The Secretary of State has a duty to protect public funds and to ensure, wherever possible, that a benefit overpayment is recovered. Discretion is exercised where it is not cost-effective to recover an overpayment, or where recovery would cause undue hardship, and is subject to guidelines from Her Majesty’s Treasury.
Yes, I accept that completely, but since April it has been possible to recover benefit at a rate of 40% from jobseeker’s allowance. There is much evidence that that is becoming the normal figure. There is no appeal, and on review, people are being told that even if they do not have enough money to eat, that is not a sufficient reason to be able to appeal against the benefit recovery. Will the Minister ask his officials to look seriously at this issue and how it is affecting the poorest people?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question, and I know he has been tenacious in working in this area, particularly on behalf of a number of his residents. There is discretion in the system applied to repayment rates, but the claimant must prove that there is genuine hardship and talk to the debt management team. There is an appeals process, but I will look further into it further.