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Probable third-party fraud but Debt Management deduct from wages without investigation

Andrew Dutton
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Welfare rights service - Derbyshire County Council

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I am increasingly worried about both the vulnerabilities to fraud of the UC system and also the lofty, sweeping conduct of DWP, not least Debt Management.

Case: single claimant who has NOT made a UC claim receives a threat from Debt Management to deduct from wages for a debt of over £1000 which consists of four UC advances all taken during one month in 2018.

I contacted both UC and Debt Management, asking for an investigation into possible third-party fraud. DM were offered a goodwill token repayment Without Prejudice and were asked to take no further action given that liability was wholly denied. We offered to show bank details to prove the person had had received no such sums.

One month on, the case has supposedly been referred to a ‘specialist team’ from whom we have heard nothing. Debt Management refuse to co-operate and have attached the non-claimant’s wages.

Has anyone else seen similar cases lately?

I am finding Debt Management’s conduct to be high-handed beyond all tolerance.

Daphne
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BBC Watchdog contacted me yesterday with a number of similar cases - tho worryingly where the fraudulent claim had been submitted as recently as August 2021. I think they’ve got an item on their programme today so could be worth listening in to

Andrew Dutton
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Thanks Daphne, will listen.

Andrew Dutton
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Watchdog was most interesting - I wonder how widespread this phenomenon is? Time for DWP to own up, I think.

It also reinforces my worries that Debt Management is over-powerful and does not listen, even to other parts of the DWP.  We were reassured last night that victims of fraud would not have sums recovered from them while investigations were ongoing.  In the case I’ve got, as stated above, I asked for an investigation a month ago - nothing. Debt Management swept aside all objections and attached to earnings.

Andrew Dutton
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See BBC Website - https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/2ZgN3fXkZ1hVhw80BkSndtQ/department-for-work-and-pensions

‘The DWP also said that, when someone contacts Universal Credit or Debt Management to report they are a victim of identity theft, the telephony agent should raise a referral to the Stolen Identity team, which should then be actioned within 48 hours. It says no one should be asked to repay money once the Stolen ID Team have made an interim decision to suspend debt recovery pending further enquiries.’

‘Contact us and we will ignore you’ seems more accurate.

Andrew Dutton
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Update on my case - in spite of my being told that the matter had been referred to the specialist team, I have heard no more and Debt Management have steamed straight ahead with the deduction.

MP now involved.

benefitsadviser
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I thought you had to be taken to court, and a county court judgement made before they can do this?
If so, how did he not contest the court case?
Or are debt management just taking money out without court action?

Andrew Dutton
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benefitsadviser - 31 January 2022 12:05 PM

I thought you had to be taken to court, and a county court judgement made before they can do this?
If so, how did he not contest the court case?
Or are debt management just taking money out without court action?

That’s part of the complaint - no chance to challenge via legal process.

I’ve described Debt Management as an over-powerful section of DWP (which doesn’t listen to anyone, including DWP staff) with a ‘one-club’ attitude to its work. I’d be ruder, but I’m not quite ready for retirement/sacking yet.

All this is why i find items like this hilarious - https://www.rightsnet.org.uk/welfare-rights/news/item/dwp-to-consider-how-it-could-improve-its-telephone-line-for-people-in-receipt-of-letters-from-its-debt-management-service

Improvements? Full-scale overhaul please.

BC Welfare Rights
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A DEA would not require a court order
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/direct-earnings-attachments-an-employers-guide/direct-earnings-attachment-a-more-detailed-guide
It’s pretty outrageous to be using one in this scenario

Andrew Dutton
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Update on my case.

Not an ID fraud - but mistaken identity! DWP got the wrong NINO, wrong person.

They have promised to stop action and pay back what they took.

Which is good of them….

It remains profoundly worrying that the claimant - wholly innocent - was subjected to strong action by Debt Management, who refused to listen or to wait for the outcome of an investigation.