Some Universal Credit claimants have been told they must pay back money they were entitled to during the start of the pandemic, a charity has claimed.
The Child Poverty Action Group said some claimants who did not supply ID evidence when asked to do so had their claims closed and received demands to repay “overpayments”.
At a glance: 5 key points
- Despite making legitimate claims for Universal Credit over 18 months ago, people have now received debt notices
- The notices were delivered because claimaints weren’t able to comply with requests to verify their details quickly
- People’s failures to respond to later requests for evidence meant they were not entitled to Universal Credit when they had claimed
- It has meant claims have been terminated and repayments sought
- In some cases, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has arranged attachment of earnings orders with employers so that the money is automatically recovered in instalments, the CPAG added
What’s been said
Claire Hall, a solicitor at the charity, said: “Just as families are getting back on their feet, many of those who lost their jobs when the pandemic first hit are being put through a second ordeal by the DWP.”
She added: “Families will only be able to rest easy if DWP urgently reviews all the cases where they have issued an overpayment notice for not providing evidence, and suspends collection of these supposed debts until they have done so.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: “At the onset of the pandemic we suspended certain verification processes as we could no longer see customers face-to-face, making customers aware that we may return to seek this verification in the future.
“Those who can prove entitlement in a reasonable timeframe will not be asked to repay any money. We have a responsibility to the taxpayer to ensure public money is properly spent. Therefore it is right and lawful that we seek to recover payments that claimants were not entitled to.
“We have been unable to verify the details of these case studies as we have not been provided with the required information. We can do so if this is provided.”
In one case seen by the charity, a claimant phoned the DWP to offer the requested ID evidence after receiving notice of an overpayment of more than £13,000 but was told his award had been stopped and he would have to go through an internal review.
After the charity became involved, it said the overpayment notice was revised, effectively confirming the claimant’s entitlement to the money, and the Universal Credit claim was reopened.
The charity said the claimant had not responded to the DWP’s attempts to contact him and had missed a phone appointment because he had suffered a close family bereavement and had himself contracted coronavirus.
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