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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 71050
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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My ex wife has received a letter from the job centre asking

Customer Question

My ex wife has received a letter from the job centre asking her to attend an interview under caution. She is obviously scared about this and I am hoping to find some advice for her so that she knows what to expect. We can only put this down to one thing. Her mother passed away last May and the money she left was paid in to my bank account (my ex wife does not have a bank account). My ex wife's mother had always made it clear that on her passing she wanted her money to go to her grandchildren and so this has been done by me in honour of her wishes. This money has not gone to my ex wife as she also insisted the money was split between the children. There is a house that now belongs to my ex wife. There has been no income received from this and the house has not yet been emptied to sell as my ex is finding it difficult to do this at the moment as it was her family home since she was a baby. My ex wife has never committed any previous offences and has a clean record. Can you tell me where she stands on this and what is her best course of action. She is scared that she will be sent to prison. Your advice would be very, very appreciated. Kind regards
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Jo C. replied 4 years ago.

Thank you for your question. My name is Jo and I will try to help with this.

What would you like to know about this?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
I need to know as much as possible and to see what sort of trouble she could be in
Expert:  Jo C. replied 4 years ago.
okay. Thanks.

So what is your question about this?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
I included all the detail in my first text. What is likely to happen to her based on this information?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
I have already asked the questions in previous text.
Expert:  Jo C. replied 4 years ago.
What benefits is she on and how much was the sum of money left by her mother?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Housing benefits and income support and also child tax credits. Approx £29,000 was left and this has gone to the grandchildren as per her wishes.
Expert:  Jo C. replied 4 years ago.
Ok. Thats a problem.

When did she die?

What is the date of the letter?

How much did your wife get per month roughly?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
She died mid May 2013. The letter was received today with the meeting to be held on 18 March. Housing benefit was approx £420, income support about £45/week and child tax credits about £103/ week.
Expert:  Jo C. replied 4 years ago.

On my very calculations that would make the benefit overpayment about £9k.

Obviously this does depend upon this being the issue. It might be that they have recevied some entirely different information. These anonymous reporting lines do encourage nonsense reports so it might be a wild goose chase.

If this is the issue though, then they were entitled to be told about this. Even if the transfer was genuinely to you they should still have been told. You are her former husband and you have children. But, in any event, they will be saying that the transfer was a deliberate attempt to avoid the money reaching her and therefore an attempt to defraud the system I'm afraid.

Even if the money was passed directly to the children, they were still entitled to be told. It used to be that you could keep claiming benefits and hold money in trust for your children but that has been plugged up now.

This is not the worst overpayment in the world but it is over the cut off point where most councils will just allow you to repay. With a £9k overpayment they are likely to be looking to offer an internal caution or prosecution.

In fairness, she wouldn't get very much at court. Probably a fine or a low level community order but obviously the compensation order.

It would be very good mitigation to make repayments on the overpayment.

However, with benefit interviews its always a good idea to offer a no comment interview until you have ascertained what the actual allegation is. It might be something entirely different.

I'm sorry this isn't the answer you wanted but it is the position that you face and I have a duty to inform you truthfully.

Hope this helps. Please let me know if you need more information.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
I am not sure I fully understand. Whilst the money has been distributed under direct the wishes of my children's grandmother (there are 7 grandchildren by the way) I would be more than willing to pay any balance they say is due. She is the mother of my children and I will do all I can to help. Will this help in any way. She honestly thought she was doing the right thing by her mother and children. She signed off carer's allowance immediately and was told when she did this that all relevant authorities would be informed. She didn't know there was anything else she needed to do.
Expert:  Jo C. replied 4 years ago.
They will be saying that she wasn't entitled to the benefits she received during this period which would be approximately £9k as she received roughly £1k a month for 9 months.

If she can convince them that it was an honest mistake then they should not prosecute but obviously whether they will accept that is another matter.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Not only was it an honest mistake she was only carrying out her mothers direct wishes. She really thought she was doing the right thing. This has knocked her for six. She has never done anything dishonest and has no criminal record. She is fearing prison.
Expert:  Jo C. replied 4 years ago.
That won't happen for an overpayment of £9k on a first offence.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Will it help that she will be able to pay this through me and not drag payments out? She is also fearing embarrassment for our children if it gets in the papers. Can this be avoided?
Expert:  Jo C. replied 4 years ago.
Not really.

Its always a double edged sword with benefit fraud. If you can repay it immediately then it gives rise to the inference that you didn't need benefits although I suppose that can be explained here.

I'm afraid that there is no way of preventing the press from reporting this if they want to. The children won't be named obviously.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Ok. I guess the children not being named will not shelter them from the embarrassment. Should she take legal representation to the meeting or will this be viewed negatively?
Expert:  Jo C. replied 4 years ago.
No, she should take legal representation.

You don't always get legal aid for a DWP interview now but she should certainly try.

Apart from anything else you want to find out what the allegation is.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Will we find this out in advance? I can pay for legal representation for her.
Expert:  Jo C. replied 4 years ago.
No, its disclosed on the day.

If you have a solicitor then it should be disclosed to them. If not then you will find out about it in interview which is obviously a disadvantage.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Ok thank you for your help. We will speak with a solicitor on Monday.
Expert:  Jo C. replied 4 years ago.
No problem and all the best.

Remember that I am always available to help with your questions. Even if I am in Court I will usually pick up a question within 12 hours. For future information, please start your question with ‘For Jo C’. You can also bookmark my profile