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Overpayment waivers Petition

Advice NI
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Secretary of State needs to restore confidence in the Universal Credit overpayment recovery waiver (write-off) system ... Please sign this petition to try to get the situation improved ...  https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/605033

Vonny
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Signed
Maybe Daphne could circulate to NAWRA and Gareth to WRAC?

Andrew Dutton
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Signed - but a darned shame it doesn’t also mention DWP refusal to exercise discretion not to recover, as well as the false promises made in 2011 that DWP would not recover OPs caused by its own errors.

Advice NI
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Many thanks for signing Andrew, Vonny ... the intention would be to get this pushed up the agenda and associated issues can also come to light. Hopefully SSAC and Work & Pens Committee might also take an interest. A big year ahead in terms of UC overpayments and the devastation which can be caused by deductions to UC awards, thanks again, Kevin

Andrew Dutton
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Advice NI - 06 January 2022 01:56 PM

Many thanks for signing Andrew, Vonny ... the intention would be to get this pushed up the agenda and associated issues can also come to light. Hopefully SSAC and Work & Pens Committee might also take an interest. A big year ahead in terms of UC overpayments and the devastation which can be caused by deductions to UC awards, thanks again, Kevin

Thanks Kevin, I see your point. And I suppose you have to keep your wording brief, and not rant on like I probably would..

This is a major bugbear of mine, I’m just frustrated that all attempts to highlight or discuss this have been batted away by DWP.

All the best.

Andyp5 Citizens Advice Bridport & District
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Good luck with this Kevin!!!!!!

See extract of letter below from Regional Complaints Team to MP - albeit a legacy benefit the letter is pretty much the same gist as we have seen for UC. 

‘********** can request a waiver of *** overpayment on the grounds of severe financial hardship and/or ill health. For severe financial hardship, this must be long standing and not expected to improve in the foreseeable future. The hardship must be of such severity that it is not reasonable to expect the customer to make even reduced repayments. Evidence must be provided to illustrate this such as, letters from creditors pursuing large debts or arrears of rent, council tax or mortgage.

General day to day hardship would not apply. If seeking a waiver on ill health grounds, the applicant must show evidence, not of the ill health itself, but that recovery of the overpayment is the main, or only cause of the ill health or the reason for the deterioration in their ill health.

Evidence to support this should be in the form of a letter from a GP, consultant, psychiatric nurse or support worker. The evidence provided must be very 1 specific as to the effect the recovery is having on the customer’s health, and must be the opinion of the healthcare professional writing the letter.

The waiver request and evidence must be sent to; Debt Management (SF) Mail Handling Site A Wolverhampton WV98 2DU Alternatively, if the waiver is not possible, ********* can ask Debt Management to arrange reduced monthly repayments by calling 0800 916 0647’.

Advice NI
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Andyp5 Citizens Advice Bridport & District - 06 January 2022 02:55 PM

Good luck with this Kevin!!!!!!

See extract of letter below from Regional Complaints Team to MP - albeit a legacy benefit the letter is pretty much the same gist as we have seen for UC. 

‘********** can request a waiver of *** overpayment on the grounds of severe financial hardship and/or ill health. For severe financial hardship, this must be long standing and not expected to improve in the foreseeable future. The hardship must be of such severity that it is not reasonable to expect the customer to make even reduced repayments. Evidence must be provided to illustrate this such as, letters from creditors pursuing large debts or arrears of rent, council tax or mortgage.

General day to day hardship would not apply. If seeking a waiver on ill health grounds, the applicant must show evidence, not of the ill health itself, but that recovery of the overpayment is the main, or only cause of the ill health or the reason for the deterioration in their ill health.

Evidence to support this should be in the form of a letter from a GP, consultant, psychiatric nurse or support worker. The evidence provided must be very 1 specific as to the effect the recovery is having on the customer’s health, and must be the opinion of the healthcare professional writing the letter.

The waiver request and evidence must be sent to; Debt Management (SF) Mail Handling Site A Wolverhampton WV98 2DU Alternatively, if the waiver is not possible, ********* can ask Debt Management to arrange reduced monthly repayments by calling 0800 916 0647’.

Excellent Andy, thank you ... This is the very point, this needs to be totally transparent to give clients a fair chance at a waiver, and who is to say this guidance for DWP staff (that never got debated) is what Parliament wants / intended - never mind all hundreds of thousands who are not aware of waivers and this info, long way to go, but at least making a start!!! Kevin

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Vonny - 06 January 2022 12:59 PM

Signed
Maybe Daphne could circulate to NAWRA and Gareth to WRAC?

Have sent to Kelly for circulating (and signed myself) :)

Andyp5 Citizens Advice Bridport & District
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Talking of Parliament Kevin…..............

