DWP to contact thousands believed to have been overpaid benefits during the pandemic

By Katie Dickinson

The DWP is to contact thousands of claimants believed to have been overpaid benefits during the pandemic.

Fraud and error in the UK benefits system reached record levels during the Covid crisis, with a reported £8.4bn overpaid in the last financial year.

The government department estimates that 3.9% of benefits spending was overpaid during 2020/21 with £6.3 billion of the overpayments believed to be due to fraud, primarily arising from Universal Credit claims, , reports Lancs Live.

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A DWP spokesperson said said: "We also have robust plans in place to recover fraudulent claims and drive fraud and error down to the lowest feasible level."

Neil Couling, Universal Credit director-general, also commented that thousands of claimants could be approached over the coming months as the DWP continues its fraud and error exercise.

Claimants who gave the wrong information during the pandemic risk being hit with an “administrative penalty”, which will be recovered through a deduction from their future benefits.

The DWP’s definition of benefit fraud is when “someone obtains state benefit they are not entitled to or deliberately fails to report a change in their personal circumstances.”

The most common form of benefit fraud is when a person receives unemployment benefits when they are working. Another is when a person states that they live alone, but are financially supported by a partner or spouse.

Being accused of fraud by the DWP can be stressful enough but the thought of being investigated by officials without really knowing why can lead to further worry.

Many investigators wear plain clothes and can show up at your home or work at any time which could be frightening for many.

Having some knowledge about DWP investigations can make all the difference, enabling you to live your life as normally as possible while an investigation is underway.

Benefits-related fraud occurs where someone has claimed benefits to which they were not entitled on purpose, such as by not reporting a change in circumstances or by providing false information.

The DWP will need evidence that shows that someone is receiving a benefit (a Tax Credit or benefits payment, for example) that they would not ordinarily be entitled to.

Investigators have a wide range of powers that enable them to gather evidence in a number of ways, including surveillance, interviews, and document tracing.

You will know the exact details of an investigation against you until you are told about it afterwards, which may be in court if you are charged with an offence.

There is a common misconception that the only people who get investigated for benefits fraud and other offences that involve the DWP are those who are openly scamming the system.

While the DWP acts on some reports from the public, it also has its own sophisticated means of detecting when fraud might be taking place, which means anyone receiving benefits from the DWP could be investigated at any time.

Investigators may use your social media to find evidence that is useful to them, and your financial data may also be used.

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