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Have you been accused of benefit fraud? Are you facing an interview under caution?
At Crystal Law, we offer non-judgemental and transparent legal advice to those facing benefit fraud investigation. We work to support each of our clients through every stage of the process, including providing specialist advice and assistance prior to Interview Under Caution.
Our aim is to resolve issues in the first instance to avoid benefit entitlement being stopped.
Some questions we are frequently asked are:
Why am I being interviewed under caution?
An interview under caution is often the first step taken by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) or Local Authority (LA) when investigating suspected benefit fraud. You should only be asked to come to an interview under caution if you are suspected of fraudulent actions.
Remember, the interview is merely for clarification on confusion or a false allegation; it doesn't mean that you have done anything wrong.
Do I need a criminal or civil law solicitor?
Most criminal solicitors will have very little knowledge of the social welfare benefit system and cannot rightfully advise you on civil benefit fraud allegations. Here, at Crystal Law, we have specialist civil law solicitors and can assist our clients in all benefit matters, including representing them at Interview Under Caution.
For expert advice on benefit fraud allegations, contact our specialist team.
Will my current benefit entitlement stop if I've been accused of benefit fraud?
In many alleged benefit fraud cases, the DWP, HMRC or Local Authority will immediately stop entitlement to all benefits, which will undoubtedly have a significant and devastating impacts on your finances and personal circumstances. It is advisable that you immediately take action when benefits are stopped, as time limits for challenging the decision apply.
We have helped many claimants get their benefits immediately reinstated when they have been wrongly accused of fraud.
Having capital can often lead to benefit suspension, withdrawal, overpayment, and/or prosecution. The rules relating to capital vary immensely and, in many cases, can be totally ignored, leading to wrong decisions.
At Crystal Law, we break down information so that it is clear and our clients are given guidance so that they understand their rights and entitlements.
Non means-tested benefits
Examples of non-means-tested benefits, where capital is totally ignored, are:
Disability living allowance
Contribution based jobseekers allowance
Contribution based employment and support allowance
Examples of means-tested benefits, where capital is typically counted, though it can be disregarded in some instances, are:
Income-based jobseekers allowance
Income-based employment and support allowance
Council tax benefit
Personal capital - personal allowance Capital Allowance - 'Lower Limit'
Generally, those claiming means-tested benefits are entitled to have some capital, which is usually ignored when calculating capital. This is known as capital under the lower prescribed limit. The allowed figure will differ depending on the claimed benefit. For example, pension credit claims have a higher limit than those claiming income support/jobseekers allowance.
Traffic income - income above the 'lower limit' but below the 'upper limit'
If the amount of capital falls between the upper and lower limit, DWP will reduce your entitlement to weekly benefits. Many of our clients hold this capital and fail to notify benefits agencies, we provide a confidential service to advise and guide you if you have doubts about your capital and benefit entitlement.
Capital Allowance - 'Upper Limit'
If you hold capital over a specified amount, you will have no entitlement to various benefits. The upper limit varies depending on the benefit. Pension credit does not have an upper limit.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Although these are hypothetical examples, these are based on real-life cases our Solicitors have successfully challenged.
Capital over a specified amount will withdraw entitlement to various benefits immediately. The upper limit varies between different benefits. Pension Credit does not have an upper limit. Below are some case studies of how excess capital can be challenged:
Mrs A claims Employment Support Allowance (income-related) and has £20,000 capital. She does not declare any of her savings as she saved these over many years. DWP receive notification of this capital and suspend her benefits including housing benefit and council tax benefit. Mrs A receives an overpayment of ESA and housing benefit in excess of £40,000.
Although, Mrs A accepts she held capital, she disagrees with the level of the overpayment and the calculations.
In this case, after appealing, the eventual overpayment was reduced to less than £10,000 (25% of the amount originally claimed) having applied diminishing capital rules. This was done without the need to attend Tribunal.
Mr B claims Jobseekers allowance (income-based) and has £20,000 capital and has claimed benefits since the 1990s. He does not declare any of his savings.
DWP receive information regarding this capital and suspend his benefits including housing benefit and council tax benefit. Mr B receives an overpayment of JSA over £70,000 and housing benefit in excess of £100,000.
Although, Mr B accepts he held capital, he disagrees with the level of the overpayment and the calculations.
In this case the eventual overpayment was reduced to less than £6,000 having applied diminishing capital rules. This was done without the need to attend Tribunal
Formerly known as 'money held on trust', the DWP and LA benefit officers are often not fully trained on determining 'trust' cases, and may seek to recover overpayment without giving careful consideration to this capital. Here at Crystal Law, we specialise in preparing and presenting cases to challenge these decisions.
Mr C claims income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit and has claimed these since 2000. In 2003 he was given £20,000 from his brother to hold for a business venture. The business did not commence and the money returned. Mr C receives an overpayment in excess of £110,000 for income support and is facing criminal prosecution. All his benefits stop.
In this case Mr C attends tribunal and establishes that he is not the legal or beneficial owners of this capital and his income support is reinstated and he is not liable for any overpayments (£110,000.00) and his criminal prosecution is withdrawn.
