Universal Credit and other benefit claimants could be fined up to £5,000

Pensions, Universal Credit and other payment rates from April 2022

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Benefits fraud has been growing rampantly since the onset of COVID-19 with 14.5 percent of Universal Credit (UC) payments made last year being overpaid. Claimants could risk being charged with benefits fraud if they do not report errors on their payments or update their circumstances and details accordingly.

UC along with Carer’s Allowance, Pension Credit and an array of other benefits are classed as ‘sanctionable’. 

Sanctionable benefits can be reduced or stopped under a variety of circumstances, including if one is being investigated or has been found guilty of benefits fraud. 

Claimants found guilty can also face fines between £350 and £5,000 alongside paying back the benefits they fraudulently received. 

Benefits fraud is not always committed knowingly by benefit recipients, as it is often thought of as falsifying information in order to claim or receive more benefits. 

Whilst this is a type of benefits fraud, other more common types include: 

  • Not reporting a change in circumstances
  • Not disclosing income, savings, capital, property or an increase in wages
  • Stating false address, tenants or homeowners

As UC itself is highly dependent on one’s income and savings it is vital that claimants keep this information as up to date as possible to avoid mistakenly claiming fraudulent benefits. 

If one has been reported or is suspected of benefits fraud they will be contacted by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), HMRC, the Service and Personnel and Veterans Agency or the local authority. 

Their benefits could be temporarily sanctioned whilst they are being investigated but claimants will be notified beforehand through the post if this will happen. 

Claimants might also be visited by the Fraud Investigation Officers asked to attend an ‘interview under caution’ which will be recorded.

Anyone found guilty of committing or attempting benefits fraud could face one or more of the following retributions:

  • Having to pay back the overpaid money
  • Paying a penalty between £350 and £5,000
  • Having benefits reduced or stopped for up to three years

If one is found guilty and has their benefits sanctioned, the length of time they will not receive benefits will usually depend on how many times they have committed or attempted fraud. 

However, there are some exemptions for this, namely benefits that cannot be sanctioned such as:

  • Attendance Allowance
  • Child Benefit
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • State Pension

This is not a comprehensive list of exempt benefits but one can be found on the Gov.uk website. 

Additionally, no payments can be stopped or reduced if someone is guilty of benefit fraud but claims one of the following: 

  • Maternity Allowance
  • Statutory Adoption Pay
  • Statutory Maternity Pay
  • Statutory Paternity Pay
  • Statutory Sick Pay

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