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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 71043
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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I was receiving Employment Support Allowance and when my circumstances

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I was receiving Employment Support Allowance and when my circumstances changed in February this year I contact the DWP to let them know I was retiring through ill health 28Feb 2014. They told me I was entitled to the ESA money till December this year due to national insurance contributions. I queried this as I said I'd be getting a pension and they said send a copy of what you'd get when you get your pension pay advice slip. This was in March when I called them. They then took me into the office in Barrow in June due to them having advice from the Inland revenue that I may have a lot of savings and that I should have declared this. I told them I didn't and signed a statement of what had gone on including the telephone conversation in March.they stopped paying me ESA in July and have now asked for £1750 in overpayment to be returned to them from the period 28Feb to 6 June and this included a £50 civil penalty for not telling them of my change in circumstances? Obviously I challenged this as I did call them about an imminent change but I didn't get my pension advice slips until after April I told this at the interview in Jne at the Barrow office. The DWP have just called me back after looking into the matter but say " i was told by the advisor back in March to send in pension slip copies and they that they told me about how much would be deducted due to my pension. Well they never said anything about deductions it was me who said they should not pay me anything during that conversation, but they said that independent verification States nothing more said during that call when that U.S. Untrue, I am a mental health patient, they said they would keep in touch constantly throughout my ESA claim but they only ever requested sick notes from my doctor? What do I do as I feel I did notify them even though my pension slips came a nearly a few months later I thought by them still paying me that it was tight what the advisor said that I was fun the ESA til December this year
Thank you for your question. My name is ***** ***** I will try to help with this.
Are you asking if they can recover the overpayment?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
No I guess the can recover the overpayment it's the £50 civil penalty I'm disputing at the moment
You are free to refuse to pay that. That is just an offer of a fixed penalty like a parking fine effectively.
The risk that is they may prosecute you under the criminal law. If they do then it is a defence to say that you did not act dishonestly.
The question really is whether you are prepared to run the risk. You would probably succeed on these facts but would probably prefer not to be prosecuted.
A few years ago they would not have pursued this but it is fair to say that prosecutors of benefit fraud are becoming more aggressive than previously.
Can I clarify anything for you?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
I expected them to have recounted my conversation accurately due to recording, but they have not done so. They have only mentioned a part of the conversation where I was to send copies of my pension statement which i hadn't received then, but which I did during the interview on another matter in June. I was the one who made the call n March to let them know my circumstances were changing and that I did not need the ESA. They said I was due it, but they Did not mention recounting all of my information saying it was independantly reviewed!
No, of course they haven't. They are the DWP.
That doesn't change the answer above. You have a right to refuse to pay. They may summons. If they do you have a defence.
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