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problems after a not guilty in benefit fraud

(14 Posts)
confuddledDOTcom Wed 06-May-15 13:10:49

I posted about this friend a few weeks ago. She's now having problems they didn't expect.

she was taken to court for benefit fraud and found not guilty to four counts (claiming benefit notentitled to, claiming fraudulently times two for IS and HB) the court said there was no evidence that anything had changed that needed to be informed of. They were really positive and said that she and her family had been honest and credible.

Income support are now saying that the court was wrong and she still needs to pay over payment. HB and CTB refuse to discuss it because they're going off IS. She's been told they've already tried to stop it out her wages but she doesn't work so they can't. She's spoken to fraud, they say speak to income recovery, they say speak to IS, they say speak to income recovery. It's pretty much £30k between the three and she's being told that's she still liable despite the court saying she's innocent. She's in bit of a mess and doesn't know what to do next. Even her mum tried to argue it - I wouldn't argue with her mum.

CTB have a court order to break her door down, not that it will do anything. In case y you're wondering she wasn't tried over that as well, don't know why, but it's obviously tied in as if she wasn't eligible for the others she wasn't for that either. On top of the so called overpayment they have refused to take her money for the last two years bills because they'd only take the £X,000 for the whole lot. She's living off family, friends and a lodger as she's too ill to work and too scared to claim.

LotusLight Wed 06-May-15 13:52:06

It may b e legally different between what is a crime and what is an over claim though? Has she gone through the figures and can prove she and the others were entitled to every penny they received? Has she put all that in writing with evidence sent by special delivery to those seeking to recover from her?

Could she go abroad to work for a few years?

confuddledDOTcom Wed 06-May-15 18:05:33

the case was that she wasn't living alone. The court found she'd proved she was. So no fraud or overpayment, which had been the two claims. They're now saying the court can only decide if you criminally claimed not if you weren't entitled.

No one will take responsibility long enough to tell her who to contact, how to fight it etc.

PeppermintCrayon Thu 07-May-15 00:13:15

Has she tried asking her MP for help?

Viviennemary Thu 07-May-15 00:25:59

Even if the court decided she hasn't committed benefit fraud the DWP could still rule that there has been an overpayment and that must be paid back. But if she doesn't have an income they will find it difficult to enforce unless she has savings. But they are still entitled to ask for the money to be repaid as far as I know.

LotusLight Thu 07-May-15 06:42:17

It seems simple. Her benefits were stopped because she was living with someone. She was also criminally prosecuted for that. Did the judge direct that her back and future benefits should be reinstated by the way? Even if not (as not his job) and the only reason they say not entitled to the benefits is because she was living with someone and she wasn't then I agree with you. Surely the court has decided (unless there were other reasons she was not entitled to the benefits too which were not the issue before the court).

So getting her MP involved, local paper perhaps? It is certainly a very topical issue which arises all the time - how to prove you are not living with a lover.

LIZS Thu 07-May-15 08:10:31

Did she not have legal representation? Agree with others that being found not guilty of fraud, ie a deliberate attempt to claim money she wasn't entitled to , is different to repaying an overpayment if the assessment wasn't correct due to misinformation or error perhaps.

confuddledDOTcom Thu 07-May-15 11:58:35

the case was basically was someone living with her. The four charges were she claimed when she had someone living with her; she claimed knowing it was fraudulent; times two for different benefits. The judge said that there was no evidence that anyone had lived with her. I think half of the problem was that there was no prosecution evidence (as in all the solicitor could say was "I think this happened" "I think you're lying" they'd left him with nothing) no witnesses and not even someone from the department to watch. So no one there knows what went on in court.