Mrs D claims income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit and has claimed these since 2003. She has never had any savings or capital until 2010. In 2014 her 22 year old daughter began to deposit £500 into her account. This was given to hold as her daughter was irresponsible with money and wanted to save for her forthcoming wedding. By 2017 this amounted to £18,000.00. Mrs D never spends any of this money. Mrs D receives a large overpayment for income support, housing and council tax benefit as well as a notice of intended prosecution.
In this case Mrs D can prove she is not the beneficial owner and the entitlement is re-instated, the overpayment withdrawn and prosecution is dropped.
Notional capital (Capital that no long exists)
You may think that capital that you have already spent prior to your claim is exempt, but the DWP and LA can consider this. There are rules the DWP must satisfy before they can decide on 'notional capital'.
Over the years, our Expert Solicitors have successfully assisted many individuals faced with allegations of notional capital. Some examples are provided below.
Mr E retired in 2014 at the age of 62. Mr D worked his entire life and had never claimed any welfare benefits. Mr E has 4 daughters and 3 are married. He paid £30,000.00 to each for their wedding. Upon retirement he was handed £50,000.00 as a lump sum towards his private pension and receives a weekly amount.
£30,000.00 paid towards his youngest daughter's wedding; £10,000.00 paid on home improvements and £5,000 donated to charity.
£5,000 remaining. Between 2014 – 2017 he spent this remaining £5,000.
In 2017 Mr E applies for Pension Credit and Council Tax Benefit and is refused on the grounds he has "notional capital" amounting to £50,000 despite no longer having this money.
In this case Mr E challenges the decision and proves he did not spend £50,000 in order to claim benefits and his claim for Pension Credit and Council Tax Benefit is allowed.
Mr F is a disabled divorced man and has claimed Income Support, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit since 1995. In 2005 his relative transferred £70,000 to his bank account. This amount remains in his account for only 5 days, it is returned, and he does not spend any of it. In 2016 the DWP are made aware of this Capital and deem it to be "Notional Capital" from 1995, resulting in a massive overpayment.
In this case Mr F challenges the decision at Tribunal, and proves he was not the lawful owner of the capital, and it should therefore not be included as his "notional capital" and his benefits are reinstated; the overpayment is withdrawn and the criminal prosecution dropped. Finally, he was awarded a lump sum of arrears for the period his benefit was stopped.
Disregarded capital (Money which cannot be included)
The DWP and LA have a list of types of capital which can not be included in your total capital. Unfortunately, they often make mistakes often resulting in substantial overpayments.
We have assisted many individuals who have held capital in excess of the limits and received overpayment; however, after investigation it was established the entire sum was deemed to be disregarded.
Examples of capital we have managed to disregard are:
£80,000 Divorce proceeds
£25,000 Insurance settlement
£65,000 Adoption payments
In each of these cases we were able to get benefit entitlement reinstated with lump sum arrears payments as well as having criminal prosecutions dropped.
In recent years, there has been an increase in alleged cohabitation decisions made by government agencies, particularly the HMRC. An alleged cohabitation from one body can have a profound effect and, as with any civil benefit fraud allegation, there is a distinct likelihood that they will notify other government bodies
i.e. HMRC will notify the DWP or LA
For the claimant, this means that within weeks, all benefit entitlement can be suspended or terminated.
In the past few years, our experienced solicitors have advised hundreds of clients, locally and nationally on how to tackle an allegation of cohabitation and how to ensure benefit entitlement remains.
Our solicitors with over 20 years of experience, understand the appropriate routes to challenge, appeal, and regain entitlement in the quickest possible way.
Mrs G separated from her husband in 2004 and he left the marital home, leaving her with 3 children to raise. Her husband’s name remained on many household bills and on the mortgage as she simply did not remove them. Mrs G receives an overpayment from HMRC in excess of £100,000.
In this case Mrs G challenges the decision and proves it by collating evidence to show her husband left in 2004. This overpayment was then dropped. No prosecution took place, and Mrs G received a lump sum of arrears as her tax credits were stopped for 6 months.
Miss H separated from her husband in 2014 following domestic abuse. She later enters into a relationship. Her new boyfriend pays for broadband at her property despite living elsewhere. Miss H has her tax credits terminated and receives an overpayment.
In this case Miss H repeatedly tries to resolve the tax credit matter without any luck. She instructs us and we immediately advise her on how to reinstate entitlement and challenge the negative decisions. Within a matter of weeks all entitlement was reinstated along with a lump sum.
Mrs I separated from her husband in 2016. She immediately makes a claim for tax credits. This claim is refused as her husband’s details remain on the property. She then struggles for over 4 months to get tax credits paid.
In this case she instructs us and we immediately advise her on how to reinstate entitlement and challenge the negative decisions. Within a matter of weeks all entitlement was paid with a lump sum.
Many decisions removing entitlement to disability are incorrect, leading to grossly inflated overpayments, often with little or no credible evidence. We specialise in tackling these types of cases and have an excellent success rate.
A benefit agency will usually issue a decision notice which removes entitlement from a specific date or in some cases right from the outset of the claim.
You will have only 1 month to challenge this decision.