Universal Credit can in some instances be overpaid and the DWP will usually reclaim the excess money. This can also affect other legacy benefits such as income support or housing benefit.
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Benefit claimants who have been overpaid would usually see their future payments reduced until the debts are repaid.
For Universal Credit receivers specifically, the DWP would normally reduce a claimants payments by between 15 percent and 25 percent of their standard allowance.
This reduction would have remained in place until all the excess funds were reclaimed.
However, repayment rules of this nature were suspended in April to ease some of the pressure that coronavirus was causing.
As the DWP confirmed at the time: “Deductions for the recovery of Universal Credit and legacy benefit overpayments, Social Fund loans and Tax Credit debts will be paused
“The majority of deductions will be suspended automatically, however if you currently make repayments through a Bank Standing Order, Bank Giro Credit or through online banking, please contact your bank to cancel your arrangement.”
Claimants have not had to worry about overpayments for nearly three months now but some may need to get their affairs in order in the coming weeks.
While the government may extend the suspension and the circumstances may change from case to case, some people may have to restart paying benefit overpayments from next week.
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Citizens Advice warn that repayments may start up again from as early as July 1.
It should be noted that if a claimant feels that an overpayment ruling from a benefit office is incorrect they don’t necessarily have to accept it.
When a benefit office details that a claimant has been overpaid they should write to them and give them the reasons as to why/how they’ve been overpaid.
The claimant can also contact the benefit office directly and ask them to explain their decision, as well as request any information that they think will show that they haven’t been overpaid.
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If this does not resolve the issue, the claimant could then dispute the decision and Citizens Advice detail that they can help with this.
If a benefit claimant wants to officially challenge a DWP decision, they will need to note the exact date of when the decision was made.
This is important because challenges must usually be made within certain time limits.
Before a person can appeal a decision at a tribunal, a claimant will have to ask the DWP to look at their decision again under mandatory reconsideration rules.
Mandatory reconsideration requests must be made within one month of the date of the decision.
Once a request is put through, the benefits office involved will review their decision and the claimant will receive a “mandatory reconsideration notice” telling them whether they’ve changed the decision or not.
If the claimant is still unhappy with the DWPs response they may then be able to appeal the decision to the Social Security and Child Support Tribunal.
Further information on all of this can be found on the governments website and free impartial guidance can be sought from the like of the Money Advice Service.
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