She's proven in court she was living alone so surely they have nothing to say is overpayment now. No one wants to take responsibility. Fraud department say she has nothing to pay but they won't do anything. Income support say nothing to do with them. Income recovery won't do anything because they only do what they're told.

confuddledDOTcom Thu 07-May-15 12:00:14

yes she did have a solicitor of her own but she seems to be constantly in court at the moment as they've been trying to get hold of her for two weeks.

sleeponeday Thu 07-May-15 12:40:56

She needs to contact her MP's constituency office, I think. They have caseworkers who deal with governmental bureaucracy gone rogue really frequently - we got the local office in Cambridge involved on behalf of an elderly lady being treated appallingly by the local council housing office, and they were fab. Had it sorted (repairs had been left undone for a year, rendering an octogenarian's home uninhabitable, plus damage to her property they said wasn't their problem despite being caused by their workmen) and an apology within two weeks. We also contacted ours when our son was terribly badly let down by his first school (he has ASD and is also now on the register for able, gifted & talented - neither special need was recognised, in fact they insisted he was thriving when he was threatening suicide at home. At five. sad) and they instigated an official inspection into ASD provision with the local authority. That's in a different area to the one we got to help the old lady we knew, too.

Both those offices were Lib Dem, for the record, and it may be that they are especially dedicated to their constituency work because they can't take seats for granted! But caseworkers generally seem like dedicated and committed people. I mean, it's not paid that well given the calibre of applicants, I'm told, and my experience has been brilliant. MPs can contact very senior officials direct and demand answers, and they get them. Us normal plebby types lack that access, for the most part.

Can you go with her, and her mum, to get her an appointment? She needs all the paperwork, including a copy of the judgement I would imagine.

Collaborate Thu 07-May-15 12:53:01

If this was a monumental cock up on the part of the CPS (e.g. failed to present the evidence of cohabitation they did have) the DWP may feel that as the evidence hasn't been tested, they are still within their rights to refuse to accept the acquittal. That's my guess anyway, for what it's worth.

Your friend will have to appeal through the Benefits Agency system.

mojo17 Thu 07-May-15 12:59:57

Try contacting CAB they're usually great at these things also your MP , but that could prove tricky today !

firstfire Thu 07-May-15 13:08:08

Bankruptcy would clear the overpayments if it is not considered fraudulant. Where an overpayment is due to fraud then they cannot be included in bankruptcy, but other benefit overpayments can. It is best to appeal through the benefits system first, but if that doesn't work then it's worth thinking about. Of course she would have to meet other criteria for bankruptcy as well, but it sounds like she is not able to make the payments and doesn't have any assets.

dashoflime Thu 07-May-15 13:19:42

Hi, Welfare Rights Officer here:

The decision to prosecute for benefit fraud and the decision that a recoverable overpayment have taken place are completely seperate. So, even though she was found not guilty of fraud- this does not necissarily mean that the DWP or the council have to revise their decision that benefit was over paid and is recoverable from her.

If she were my client I would be looking to:

1. Establish the date of the decisions that a recoverable overpayment was made - for both IS and HB/CTR

2. Enter an appeal against these decisions (if one has not already been made) For IS, the decision needs to be reviewed by the DWP before she can proceed to appeal.

There are deadlines for doing this and I suspect your friend may be outside them, if the criminal case has only just run its course.

If the origional decisions were under 1 year ago- then she may still be able to enter a late appeal if she has grounds for not appealling earlier. She could say that she was under the impression that the criminal case would resolve everything.

If your friend is completely outside of the 1 year deadline for late appeals- then I would request that the DWP and the council re calculate her entitlement during the period of the alleged overpayment.

I would write to CT dept and the DWP recovery dept seperately, explaining the situation and requesting that they place collection action on hold while the situation is being resolved. This is all I would say to them btw. No point arguing about the rights and wrongs of a debt with people whos job is recovery.

I would also encorage your friend to make a new claim for IS, HB and CTR if she is currently entitled and request backdating. I can understand her having worries around it but the rent and CT debts will only continue to grow and the situation escallate until she gets her current income sorted out.

About the CT payments. Its quite common for call centre workers to refuse to take payments, claiming the whole lot needs to be paid. Can she somehow pay without having to talk to a human being? Automated Payment line? Bank transfer? Being able to show she has paid what she can will put her in a much stronger position to negotiate the rest.

I think your friend will need proffessional help with this as the situation is quite complex. A CAB or Law Centre should be able to help. And yes, they may need to bring in the help of an MP if the DWP and council continue to be obstructive. If she had a lawyer for the fruad case Im surprised he/she didn't pick up the need for a referral for welfare rights and money advice.

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