Benefit Fraud and Savings
We recently acted for two different clients, both of whom were being investigated for Benefit Fraud. In both cases we were able to persuade the Department for Work and Pensions that criminal charges were not appropriate.
Client A had a poor credit rating, very poor. In the past he had struggled financially and had got himself into debt. He was now clear and trying hard to regain some financial credibility by rebuilding his credit rating. He was signed off work due to health issues and in receipt of several benefits, he didn’t have the luxury of savings etc, he was living week to week. His mother was selling her house and downsizing, and to help him she put the proceeds into an account in his name. It was not his money, it was never intended to be his money, but with his mother’s agreement, he did make a number of transactions in and out to friends from the money. His belief was that this would help with his credit rating. During this period he had not worked, the moneys in and out of his account were not due to salary, just playing around with the transfer of money in the mistaken belief that it would help his credit rating. He also began to act as a ‘bank’ for a few friends – with them giving him small sums regularly to put away towards their holiday. Again the full amount remained, in his eyes, belonging to the original individual, he was just holding onto it so they couldn’t spend it.
He was investigated for benefit fraud. We liaised with the DWP; attending meetings with him and providing details of where the monies were from and why. We supported him throughout the case and were thrilled to be able to advise him that the DWP had decided that no criminal charges would be brought. This process took about 6 months, during which time we remained in close contact with the client, even after the case had been passed to the decision team at the DWP and we were told not to expect a response for at least 6 weeks. At the end of his case our client was very happy with the outcome and with our involvement.
Client B was a student in receipt of disability allowances. She was due to attend a mandatory residential event as part of her course, unfortunately the event was not suitable for her and accessibility was a big issue. The week was, in her words, a nightmare of embarrassment and pain where she was repeatedly unable to participate (or worse) due to the lack of resources available to her as a wheelchair bound blind woman. She even suffered a further serious injury due to the staff’s attempts to make the venue ‘work’ for her.
There was never any question that the University had made a mistake – they fully accepted that the accommodation booked was not wheelchair accessible, that no risk assessment had been completed as regards her needs and that she should have been warned of the unsuitability of the event for her and an alternative offered or an alternative venue should have been booked. The University settled with our client for the distress caused. Unfortunately this meant our client now had a significant sum in savings, which she used to buy her own mobility vehicle for use by her carers.
Our client was then investigated for benefit fraud – for claiming support when she had savings. We liaised with the client and the DWP, pointing out the unfairness of a disability discrimination compensation payment being used to remove her entitlement to the allowance she received to pay for a carer. As we were able to identify the source of the funds, and show that they had now been spent, the DWP agreed that this sum should not be held against her. Their investigative file was closed and no further action was taken. Our client was very relieved and grateful for our assistance.
At Forrest Williams we understand that people can unwittingly and unintentionally conduct themselves in a manner which would raise suspicions with the fraud team at the DWP. We know that benefit fraud is not always intentional. In particular benefit fraud and savings can be a complex issue and you should seek legal advice as soon as possible.
If you are being investigated on suspicion of Benefit Fraud then give the Forrest Williams team a call on 01623 397200. We will work with you to get the best possible outcome for you.