Benefit Fraud & Overpayments

Crystal Law Solicitors is one of the few law firms in the country who provide legal advice in the niche area of Civil Benefit Fraud and Overpayments. Solicitors at Crystal Law have over twenty years of experience in the area and have worked on hundreds of cases with an excellent record of success. We are not here to judge, we are here to give you a helping hand, be that someone to turn to. We provide up-to-date personal legal advice for each of our clients, keeping things crystal clear. Based in the heart of Leicester, we at Crystal Law Solicitors provide comprehensive, clear, cost-effective and practical legal advice to help you achieve your goals. We understand the law can be complex and guide our clients with down to earth, jargon-free advice. You too can benefit from expert legal help exactly when you need it.
We are here to help
With our vast experience there is no need to tackle the maze of benefit fraud alone. Our expert Solicitors have to-date successfully won appeals with a combined total value exceeding four million pounds and have helped avoid prosecution for a number of individuals.

  • Local Service
    Our ethos means we engage with our clients in a way that suits their needs and requirements. We offer a FREE initial consultation at our office, FREE weekly legal clinics, FREE library clinics at Leicester Central Library and Leicester Belgrave Library.
  • National Services
    With the lack of legal advice for the niche area of civil benefit fraud we offer a service to assist individuals on a national basis. We aim to make communication accessible offering telephone communication, skype, video calling as well as email. We offer national clients a FREE 15 minute consultation over the phone to discuss your case and obtain confidential, independent, expert legal advice.

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. The DWP or LA should only ask you to come to an interview under caution if they suspect that your actions may have been fraudulent. But remember, it doesn’t mean that you have done anything wrong. Sometimes it is merely to clarify confusion or a false allegation made against you. We advise and assist clients prior to Interview Under Caution and have assisted many resolve issues at first instance without benefit entitlement being stopped. Most criminal solicitors will have very little knowledge of the benefit system and cannot rightfully advise you on civil benefit fraud allegations. We at Crystal Law assist our clients and represent them at Interview Under Caution. If you have any uncertainty do not hesitate to utilise our Free consultation service for further advice and guidance.

If you wish to challenge and appeal the overpayment strict time Unfortunately, benefits can be suspended simply by an anonymous false allegation. This is not uncommon and it is essential this is remedied at the earliest opportunity. It is advisable to seek assistance immediately at this stage, as the information presented at the interview will undoubtedly have an impact of the outcome of your case. We at Crystal Law understand each step of the benefit fraud process and can assist you from as early as the Interview Stage.

When the DWP, Local Authority or HMRC suspects benefit fraud they will often suspend entitlement to benefits until the matter is investigated. Unfortunately, the investigation stage can take weeks and in some cases many months. This decision to suspend can be immediately challenged. As in many cases simple issues can be identified and remedied and benefits can be reinstated within days. We at Crystal Law specialise in getting benefits reinstated and can assist by writing to the relevant department. We believe adopting a proactive strategy, as early as possible, to ensure you receive your full entitlement.

In many alleged benefit fraud cases the DWP, HMRC or Local Authority will immediately stop entitlement to all benefits. Loss of welfare benefit entitlement will undoubtedly have a significant and devastating effect on your household finances and personal circumstances. It is advisable you immediately take action when benefits are stopped as time limits apply to challenge the decision and it is essential you take the necessary steps. We have helped many Claimants get their benefits immediately reinstated when the benefit agencies have wrongly accused them of fraud.

Overpayments usually arise as a result of the withdrawal of benefit. An overpayment decision can be issued from the DWP, Local Authority or the HMRC (or all three) at once.  Overpayments are often incorrect and unlawful. Overpayments often occur in the following scenarios:

  • Alleged excess capital
  • Alleged Cohabitation
  • Failure to notify
  • Undeclared employment
  • Disability fraud

Unfortunately, there is not one set of rules relating to overpayments. The DWP, Local Authority and HMRC all have different rules and different procedures. Many individuals are often left confused at the amount of the overpayment, the period to which it relates and what they should do next. Time and time again the level of the overpayment is often grossly inflated as individuals are unaware of how to challenge the decision. At Crystal Law Solicitors we are able to assist you not only with the fraud allegation but also with appealing all the decisions.

