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ESA and tax credits question(9 Posts)
My husband has severe depression and anxiety and last year he lost his job due to the amount of absence he'd taken due to his illness. We didn't realise that he could claim ESA so when we rang in the August they said he would have actually been eligible from the February and that it may be possible for the payment to be back dated. We had to wait for an SSP1 form from his employer to send off as evidence and they kept messing us about. When we eventually got it and sent it to the ESA people it got 'lost'. We then had to get another copy and send everything off again.
Eventually my husband received a lump sum in October last year. He was still on assessment rate and received payments every fortnight at this rate. He had his ESA assessment in January and we found out at the end of Jan he'd been put in the support group of ESA, where he received another lump sum payment. They did back date it but I'm not sure where to. He's been receiving the fortnightly payments since.
Anyway, my job is sales and I receive a basic salary then commission on top. I managed to do not so badly and have been updating our tax credits claim online as regularly as I could. My husband is classed as incapacitated for childcare, so we receive help for our childcare payments through tax credits. When I updated my estimated salary before Christmas it was £3k below what I've actually finished on. I updated my final salary at the beginning of February and think I made a mistake on one of the sections and have completely ballsed the who thing up.
I got an award notice on 9th Jan - no overpayment, payment adjusted but not horrifically but there was no mention of state benefits under my husbands section, even though I'd made them aware he was receiving the assessment rate of ESA. So when I updated my final salary in February I adjusted his salary and added in the total amount of benefits he's received. I received another award notice in March to say that we'd been overpaid by £4000 and the payment we were expecting this month wasn't happening.
I was a bit shocked. I then realised that under my husbands bit it had his benefit payment total showing plus his salary (he received a month in lieu when he left his old job, so it was this plus his benefit payments that I'd added). I realised I'd messed up as I wasn't meant to include his benefits under his salary and called them to figure out what was going on. The adviser realised straight away and told me he had adjusted the figures correctly. He said we should still get something this month but to check my online account this week and it should be showing as updated.
I checked yesterday and it was still showing that the next payment was in April and the amount per month has dropped dramatically from what we were originally getting. So I called them up again and the lady I spoke to was quite abrupt with me. I tried to explain the whole situation to her. She told me that the last adviser hadn't adjusted the figures at all and then told me that we still wouldn't be getting anything even with the new figures in. I asked her why the state benefit payment wasn't shown on the January award notice but was on the March one and she couldn't tell me. I'm assuming that it may be the fact that my husband was moved to contributions based esa (or the support group) from his assessment? The whole call was complicated, confusing and upsetting. She spoke down to me for most of the time and acted like I was lying to her.
We're now left with nothing to help pay childcare for April (I always pay a month in advance as that's what's required). All of the tax credits we receive go on childcare for our 3 DC and we top up the difference. Like I said commission wise I've done ok, so I can pay the childcare but it squeezes us everywhere else. My commission ends this month and they've changed the whole system so I will earn nowhere near as much as this financial year. I'm worried about next month with the dramatically reduced tax credits help, as I won't have the money to pay childcare but my husband can't look after the DC. I woke up last night having a full blown panic attack - I thought I was having a heart attack.
Does anyone know much about ESA and tax credits? I'm aware they take contributions based into consideration and that this can hit quite hard but as far as I'm aware the first 28 weeks of a claim for esa aren't included for tax credits? Is it because my husband had his payments backdated that this has hit us quite hard as this is what the tax credits lady has said has pushed us over? She seems to think there will still be quite a big overpayment, which is what I've worked so hard to avoid but it seems that accessing help for my husband and him being in the support group has been very detrimental on the tax credits payment. I'm so confused and worried - I've been desperately trying to pull in every penny to try keep us afloat this new tax year while I'm down at my complete basic salary. I had to reduce my working hours to 30 from 37 as I'm under so much pressure at work and home that I can feel myself sinking. We have no family near by to help and I've been trying to keep everything going.
The whole thing has been very complicated.
Any advice would really be appreciated and I'm sorry that it's so long, I just wanted to get it all out. I hope this all makes sense and thank you for reading.
Sounds like a bit of a nightmare. If your dh finished work around feb 2016 ( you say that was when he was eligible for ESA from), I don't understand why any salary he was paid is being included in calculations for the tax year 2016-17, as surely that would have been earnings for the 2015-16 tax year ?
It seems like the lump sum has been the problem and obviously you've been paid too much tax credits as the lump sum wasn't paid until the latter part of the tax year. I don't really think there is too much you can do apart from try to negotiate paying the overpayment back at as small a percentage as possible. Has all the lump sum been spent ?
Why are you receiving childcare etc? Is your dh claiming dla/pip?
Sorry to keep posting op, but also has your dh thought about applying for PIP? It sounds like he might be eligible if he has had his disability for more than 3 months and is expected to have difficulties for another 9 months. It is hard to get for mental health issues and does involve another assessment but could be worth applying for if he needs help with daily living. Perhaps you could get a mental health charity to help you fill in the form ( you apply for the form online). The extra money could be a real help to your family. It is a non means tested benefit and isn't taken into account for tax credits. try to gather as much evidence from psychiatrists reports/ Drs letters etc to send with the form.
Sorry ignore that hasn't noticed the ESA was contribution based.
Thank you for the replies.
He was signed off sick from work and stopped receiving any money in February 2016, but only lost his job in June 2016. Apparently once your SSP runs out you can claim ESA, which is what we didn't realise when we first contacted them about ESA in the summer. He received one payment from work in this tax year as a kind of 'consolation' payment. They gave him an ultimatum in his final meeting as he wasn't getting any better and they didn't want to keep him employed, so he agreed to leave taking a months worth of wages in-lieu. Hope that bit makes sense.
The lump sums have been spent I'm afraid, they went on bills and childcare and helped take us out of the overdraft for the first lump sum. I was hoping to set aside some of my commission to help see us through the next few months - my wage at basic doesn't cover the bills fully on its own - but due to us having to pay the whole childcare bill for next month that's gone out the window.
I will ask DH about applying for PiP. He needs help doing a lot of things. He can't leave the house alone, he sleeps a lot of the time and just can't seem to look after himself at all at times. When he's in a really bad place it's awful, he just sleeps in bed and I have to help him/heavily encourage him to get washed etc, which sometimes doesn't work. I try make his lunch so he has something to eat while I'm out. Some days are better than others.
Seems like we will have to put up with whatever the outcome is for the overpayment, which is a bit scary. If the projected payments from April are correct, then I'm assuming they're going to take any overpayment out of that and it's not very much at all that we're going to get. It won't cover even a quarter of our childcare costs as it is. I'm just completely stressed out. Will try and talk to them and see what agreement we can come to.
I would also let tax credits know that your income from your job for 2017-18 is going to be significantly lower than for 2016-17. You will need to give them an estimate, and your tax credit award should increase ( although the actual amount might not due to the overpayment).
I think they can only reclaim a certain percentage of your overpayment each month.
What is your housing situation. If you have a mortgage then could you speak to your lender to see if you could extend the mortgage and make lower payments whilst your family are going through a tough time?
Do apply for PIP, t sounds like your dh might be eligible.
Hope things improve for you soon.
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