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Help please. Housing benefit over payment nightmare.

(40 Posts)
namechangedforthis37 Mon 26-Oct-15 13:22:56

I have name changed for this as I know how these subjects can become a bunflight and I am a regular poster and want to keep some anonymity.

I have been claiming housing benefit since I became a lone parent four years ago. I have just had a letter through asking for my payslips and bank statements as they haven't updated my information for a year. I took this in and on Thursday received a call from the council asking me to confirm my childcare payments, which have remeined unchanged since the beginning of the claim at £90 per week.

As with the tax credits department, I provided them with a copy of my childcare contract when I originally made the claim.

The man on the phone asked me when they had changed from £200 per week. I said that they had never been £200 per week and had always been the same. He said that is what they are in their system as and he will have to suspend my HB to investigate how far back this has happened and that I will have to bring in copies of my childcare contract so the claim can be adjusted.

Now, this can only be an admin error on their part done at the beginning of the claim as I haven't updated my childcare information since them or been asked to. I am now very worried that I'm going to end up owing a huge amount of money.

Before anyone says didn't I realise from the breakdown the figure was wrong, honestly the answer is no. As the money has stayed pretty much the same year on give, give or take a bit less for small salary increases which I have notified them of, I don't even check the breakdown as the monthly figure is what I expect it to be. Looking at the breakdown, as I have now, it is pretty confusing as some parts are weekly and the rent part is monthly. I provided the exact same information to the child tax credit department, so am not a fraudster trying to get extra money or anything like that!

I'm really looking for some advice on what to expect here and whether I have to accept all the responsibility for this when I proveded the correct figures and documentation and the error is an administrative one at their end. I'm very worried. It's hard enough to make ends meet as is.

LisbethSalandersLaptop Mon 26-Oct-15 13:28:21

from what you have said, it sounds like an error on their part, and you should try not to worry too much.
In our town, there is an office at the council buildings that you can drop into and speak to someone who works in HB.
Is there anything like that in your town?

KatharineClifton Mon 26-Oct-15 13:29:38

Have you got copies of all your correspondence with them and receipts for said correspondence? If not then they can say what they like, and they will.

namechangedforthis37 Mon 26-Oct-15 13:31:55

LisbethSalandersLaptop I'm not sure, but I will check. I know the CAB is in a building very close, so will be visiting them depending on the outcome from the HB office. I feel sick about what the letter is going to say and have been driving myself mad reading stories on the internet about people being accused of fraud!

namechangedforthis37 Mon 26-Oct-15 13:34:14

KatharineClifton Not from the beginnig of the claim, no, but I provided them with the childcare contract which listed the correct amount, so surely that will be on my file with them? They can't lie about that or not disclose it surely?

Epilepsyhelp Mon 26-Oct-15 13:35:57

I think even if it is their mistake it will have to be paid back unfortunately, very unfair sad they will have to do this in installments that you can afford however.

SurlyCue Mon 26-Oct-15 13:39:26

Hi Op, i had a HB overpayemt due to their error and i had to pay it back but they took it in £5 per week payments deducted from my HB payment. So although it is horible seeing a huge amount to be paid back it isnt painful when it is in small amounts. Hope this is helpful.

Shakey15000 Mon 26-Oct-15 13:43:16

Not sure about HB but I do know that for tax credits overpayments, even if you have been receiving more than you were entitled to, they can cancel the " debt" if you can prove you received the money in good faith. As in, it was there error and you had good reason to think they were using the correct figures.

KatharineClifton Mon 26-Oct-15 13:48:36

If you've got proof you sent them the correct figures you needn't worry about fraud.

As pp have said, even when it's their fault the overpayment has to be re-paid in instalments. And obviously your income is going to drop to what it should of been in the first place. Tough times :/

My council is over-paying me, I know they are and I've told them. I've asked for more detailed calculations and they've not sent them. I'm keeping the money by to repay them when they finally figure it out. But the money is burning a hole in my pocket! I really don't understand why these people find it so hard to do their job correctly - it's not rocket science. Input the correct figures and get the correct result. Easy.

namechangedforthis37 Mon 26-Oct-15 14:17:43

I'm glad about the fraud thing. That was my main worry! Such a nightmare that this is happening just before xmas.