Having capital can often lead to (i) benefit suspension (ii) benefit withdrawal (iii) overpayment and/or (iv) prosecution. The rules relating to capital vary immensely and in many cases can be totally ignored leading to wrong decisions.
Non means tested benefits
Did you know that capital is totally ignored in Disability Living Allowance, Tax Credits and Contribution based Jobseekers Allowance and contribution based Employment and Support Allowance.
Means tested benefits
When claiming Income Support, Jobseekers Allowance (income-based), Employment and Support Allowance (income-related), Housing and Council Tax Benefit capital held by the claimant(s) is counted but can be disregarded in specific instances.
Personal capital - personal allowance Capital Allowance - 'Lower Limit'
Generally a Benefit Claimant claiming Means Tested Benefits is entitled to have some capital which is totally ignored when calculating capital. This is known as capital under the lower prescribed limit. Unfortunately, this figure will differ depending on the benefit claimed. For example for Pension Credit claimants the limit is higher than it is for Income Support/Jobseekers Allowance.
Traffic income - income above the 'lower limit' but below the 'upper limit'
Capital that falls between the upper and lower limit will result in the DWP reducing your entitlement to weekly benefits. Many of our clients hold capital between the upper and the lower limit and fail to notify the benefit agencies. We are here to provide a confidential service to advise and guide you if you have doubts regarding your capital and benefit entitlement.
Capital Allowance - 'Upper Limit'
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.

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:


Personal capital – Case study

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.


Personal capital – Case study 2

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.


IMPORTANT NOTE
Although these are hypothetical examples, these are based on real-life cases our Solicitors have successfully challenged.

The correct term for holding capital belonging to another person is "money held on trust". The DWP and Local Authority Benefit Officers are often not fully trained in determining "trust" cases and will often seek to recover any overpayment without giving careful consideration to this capital. Challenging these decisions is possible and at Crystal Law we specialise in preparing and presenting cases to argue that the capital held by the claimant in fact belongs to someone else.


Trusts - Case Example 1

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.


Trusts - Case Example 2

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 large overpayment for income support and housing and council tax benefit and notice of intended prosecution. In this case Mrs D proves she is not the beneficial owner and the entitlement re-instated, overpayment withdrawn and prosecution dropped.


IMPORTANT NOTE
Although these are hypothetical examples, these are based on real-life cases our Solicitors have successfully challenged.

The DWP and Local Authority can consider capital that you may have spent either before your claim or part way through your claim. The correct term for this is "notional capital". 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.


Notional Capital - Case Example 1

Mr E retired in 2014 at the age of 62. Mr D worked his entire life and had not ever claim 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 disabled divorced man and has claimed Income Support, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit since 1995. In 2005 his relative transfers £70,000 to his bank account. This amount remains in his account for only 5 days and 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 withdrawn and the criminal prosecution dropped. Finally he was awarded a lump sum of arrears for the period his benefit was stopped.


IMPORTANT NOTE
Although these are hypothetical examples, these are based on real-life cases our Solicitors have successfully challenged.

The DWP and LA have a prescribed list of types of capital which they should not include in your total capital. Unfortunately they often make mistakes and include this capital which can result in substantial overpayments. Our expert Solicitors have assisted many individuals who have held capital in excess of the prescribed limits and received overpayment, but after detailed investigation it was established the entire sum of capital was deemed to be disregarded. Examples of capital we have managed to disregard are:

  • £80,000 divorce proceeds
  • £25,000 Insurance settlement
  • £40,000 inheritance
  • £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.

Recently there has been an increase in alleged cohabitation decisions made by government agencies in particular with the HMRC. An alleged cohabitation from one government body can have an immediate financial loss amount to hundreds of pounds per month. As with any civil benefit fraud allegation there is a distinct likelihood that one government body, ie HMRC will notify the DWP or Local Authority and within a matter of weeks all benefit entitlement can be suspended or terminated. In the past few years our experienced Solciitors 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 excess of 20 years experience understand the appropriate routes to challenge, appeal and regain entitlement in the quickest possible way.