The following pledge/promise from Government is worth yet another airing - worth reading the contents of the link in full again, but see extract below

https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmpublic/welfare/110519/am/110519s01.htm

When the Welfare Reform Bill (i.e. Welfare Reform Act 2012) was being debated the Minister concerned (Chris Grayling) promised a ‘clear code of practice’ said it was the intention not to recover many overpayments which had been caused by official error - see link to HOC, Hansard, 19 May 2011, col 1019

In that debate Chris Grayling made various statements on overpayment recovery, including this:

‘The practical reality is that we do not have to recover money from people where official error has been made, and we do not intend, in many cases, to recover money where official error has been made. There will be an absolutely clear code of practice that will govern the circumstances in which recovery action will or will not be taken, to ensure consistent, considered decision making’.

Advice NI
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Excellent Andy, this is so useful to use when the initial surge of Petition signatories start to dip ... I say initial surge, a long way to go to get to 10,000!!! But we’ll get there!!!

To everyone, feel free to get stuck in on twitter eg https://twitter.com/KevinHiggins27/status/1479098952012091392

Best to all, Kevin

Andyp5 Citizens Advice Bridport & District
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More extracts crudely copy and pasted from an email from us to MP in connection with one of our clients earlier in 2021, that may or may not be etc etc Kevin.


UC overpayments caused by official error - DWP policy of rarely if ever waiving recovery is arguably set to such a high bar as to be virtually unattainable i.e. abdication of responsibility on the part of the DWP - https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-qUC overpayments caused by official error - policy of rarely if ever waiving recovery questions/detail/2019-06-27/270289 and https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2019-06-11/263064/


CUC/0050/2018 & CUC/0051/2018: Cause of universal credit overpayment irrelevant to its recoverability and no right to appeal against decision to recover


[2018] UKUT 332 (AAC): https://www.gov.uk/administrative-appeals-tribunal-decisions/lp-v-secretary-of-state-for-work-and-pensions-uc-2018-ukut-332-aac Judge Jacobs goes on to highlight that recoverability of overpayments under universal credit is governed by section 71ZB of the Social Security Administration Act 1992 and that -


‘This is different from the law that previously applied to most social security benefits: liability does not depend on a claimant misrepresenting or failing to disclose. It is also different from the law that applies to housing benefit: liability does not depend on whether there has been an official error or whether the claimant could reasonably have been expected to realise that too much benefit was being paid. That means that a claimant is liable for an overpayment even it was caused by the Secretary of State.’ (paragraph 10).


We think their is a very persuasive case for the DWP at a very senior level waiving recovery by applying HM Treasury Guidance on “Managing Public Money in **********s case.


https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/835558/Managing_Public_Money__MPM__with_annexes_2019.pdf


For example - Annex 4.11 which sets out a number of arguments which might tend to mean recovery should not be pursued (hardship, accepting money in good faith, estoppel etc).


The principle in general is stated in the main body here:

4.7 Non-standard financial transactions

4.7.1 From time to time public sector organisations may find it makes sense to carry out transactions outside the usual planned range, eg:

• write-offs of unrecoverable debts or overpayments;

• recognising losses of stocks or other assets;

• long term loans or gifts of assets.

4.7.2 In each case it is important to deal with the issue in the public interest, with due regard for probity and value for money. Annexes 4.10 to 4.12 set out what is expected when such transactions take place in central government, including notifying parliament.

Daphne
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A couple of FOI responses -

- https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/universal_credit_official_error_2#incoming-1949645 sets out the total value of overpayments that were written off in 2019/20, 2020/21 and 2021/22 to date

- https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/universal_credit_official_error#incoming-1940049 sets out the numbers and value of universal credit overpayment waivers in the same years

NB - the Benefit overpayment recovery guide confirms that write-offs are provided on cost grounds and waivers are provided on welfare grounds

Advice NI
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Excellent Daphne, this is excellent,
I hope to collate all this incredibly useful information into a Briefing Paper, which hopefully will make it easier for MPs / others to grasp the important issue we are trying to flag ... also means that when we are all dragged away to do other things, we can come back and pick everything up without too much work,
I do think DWP (UC) will ‘go to town’ this year on overpayment recovery (extra resources in the Budget etc), so this hopefully will help to balance things - if we can get the waiver / write-off issue up the agenda,
Best to all,
Kevin

Advice NI
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Great work by Frank by the way ... has anyone else noticed that his something has happened his twitter? https://twitter.com/mrfrankzola ... maybe just my system, Kevin

Mike Hughes
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“general day to day hardship” doesn’t cut it.

Words fail…

Advice NI
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Hi all - trying to keep up interest in the Petition, have started a poll on twitter, you might want to respond / share,
https://twitter.com/KevinHiggins27/status/1483734284401786882
Best to all,
Kevin

Andrew Dutton
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Daphne
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That’s what we thought! If it’s true then we need to get putting a lot more requests in!!

Jo_Smith
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I think that we all have heard how hard, nearly impossible it is to get it waived- and we don’t have time for titling at the windmills :(
This may have resulted in such a low number. Nobody even tries.