The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is under pressure after wrongly telling a number of Universal Credit (UC) claimants that they had to repay significant amounts of money, often amounting to thousands of pounds, according to the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG).
These claimants all received Universal Credit during the pandemic, a time when they did not need to do face-to-face identity checks. As a result, DWP was cracking down on any fraudulent claimants of Universal Credit and they asked for claimants to provide evidence of ID.
If claimants were unable to provide evidence of their identity within 14 days, claimants were threatened to make Universal Credit repayments. In some cases, claimants were asked to repay all of the money that they had claimed and that figure has reached up to £13,000 in some instances.
DWP even took matters into their own hands for certain situations, asking the employers of claimants to take 20% out of a claimant’s earnings.
CPAG noted that many claimants affected had finished using Universal Credit and they were no longer checking their online journal for DWP messages.
According to the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), which has been helping some of those affected, many of the cases involved people who were unaware the DWP wanted retrospective evidence because they were no longer claiming universal credit, and no longer checked their online journal for DWP messages.
It has been reported that a taxi driver was ordered to repay £12,000 of payments back to DWP, despite uploading pictures of his passport and driver’s license to his UC journal. His claim was eventually terminated but the whole situation was far from ideal.
CPAG solicitor Claire Hall told The Guardian: “Just as families are getting back on their feet, many of those who lost their jobs when the pandemic first hit are being put through a second ordeal by the DWP. Despite making legitimate claims for universal credit over 18 months ago, people have now received financially devastating debt notices simply because they haven’t been able to comply with requests to verify their details quickly.”
A DWP representative said: “At the onset of the pandemic we suspended certain verification processes as we could no longer see customers face-to-face, making customers aware that we may return to seek this verification in the future.
“Those who can prove entitlement in a reasonable timeframe will not be asked to repay any money. We have a responsibility to the taxpayer to ensure public money is properly spent. Therefore it is right and lawful that we seek to recover payments that claimants were not entitled to.
“We have been unable to verify the details of these case studies, as we have not been provided with the required information; we can do so if this is provided.”