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DWP chasing for alleged 27 year old debt

(30 Posts)
Tirion1649 Sat 14-Jan-17 13:11:45

DWP has been chasing me for a debt that I simply don't owe. A little over £1,000. They've claimed that as I received maintenance as a single parent in the late 1980s and income support for a short period at the same time, I owe this money. I didn't get maintenance. I got a job shortly afterwards, remarried and thought that was that. Until the letters. At one point, DWP had to admit that this was a statute barred debt as I hadn't heard from them for 6 years. However, letters continued to come after that and finally they said that they would do nothing til they could take from my pension.

I've asked for evidence that I'd received money from my ex. There is none. We're talking about a social security office (and system) that no longer exists. My suspicion is that the ex created some mischief back then. Whilst I was getting income support (a matter of months), I didn't get a penny from him.

Letter came today - very surprised after the last one (about two years ago) mentioned future pension deductions. If I don't pay up, they'll contact my employer or put it in the hands of a debt collection company.

Write to them again? I don't want to ignore it. My MP? Thanks for any advice.

cozietoesie Sat 14-Jan-17 17:41:40

Formal complaint to the DWP (I think you can do it online) and then - if they don't respond to the complaint satisfactorily (and be very sure to keep them to their time limits) - a formal complaint to the Information Commissioner.

Both of those should be able to have your case looked at by someone out with the normal management structure - and that's what you need.

cozietoesie Sat 14-Jan-17 17:45:06

PS - you could throw in a Data protection request at the same time. Remember that this should cover written correspondence and relevant emails (including intra-departmental stuff) held by the DWP. That way, you can see what information they're basing their actions upon.

FuckOffLazyClickbaitJournos Sat 14-Jan-17 17:56:18

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

cozietoesie Sat 14-Jan-17 18:01:54

And keep them to the time limits under the DPA as well.

They'll hate it. smile

TaggieRR Sat 14-Jan-17 18:04:20

I would also do a data request. It would be interesting to see the quality of their records from the late 80's

cozietoesie Sat 14-Jan-17 18:07:51

By the way - don't take 'explanatory' phone calls from them. From the sound of your affairs, any DP Officer worth their salt would try to get on the phone to you and soft soap you. Just tell them to 'put it in writing'.

They'll hate that also. grin

EstelleRoberts Sat 14-Jan-17 18:08:30

Yep, deffo DPA subject access request.

If they come back with no evidence, as it sounds like they will, you can cordially tell them to fuck off and threaten legal action if they dare take it further (threatening to inform your employer?! Wtaf!) or try to dock your pension.

cozietoesie Sat 14-Jan-17 18:09:05

They'll forget the emails and internal memos, Taggie.

They always do. wink

cozietoesie Sat 14-Jan-17 18:11:27

I'd just hand the whole mess over to the ICO, Estelle. Who knows but that there might be some extra-statutory compensation forthcoming........?

FuckOffLazyClickbaitJournos Sat 14-Jan-17 18:53:08

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

cozietoesie Sat 14-Jan-17 19:14:12

I've never understood the 'attachment' people have to emails - even emails which are most elderly. The words 'Cloud Storage' are enough to chill the soul of the most experienced (but conscientious) Data Protection Officer.

Oldsu Tue 17-Jan-17 05:04:17

Despite EstelleRoberts wtf? comment about contacting your employer and cozietoesie comments how the DWP wont like something, the DWP have not acted illegally in contacting you about this 'debt' nor would they be acting illegally in recouping the money using an attachment of earnings order or taking it from future benefits debts owed to the DWP are statute barred like any other debt but that just means they can't pursue you through the court NOT that they cant take the money back by other means.

That saying they have to PROVE you owe the money and that's where a subject access request is invaluable

Despite what cozietoesie says the DWP have not breached DPA laws by contacting you and the ICO would not get involved if you make a complaint purely on the basis of the letters you have received. In fact their little smileys, the little comments about 'they wont like that' and talk of compo is counterproductive to this thread and it smacks of having some sort of beef with the DWP which is not actually helping you.

If they cant prove you owe the money and still demand the money that's when you make a complaint but you complain to the DWP not the ICO

See what the SAR throws up, don't forget they now use data sharing and may think they DO have the evidence despite it being 27 years

Oldsu Tue 17-Jan-17 05:38:40

BTW I believe the DWP have to stop any deductions from earnings or benefits whilst the debt is in dispute and while you are waiting for the SAR so if you get another letter after you have requested the SAR, let them know you are disputing the debt as it may be a computer generated letter or been issued from another office who may not know you have disputed the debt- don't ignore the letter

Also if they try and go through the DEA process this link will tell you what your employer needs to do and the procedures they have to follow

Canyousewcushions Tue 17-Jan-17 05:58:40

Other thing which may help is writing to your mp.

PossumInAPearTree Tue 17-Jan-17 06:36:43

Fight it, fight it.

Do everything via letter and keep copies of anything.