Alleged Cohabition - Case Example 1

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 the HMRC in excess of £100,000. In this case Mrs G challenges the decision and proves by collating evidence to prove her husband left in 2004. This overpayment was dropped. No prosecution took place and Mrs G received a lump sum of arrears as her tax credits were stopped for 6 months.


Alleged Cohabition - Case Example 2

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


Alleged Cohabition - Case Example 3

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 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.


IMPORTANT NOTE
Although these are hypothetical examples, these are based on real-life cases our Solicitors have successfully challenged.

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.

Decision Notice received

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 1 month to challenge this decision. See the process below:

Mandatory Reconsideration/Reconsideration

A Mandatory Reconsideration (MR)/Reconsideration is your legal right to challenge a welfare benefit decision. Crystal Law can assist you as early as this stage should you require assistance. Once you have lodged your Mandatory Reconsideration/Reconsideration you will usually be issued with a final decision on a Mandatory Reconsideration Notice (MRN) if the decision has been changed in your favour and you are happy with it there is nothing further to do. If however the decision is negative or less than expected you have the option to appeal to the First-Tier Tribunal. This is covered in more detail below.

Tribunal Preparation

As a claimant you have the right to provide further written representations before the Tribunal lists an oral or paper hearing. We have found that solid written submissions addressing the legislation, guidance and caselaw tailored to your particular circumstances adds substantial weight to your appeal. Our Solicitors have prepared bespoke submissions for several hundred individuals facing appeals and we have the knowledge, skill and experience to assist you with even the most complex of benefit cases.


To ensure the best prospect of success it is advisable to prepare well and gather the relevant evidence to be placed before the Tribunal. With our experience we are able to advise on what evidence is suitable for the type of appeal. We assist our clients in gathering evidence which can include; medical reports, consultant letters; witness statements; supporting letters; bank records.


Tribunal Representation

This can be a daunting prospect for any claimant to a face a qualified Judge and many other professionals. At Crystal Law Solicitors, we provide representation nationally and have attended Tribunals throughout the country. Our ethos and aim is to ensure that any client is as well prepared as possible for a Tribunal Hearing. In order to achieve this we prepare bespoke written submissions, usually prepared well in advance of a Tribunal which ensures only the relevant issues are covered at the hearing. Our team have successfully represented hundreds of individuals throughout the country.


Post Tribunal/Upper Tribunal advice

A Tribunal Decision can either be favourable or negative. At Crystal Law you are welcome to contact us to discuss a negative tribunal decision to see what, if any, rights you may have to challenge this decision. There are various options available following a negative decision including seeking a “set aside” or “seeking permission for leave to appeal to the upper tribunal”. Solicitors at Crystal Law Solicitors are well versed in challenging Tribunal Decisions and we have helped many individuals secure entitlement.


  • Set Aside
The Tribunal Rules and caselaw generally guide when you can lodge an application for a set aside. Reasons often include, your failure to attend and procedural irregularities on the part of the Tribunal.
  • Permission Seeking leave to Appeal to the Upper Tribunal If you feel the Tribunal decision is wrong you have the option to lodge a permission to appeal with the First Tier Tribunal. If this is granted than your appeal will be dealt with by the Upper Tribunal. If this is rejected an application to the Upper Tribunal can be lodged directly.

We are one of the few firms nationally with this breadth of experience to challenge negative Tribunal decisions.

Upper Tribunal

The Upper Tribunal will usually consider appeals when an error of law has been identified. If permission seeking leave to appeal has been granted than the matter simply proceeds in the Upper Tribunal. In the event the First-Tier Tribunal Judge has refused permission a secondly opportunity exists to lodge permission directly with the Upper Tribunal on a prescribed “UT1” form. We have successfully assisted many clients nationally with Upper Tribunal cases from the most complex disability matters to the most complex financial “capital” appeals. The Upper Tribunal may require you to attend a hearing in relation to your case. We are able to represent you at such hearings and prepare written tailored submissions if required by the Upper Tribunal. In the event an Upper Tribunal have refused your appeal you have an option of pursuing the matter further. Should you wish to pursue this option please do not hesitate to contact us.