At we appreciate that dealing with agencies such as the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP),  Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the local authority can be a daunting task. We appreciate the concern that benefit claimants feel whenever these agencies contact you.

In our experience people  will immediately worry that their benefit payments may change or stop altogether. People will be concerned that if their money changes or stops they may not be able to afford to live. This may only be the tip of the iceberg as there are various courses of action open to the agencies that pay benefits, as listed below:

  1. Re-assessment of benefit entitlement – most people feel like they end up being worse off as their benefits can be reduced or stopped.
  2. Benefit Sanction – this is where a person’s benefit is reduced or stopped altogether, possibly for a period up to three years.
  3. Benefit fraud investigation – the government has recently created the Single Fraud Investigation Service (SFIS) to investigate instances of benefit fraud. This agency now employs investigators who formerly worked for the DWP, HMRC and local authorities. The SFIS will investigate a person’s claim to see whether there is any impact upon their benefits and to ascertain if any criminal offences have been committed.
  4. Overpayment raised – if your benefit entitlement is re-assessed then an overpayment can be raised. What may seem like a few pounds per week can soon mount up, an overpayment of £20 per week is over £1000 in a year. If an overpayment is not appealed then you will always owe it, and the DWP will recover it from your pension if it has not already been repaid.
  5. Criminal prosecution – if an overpayment is raised then a person can be prosecuted before the Magistrates Court or Crown Court if the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) feel there is enough evidence against them. The Single Fraud Investigation Service submit the evidence to the CPS who decide what charges should be brought. The maximum sentence for benefit fraud is generally 10 years imprisonment.