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Social Security Benefits: Overpayments

Volume 487: debated on Tuesday 3 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how many people were subject to (a) a county court claim by his Department and (b) a county court judgement as a result of such a claim for repayments of overpayments of (i) jobseeker’s allowance, (ii) income support, (iii) incapacity benefit, (iv) carers allowance, (v) attendance allowance, (vi) pension credit and (vii) the state pension in each year since 1997; (249340)

(2) how many people have had items repossessed following default on repayments of overpayments of (a) jobseeker’s allowance, (b) income support, (c) incapacity benefit, (d) carers allowance, (e) attendance allowance, (f) pension credit and (g) the state pension in each year since 1997;

(3) how many instances bailiffs have been used to recover repayments of overpayments of (a) jobseeker’s allowance, (b) income support, (c) incapacity benefit, (d) carers allowance, (e) attendance allowance, (f) pension credit and (g) the state pension in each year since 1997;

(4) how many bankruptcy orders have been issued against individuals following their default on repayments of overpayments of (a) jobseeker’s allowance, (b) income support, (c) incapacity benefit, (d) carers allowance, (e) attendance allowance, (f) pension credit and (g) the state pension in each year since 1997 for which information is available;

(5) in how many cases his Department has pursued repayment of overpayments of benefit following the death of a claimant through a county court claim in each of the last five years, broken down by benefit type.

In cases where there is an overpayment of benefit outstanding, court action is only taken against those no longer receiving benefits. Such action is taken only should a voluntary arrangement not be possible, or if there is a default on that arrangement. The Department does not seek repossession of items in default cases, neither does the Department take bankruptcy action.

The information relating to the number of occasions bailiffs have been used is not available.

There are two types of actions the Department takes in county courts, depending on whether or not recovery is sought from an estate of a deceased customer.

1. Where recovery is sought from the person overpaid:

The action the Department takes in county courts to recover overpayments of benefit is to seek an Order for Recovery of Money Awarded by a Tribunal. This does not result in a county court judgment.

Between 2005 and 2008, no civil action in county courts was initiated by the Department in cases of this type. During this period, resources were concentrated on establishing the newly created Debt Management unit, with new processes, a new structure and new IT. This succeeded in increasing the total amount recovered from £180 million in 2005 to 2006, to just under £272 million in 2007 to 2008.

Some limited court action was taken by the Department’s private sector partners during this period. They obtained charging orders in nine high value overpayment cases.

The Department recommenced county court action in overpayment cases from January 2008, and during 2008 1,700 orders were sought from the court. Information relating to the breakdown between benefits is not available.

Information for the period prior to 2005 is not available.

2. Where recovery is sought from an estate of a deceased customer:

In cases where there is an overpayment outstanding at a customer’s death, or where an overpayment is identified after death based on information that comes to light after death, such as undeclared occupational pensions or under declared savings, recovery is sought from the estate. In certain cases, where repayment is not made, the Department may take the executor to the county court on the basis of maladministration of the estate. Such actions can result in county court judgments.

The Department does not take action through the court to pursue recovery of overpayments arising as a result of a payment made directly into a bank account after death.

Details of the number of cases where county court action has been taken are in the table. We are not able to say how many resulted in county court judgments, or say which benefits they related to.

Information prior to April 2005 is not available.

Number

2005-06

47

2006-07

57

2007-08

56

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what the monetary value was of repayments of overpayments requested by his Department following the death of a claimant in circumstances where such repayments were not mandatory under social security legislation and where the family members of the deceased claimants challenged the requests and did not subsequently make the repayments in each of the last five years, broken down by benefit type; (249353)

(2) what the monetary value was of repayments of overpayments of benefits requested by his Department following the death of a claimant, where such repayments were not mandatory under social security legislation in each of the last five years, broken down by benefit type;

(3) in how many cases overpayments of benefit have been reclaimed following the death of a claimant where such repayments were not mandatory under social security legislation in each of the last five years, broken down by benefit type;

(4) in how many cases his Department has not pursued requests for repayment of overpayments following the death of a claimant in circumstances where the repayment was challenged by family members and where the repayment was not mandatory under social security legislation in each of the last five years;

(5) in how many cases where his Department requested repayment of overpayments following the death of a claimant where such repayments were not mandatory under social security legislation, such requests were not challenged by family members in each of the last five years.

Unfortunately, through no fault of any individual, overpayments of benefit can arise following the death of a benefit recipient. Such overpayments normally arise as a result of the Department being notified of the death too late to stop an automated payment being made into the deceased’s account.