I'm worried that they will take ages to reinstate the payment now they have suspended my claim. I hope this can be sorted quickly. I'm going to take the childcare evidence down on my day off on Thursday.

namechangedforthis37 Mon 26-Oct-15 14:18:58

Shakey15000 That would be the best outcome. I think I'll go to the CAB about that.

KatharineClifton Mon 26-Oct-15 14:26:48

They definitely don't do that for HB. And they can claw back many many years later.

namechangedforthis37 Mon 26-Oct-15 14:39:46

KatharineClifton I just hope they accept £5 per week from me then or I'm going to be struggling!!

Sidge Mon 26-Oct-15 14:44:15

I had a HB overpayment a few years back as a result of their error and didn't have to repay it.

It may vary between councils.

overthemill Mon 26-Oct-15 15:22:45

If the council made an error in calculating your benefit and you could not reasonably be expected to have known you were getting too much then you will not have to repay it - it is called an official error. But you may need to provide copies of what you gave them at the start of the claim and that each review you still thought it was accurate

shelter give advice on this

You may have to repay an overpayment if they find that you gave incorrect information, even by mistake.

I would get advice from shelter or CAB but take all paperwork with you that you have

namechangedforthis37 Mon 26-Oct-15 15:26:14

You may have to repay an overpayment if they find that you gave incorrect information, even by mistake. I 100% didn't do this as part of the claim you have to prove your childcare costs. Unfortunately I do not have the original contract any more, but am getting a letter from the childminder I had them stating what I paid. I'm hoping she still has a copy of our contract, that would be the next thing. Can I ask them to disclose the paperwork they have on file that I gave them or will they not do that?

namechangedforthis37 Mon 26-Oct-15 15:27:03

Sidge That's good to know. Was it a hard process getting them to write it off?

overthemill Mon 26-Oct-15 15:36:13

I wasn't suggesting you had just explaining the rules! Yes you can ask for copies of what they have on file if they make a decision that you have to repay any overpayment. You are then asking for a review of that decision and you get to see what they have. Try not to worry. Get their decision and seek advice

overthemill Mon 26-Oct-15 15:38:09

And if it's their error the law says you don't have to repay it. They aren't doing anyone a favour they have to tell you you don't have to repay it - but some people choose to! If it's your error then you do but can ask to pay in instalments. Check out the link I gave

Sidge Mon 26-Oct-15 15:57:23

No not at all, I actually didn't know I had an overpayment as all the info I had given them was correct, the information was stated accurately on all my paperwork which I had checked over.

They had miscalculated my entitlement wrongly regarding bedroom allowance. It was their error as I had given them all the info they asked for, and provided supporting medical evidence as requested. The first I know about it was a letter saying "sorry we overpaid you as a result of our error, you are not required to repay this but as of <date> your new payments will be <this much> and not <that much>.

Just make sure you have all evidence of the info you gave them, including your childcare costs.

namechangedforthis37 Mon 26-Oct-15 16:11:13

overthemill Thanks for all of the info and will have a good look at the link smile

ScrambledEggAndToast Mon 26-Oct-15 16:24:20

I had a massive HB overpayment once, over £2000. It was taken back in small amounts over quite a long time. I definitely feel your pain, it was horrible getting that letter telling me about the overpayment.

namechangedforthis37 Mon 26-Oct-15 16:34:02

ScrambledEggAndToast I have a feeling mine is going to be even more horrific than that. It's been since my original claim. I feel sick just thinking about what the amount is. I'm trying not to stress out too much though as it's not going to change anything. The day I got the call I felt physically sick for the whole day.

unweavedrainbow Mon 26-Oct-15 16:42:35

overthemill is right about official error. If you know for certain that you gave them the right information the you won't have to pay anything back. Have you tried putting your information into Entitled to ? You might be able to figure out how much any drop in income will be if you know roughly what your payments should have been.

minsmum Mon 26-Oct-15 16:50:03

Actually you will have to repay it. The rule is that you couldn't reasonably have known that the information used was wrong. However you say yourself that you received letters that had the calculation, you didn't think it was wrong so you didn't check it.
I am sorry but that's the reason that the letters are sent so that you can check the figures used.
So it's not your fault that the mistake was made but you should have checked therefore the overpayment will be recoverable.

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