Thousands on Universal Credit 'wrongly' told they must pay back cash – how to challenge it | The Sun

THOUSANDS on Universal Credit say they are being wrongly told they must pay back thousands of pounds in payments.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has told 125,000 people that they were not eligible for payments made during the pandemic.

Rules for new claims were relaxed during Covid, suspending face-to-face meetings and requirements for proof of identity and housing costs.

The department says it is now going back and verifying claims to make sure they were not fraudulent.

It is prioritising cases that were made under the Trust and Protect scheme.

The scheme allowed people to apply for benefits quickly without the need to visit a Job Centre during lockdown.

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The government paid an additional 2.4 million claims during the early months of the pandemic.

Many claimants have now been contacted through the post by the DWP to discuss claims and given two weeks to respond.

If people fail to respond, they could face losing cash even if their claim is legitimate.

More than 14,000 people are appealing against the payback orders, Conservative MP David Rutley confirmed in the Commons.

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A DWP spokesman said it will reinstate benefits and cancel any debt "straight away" if evidence of entitlement is provided.

He added: "During the pandemic, we rightly prioritised ensuring the welfare safety net reaches those suddenly in difficulty.

"We have been contacting claimants via their preferred contact method to discuss aspects of claims we need to verify and given them two weeks to respond."

Challenging requests for repayments

It's not the first time claimants have been told to repay benefits in error by the DWP.

Mick Vokes, 48, from Eastleigh in Hampshire, was asked to repay £5,300 in benefits.

He was claiming Universal Credit after he lost his income to help cover the cost of his £600-a-month rent during Covid.

Tina Newman, 40, was told she needed to repay £5,372 of the housing element of her Universal Credit because she didn't have a tenancy agreement or signed contract.

Requests for repayments of Universal Credit or any benefit can happen for a variety of reasons.

You could be asked to pay back a benefit all or in part, if there's been a mistake in calculating payments and you are not eligible or have been overpaid.

But a demand to pay back benefits may not always be correct, as in this case, and you can challenge repayment requests.

What happens if I'm asked to repay benefits?

If you think the decision is wrong, Citizen's Advice said you should call the Universal Credit helpline or ask for an explanation using your online account.

You should provide any evidence you have, such as your tenancy agreement, payslips or bank statements, childcare bills, either by letter or through your online account.

If you're struggling to provide evidence or need help about a claim than you can contact Citizen's Advice.

You can find your local Citizens Advice here or call 0808 800 9060.

If you are asked to make a repayment, this will be done in different ways, Turn2Us says:

  • Making deductions from your benefit payments
  • Taking it out of benefits that are owed to you
  • Taking amounts directly out of your wages
  • Getting a court order for debt recovery

The amount taken will depend on how much you owe and if you're still getting benefits.

You can ask the DWP to reduce the amount you are paying back each month.

The DWP can take you to court if you don't repay.

If you can't afford to repay you can ask Citizen's Advice for help.

If you don't think you've been overpaid and the request for repayment is an error, you can ask for the DWP to look at it again.

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Turn2Us says a letter about over payments should include the following information:

  • How much you were overpaid each week
  • For what period you were overpaid
  • The total that has been overpaid.

You can get advice and support for appealing a decision for free from organisations like Citizens Advice and Benefits and Work.

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