We are doing all we can to improve the current process. We now receive electronic notifications of death from the Office for National Statistics on a daily basis. This will assist in enabling a prompt cessation of payments following death and reduce the number of these overpayments occurring.

The Department has a duty to seek recovery of all overpaid funds where it is reasonable and cost effective to do so. However, we seek to do this as sensitively as possible, taking account of the fact that this will be a stressful time, particularly if the person contacted is a close friend or family member. Overpayments are written off if the deceased has no estate or there are insufficient funds in the estate.

The Department does not have records to answer all the questions in the format asked. However, we do have data on the value and volume of cases of overpayments where recovery has been made, and data on those that have been written off. The details are in the following tables.

Direct payments after death—debts written off. These data are only available from 2006, and by benefit only from 2007.

Volume of cases

Value written off (£ million)

2006-07

157,722

27.3

2007-08

198,516

27.4

Write off by benefit for fiscal year 2007-08 is in the following table:

Benefit type name

Count of transactions

Transaction amount (£)

Attendance allowance

42,027

-4,359,425.89

Bereavement allowance

28

-5,524.32

Carers allowance

476

-59,692.00

Christmas bonus (contributory)

1,251

-10,521.18

Christmas bonus (non-contributory)

335

-2,530.00

Constant attendance allowance

11

-1,591.40

Disability living allowance: care Compnt

10,563

-1,973,865.87

Disability living allowance—care/mob

9,928

-1,924,048.96

Disability living allowance: mobility com

3,383

-425,446.16

Disability working allowance

6

-1,044.40

Exceptionally severe disablement allowance

2

-258.10

Incapacity benefit

4,556

-737,002.81

Income support

2,012

-525,965.59

Industrial death benefit

105

-15,796.19

Industrial injuries benefit

33

-8,488.15

Industrial injuries disablement benefit

2,313

-258,131.92

Jobseeker's allowance: contribution based

2

-98.48

Jobseeker's allowance: income based

7

-716.19

Maternity allowance

1

-225.50

Mobility allowance

6

-2,218.80

Non-contributory retirement pension

8

-931.11

Pension credit

37,207

-3,800,062.84

Reduced earnings allowance

20

-1,487.47

Retirement allowance

22

-572.07

Retirement pension: contributory

83,661

13,170,990.65

Severe disablement allowance

432

-55,430.96

Widowed mother’s allowance

9

-1,972.19

Widowed parent’s allowance

10

-1,626.99

Widows pension

101

-19,124.14

Winter fuel payments

1

-200.00

198,516

-27,364,990.33

The following table details how much has been recovered by benefit. These data are only available from June 2005.

Value of recoveries of payments made after death

£

2005-06

2006-07

2007-08

Attendance allowance

2,978,730

4,707,183

7,421,303

Carers allowance

13,468

3,828

20,165

Constant attendance allowance

0

153

1,661

Disability living allowance—care/mob

1,734,359

1,557,216

2,307,649

Incapacity benefit

122,389

302,169

437,889

Income support

49,887

47,923

89,213

Invalid care allowance

84,926

609

0

Industrial injuries benefit

129,433

83,822

24,892

Industrial death benefit

52,661

28,033

34,913

Industrial injuries disablement benefit

819

148,451

315,590

Invalidity benefit

6,357

1,626

7,350

Jobseeker's allowance

406

235

146

Mobility allowance

5,269

2,447

506

Pension credit

1,519,458

3,677,487

4,614,515

Retirement pension/state pension

13,793,186

27,372,631

30,645,177

Severe disablement allowance

19,419

36,254

47,752

Widows benefit

11,467

12,020

12,604

Widows pension

0

3,671

11,563

Other

7,089

17,647

57,882

Sum

20,529,323

38,003,406

46,050,769

Note:

Data for 2005-06 are for the period June 2005 to March 2006 only.

The following table provides the number of cases where a recovery has been made.

2005-06

2006-07

2007/08

Attendance allowance

30,665

47,757

77,013

Carers allowance

252

39

213

Constant attendance allowance

0

2

19

DLA

13,015

10,987

16,561

Incapacity benefit

975

2,226

3,188

Income support

337

289

531

Invalid care allowance

3,123

5

0

Industrial injuries benefit

1,180

670

122

Industrial death benefit

372

194

209

Industrial injuries disablement benefit

6

1,388

2,839

Invalidity benefit

51

21

29

Jobseeker’s allowance

4

3

2

Mobility allowance

176

49

36

Pension credit

16,884

40,799

54,834

Retirement pension/state pension

81,948

164,060

183,242

Severe disablement allowance

124

300

398

Widows benefit

57

47

18

Widows pension

0

23

54

Other

109

562

3,063

149,278

269,421

342,371