It has been reported that in February 2023 a high court found that the DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) guilty of lying to a claimant concerning their legal rights and also guilty of keeping vital legal guidance secret in order to recover an overpayment of £8,000 from a claimant.
This overpayment was also found to be a result of mistakes made by the DWP leaving the claimant not at fault.
This resulted in the court preventing the DWP from taking the overpayment back from the mother of two disabled children. In doing so it has been revealed that possibly thousands more claimants may have been lied to in the same manner.
The claimant had made her appeal on the grounds that the DWP had kept secret its detailed policy which advises that in this situation overpayments should be waived.
Upon hearing this the judge in this case found that this secrecy was unlawful.
It was revealed that the DWP repeatedly lied to the claimant by telling her that she had no right to ask them to consider waiving the debt of which the judge found this to be ‘manifestly unlawful’.
Evidence showed in the trial also revealed that in the year to March 2021 a total of 337,000 universal credit claimants were asked to repay overpayments that were caused by errors made by the DWP.
The total value of those overpayments was £228 million.
Unsurprisingly the DWP claimed that only 47 claimants asked for their overpayments to be waived in the whole of 2020 and just 7 of those requests were granted.
The judge saying that “If the claimant’s experience of twice having her request for waiver rebuffed without consideration is not unique to her, the number of requests in fact made may exceed the number recorded ”
The truth is that thousands of claimants might have requested a waiver and been ignored or even denied by the DWP.
At the same time thousands more might not have been aware that they even had the right to ask for one.
This case shows that the DWP continues to harass and financially withdraw monies from extremely vulnerable people brazenly most likely not expecting to be challenged.
It also has to be acknowledged that the claimant in this case was extremely brave for taking the DWP to court. It’s a very difficult thing to do and her doing so has possibly helped thousands of other claimants in similar situations.
Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive.
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