My mum had similar where they were chasing her for about 5k because they'd paid her too much of her teaching pension. Their mistake, they'd miscalculated the tax and my mum didn't know. There was definetly something like they could only claim for the last six years, anything older than that they had to write off. Mum fought it and initially lost but appealed and won. But it took something like 18 months of non stop letter writing and arguing.

She found other people in the same boat from googling so got advice off the internet.

cozietoesie Tue 17-Jan-17 10:06:12

I think you may have misunderstood me. Oldsu.

It's not the contact which would necessarily bother me, it's the holding of possibly inaccurate data and basing your decisions upon that. (Subsequent contact would only serve to put the OP in a state of 'fear and alarm' but would not, in itself, be wrong: it's the base data which is the problem.)

The ICO - in common with other arbiters - won't take cases where the individual has not exhausted their avenues of complaint through channels available within the organisation potentially at fault. That point underlay my remarks about complaining.


EstelleRoberts Tue 17-Jan-17 17:14:44

Oldsu I think you misunderstand me. My point was that OP believes they are incorrect in their belief that she owes money. That is why I suggested a SAR, so she can check the facts and see what evidence they have. If it is erroneous, she is then in a position to challenge it.

My 'wtf' was in relation to the implication they might approach her employer while this is in dispute, which would, IMO, be extremely heavy-handed and unfair. It smacks of attempts to bully and intimidate so that she shuts up and complies, which is appalling behaviour from a government department. If it turns out she does owe the money after all, it is something of a different matter, but that is not the current position.

EstelleRoberts Tue 17-Jan-17 17:15:17

cozie I understood you.

Oldsu Tue 17-Jan-17 19:00:23

Hopefully the OP will go onto the links I provided, I think a lot of anger stems from the fact that people still believe that debts to the DWP and HMRC are statute barred and that's it nothing can be done.

The DWP changed the legislation it now comes under the Welfare Reform act 2012 this amended Social Security Administration Act 1992, with further detail set out in The Social Security (Overpayments and Recovery) Regulations 2013.

Also they have better data matching now.

TalkinPeace Tue 17-Jan-17 22:07:02

Write to the, old fashioned letter, recorded delivery, copy in your MP

tell them to eff off

Oldsu Wed 18-Jan-17 02:45:50

Telling them to eff off wont work TalkinPeace because there is legislation in place to allow them to make the deductions and they will use it.

This is why I gave the OP several links so they can go down the official route, I know people who have successfully challenged alleged debts using SARs and the complaints procedures

It might seem strange but knowing your rights and following procedures tends to get more positive results than just saying eff off aint paying I don't know anyone who had a good result going down THAT route

Tirion1649 Fri 27-Jan-17 00:35:37

Very many thanks everyone - I am very grateful for your responses. I'm sorry that it's taken me this long to respond. We've had serious sickness in the family and I've been dashing between hospital and work for the past week. I'm going to read all your responses very carefully and come back to this thread by the end of the weekend. Thanks again.

Tirion1649 Sun 05-Feb-17 18:00:41

Again, thanks - I'm back in action following a couple of weeks of family sickness.

I have taken your advice and made a SAR, requesting all relevant records (and having to refer to a DSS office that closed some 10 or more years ago).

On Friday, I recieved a letter from the DWP (Recoveries) attaching a copy of a letter to my employer which included a Direct Earnings Attachment notification (standard rate).

I telephoned the Recoveries department and got someone who said that he'd never come across anything like this before (a nearly 30 year old debt that clealry couldn't be proven) and that he would immediately to my employer (and copy me) to tell them to stay any action on the basis that the original letter had been sent "in error" (his words). I mentioned the letter that I'd received back in late 2011 stating that, yes, the statute of limitations did apply but that would deduct the (alleged) debt from my pension in due course. The DWP officer didn't have that correspondence to hand but he said that he'd get hold of it via the Appeals section.

He spoke to his line manager who told him that she would investigate and he assured me that he'd phone me on Monday (tomorrow). In the meantime, I was to tell my employer to take no action and if necessary to contact the DWP. I can only hope that Payroll take my word as it'll be a few days before any letter reaches them. Needlesstosay, I'm really embarrassed at the thought of speaking to them tomorrow.

This officer was perfectly amiable and in fact apologetic but I have a sinking feeling that this will run - and that they won't, as he suggested they might, "abandon" the alleged debt.

Oldsu - thank you for such useful information - I wonder though if the provisions in the Welfare Reform Act 2012 are retrospective? I need to look more carefully but there is that letter that is clearly - yes, statate of limitations applies for now at least.

And the bottom line is this - I didn't receive any maintenance from my ex during the very brief period that I was claiming IS. And the DWP's argument hinges on the allegation that I did. They themselves, in the past, that acknowledged that they've no evidence to suggest that I did - just, perhaps, somewhere a record of a telephone conversation with my ex who said goodness knows what.

TalkinPeace - thank you. I am presently putting together a note for my MP. It's a very good idea.

Cozie - the IOC - thanks. I'm looking at that route, too. And I took your advice and included a request for intra-departmental records when I made the SAR.

cozietoesie Tue 07-Feb-17 10:32:01

Did you receive any phone call yesterday?

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