I phoned them I was told it was for an ESA overpayment???? I have tried to contact ESA via phone and online to no avail and am now awaiting a call from welfare Rights to help me.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Michelle Hammouch · 2 months ago
      @Alan Jones I hope you get that help as I was refused part of my ESA award as I’m on PIP but their computers had not updated my award 6 months previously and I had to send a copy of my PIP award with a complaint directly to them and considering how I was told by an ESA operator on the phone ( as 4 previously contacted and 2 supervisors checked out the PIP. System which confirmed my continued PIP award to 2027)that they know I’m on PIPbut I had to prove I’m on PIP . As I’m suffering anxiety and mental health issues due to the pain I’m in I had to enlist help from the charity VITAL but finally got my ESA full award reinstated before VITAL had to step in !
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    William Anthony Thomson · 2 months ago
    My UC was stopped following a mistake by the DWP, I made a MR and won. By the time it was sorted I had opened a new UC claim, received a payment to bridge the two claims, but only found out a year later that they were still claiming back all the UC payments from March to November as the false debt had not been cancelled when I won the MR.  I have challenged this with the DWP but the debt is still being taken of my UC?
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    JO Woodhead · 2 months ago
    My son was made to pay back £200 UC he never had, he made a claim but got a job a week later,  he never claimed UC, never had a penny from then, just a letter stating he owed £200 and they immediately started taking it from his wages after contacting his employer, even though employers gave start date and no mo eh from UC was paid into his bank account, I rang and after 2 hours of trying fi ally got through to someonefrom another department  who said he had had £200 and had to repay it., but he hasn't, They would not listen, there is no way to appeal only a number that is automated and just sends you round in circles!! so UC have basically stolen £200 from him
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    justiceforall · 2 months ago
    We should not be surprised that the UK only obeys laws it makes when it suits it.  Take the present situation with regard to illegal immigrants where the govt itself is breaking the law in attempting to address the issue.  Also, as regards our historical sequestration of other countries to form our Commonwealth, the case of Australia is just such another example of the UK, or then as it was called, Great Britain, seizing this country as its own, but without the actual stamp and signature of our then monarch, Queen Vic.  So, this country of ours, of which we are supposed to be proud, is guilty, guilty, guilty of law breaking just as much as others that we commend for so-doing.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Jen dent · 2 months ago
    Government are using increasingly underhanded tactics to avoid paying out benefits. Where l live they are extending roll out of UC My friend stats to loose all his ESA because his wife works. They will be £5000 worse off just because government have created UC. Government minister said on national tv Universal Credit is designed to punish people who don't work. So if you are genuinely sick/disabled they won't pay. Disability discrimination 100%
     
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Inonge · 2 months ago
    I was made to send in a photo whilst holding my passport to my face!😲
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    David Wood · 2 months ago
    I have had my UC payments reduced by £101 a month in one hit. They say my transitional payments have now reached what I was getting before I was switched over. I am now trying to get UC to tell me that it is a final decision. This is stopping me from making an official complaint to ICE (Independent Commission Examiner). What do I do now?
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Jos · 2 months ago
    What amazes me is that the DWP intend to employ 2000 people to investigate claims, when they have hardly anyone to answer their phones. It has taken me three days of listening to their music on the the telephone for literally hours, before anyone finally picked up and answered my enquiry.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Caroline · 2 months ago
    Totally disgusting but not surprising, the DWP are a law unto themselves, I just can’t grasp how they get away with this kind of tyrannical behaviour. The entire system is a total farce, it gives very little credence to genuine claimants and everything to those who are abusing the system. The secrecy and lies are just a part of this rotten, failing system, when will the government wake up and smell the coffee, this blatant abuse of power to humiliate, degrade and make the lives impossible for genuine claimants is immoral, don’t know how these people sleep at night.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    MrFibro · 2 months ago
    Yet another master stroke pulled by the nasty corruption party.  By- elections are due to take part in some areas of the country i think next week, check to see what the areas are, if you live in those postal codes, then simply out-voter the Tories.  (vote ie labour -lib dems)  just to kick the Tories off their corrupted seats.

    Things wont change until the nation votes in another political party in 2024.

    And yes the tories/ dwp have a blank canvas to do what the hell they like, and as and when they like to cause misery and more suffering to millions of claimants.

    Good luck to all.


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