ATLAS and overpayment creation

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  • #38318
    marcia
    Participant

    Hello,
    we’re sorting out our ATLAS procedures and I just wondered if anyone had any ideas how we can prevent creating overpayments because of the information received from ATLAS.
    Here’s an example.
    We receive a prompt to tell us that Mr. B’s working tax credit has reduced. This would usually indicate another income change, for example, an increase in earnings.
    Our plan was to amend the tax credits and in the notification letter put a paragraph which says something like.

    ‘We’ve amended your claim, please check through the details in this letter carefully and tell us about any other changes that you have not reported to us.’

    We’d suspend the claim in advance a month and a day from the date we’ve changed the tax credit so that the claim would suspend from this date. And if no reply then terminate the claim.

    What we want to do at all costs is prevent any overpayments being created if we can. (Bearing in mind that any changes that actually are reported to us may be months old anyway.)
    Apart from suspending the claim as soon as we get the CIS Prompt can anyone think of anything we can do to prevent overpayment being created, (and all of the additional work they cause.)

    #107808
    RobBox
    Participant

    Have been wrestling with the same issues. For a system that has been sold on the basis of reducing overpayments, it certainly has the potential of the exact opposite. The pathfinders, as I understand it have mostly been following a similiar path to what you suggest, writing something on the notification and hoping that they come back to them. One I know of, suspends everything when it is uploaded into the system, they got in a backlog situation very quickly.

    #107921
    karencutter
    Participant

    Good afternoon

    We are about to venture out with ATLAS here at Great Yarmouth, and i am also concerned with the creating more overpayment scenario. I wondered what other LA’s thought, and if anyone has any other ideas??

    Karen

    #107923
    nickkeogh
    Participant

    The reduction in overpayments is going to be more along the lines of the amount of benefit being overpaid rather than the number of overpayments created. At the moment we rely on customers (on the whole) notifying us of any changes to their earnings/hours etc. All that Atlas will be doing is alerting us to these changes a lot earlier than we would normally find out via an intervention or a CIS check. The fact that a claimant has had a change of circumstances hasn’t altered – only that we have found out a lot sooner than we normally do.

    I don’t see how the amount of overpayments will increase when taking the whole year into account. You will have had to create the overpayment at some point when it became evident that the customer had a change of circs. But instead of creating an o/p worth hundreds or thousands of pounds it should hopefully be a lot less, which is what we all want isn’t it?

    #107925
    marcia
    Participant

    I suppose our original worry was that we’d identify a lot more overpayments just because some of the changes would never be reported to us without ATLAS alerting us the fact that there had been a change. I know this is the whole idea, but there’s a lot of administrative work work involved with amending the tax credits, asking the customer if they’ve had any other changes, then finding out that something else has changed and amending the claim for a second time, then creating the inevitable overpayment, and finally doing the recovery.
    I don’t think the other benefits would have the same affect for us, but really tax credits change because something else has changed.

    #107983
    RobBox
    Participant

    Agree that ATLAS will let us know straight away if there has been a change in Tax Credits, and if that is a reduction, HB/CTB will increase. What is of concern is that the underlying cause of the change in Tax Credit will not be known at this point. When eventually discovered from customer, this in turn will create an overpayment, potentially a larger one taking into account the previous re-assessment for the Tax Credit reduction.

    As I said before, one option is to suspend claims at the point of uploading into core systems from ATLAS if the resulting change causes an uderpyament, however eventual aim of ATLAS is to upload changes direct into our systems and re-assess, with no touch of an assessors hand on day of change.

    #107998
    Anonymous
    Guest

    If you use Northgate the claims are automatically suspended so the user can keep control of it. I’m not sure what your point is concerning the number of overpayments Marcia – I mean if you hadn’t got ATLAS you would eventually have got an even bigger overpayment when you finally got round to discovering it, or are you working on the basis that what the eye doesn’t see the heart doesn’t grieve over? Not sure that’s quite the idea!

    #108000
    RobBox
    Participant

    Chris

    My understanding from the pathfinders is that the majority did not suspend the cases, just processed the change and collected their 1 day stat to boost their performance. That seems to be the way it is being sold by DWP?

    #108034
    guy
    Participant

    Marcia ,
    This is my post script from Merton as one of the 22 early adopter LAs. We decided that the key objectives were to update the tax credit income by updating claims as fast as possible with the ATLAS re profiles and new awards to minimse overpayments and improve NI181 Average change of circumstances processing times. Do not create work for yourself with pending ATLAS records or workflow work items for a month hoping they will tell you about changes to their earnings. The decision letter idea to prompt them however is good. Remember changes to earnings hours and tax credits for that matter are the claimant’s responsibility.My advice is stay on top of them in terms of processing, as an early adopter site. This is a peak processing time leading up to 31 July each year for tax credit renewals. But work done now on accuracy will may next year easier and future local risk based reviews.

    Furthermore, there are some subtle follow ups on ATLAS that are worth CIS enquiries, which we have found as follows since 09 May 2011, which you could build into procedures, which identify underpayments. They would need modification depending on your software. We run Civica:profiles
    * ATLAS identifies 30 hour premium in WTC, but we used the wrong inocme code before. Can we correct retrospectively to grant missing additional earnings disregard? Yes
    * Number of Disabled children present. This is an element of CTC, not WTC, so care with income code, as it should not grant disability premium, but check CIS Relationship History for the children as the presence of the care component of DLA or the mobility component of DLA wil give the disabled child premium and DLAC at the middle or higher rate grants the enhanced disabled child premium
    * Child care costs in the WTC is verification that HMRC accept the child care provider as approved and can be accepted by us for HB/CTB. You cannot get the childcare element off CIS but you just need proof of the child care cost amount.

    I have recommended to the DWP that LAs would find adhoc requests for retropective tax credit re profiles from earlier dates as the icing on the cake for reviews and underlying entitlement calculations for example. Good luck to all you National roll out sites

    #108035
    marcia
    Participant

    Guy,
    thank you for your reply, it’s nice to hear from one of the early adopters to see how these things work in the real world. I’ve passed your comments onto my managers and hopefully they’ll help us to slip effortlessly into the world of ATLAS instead of drowning under a sea of diaried claims!!!
    Cheers. 8)

    #108036
    RobBox
    Participant

    I still see dark clouds ahead. WTC change advised by ATLAS day after HMRC do it going back 6 week. L/A actions on day of receipt, creating large underpayment. Claimant tells us about the earnings change a couple of weeks later, now overpayment for period, inflated by underpayment that has already been made. Can see complaints coming my way with accusations of maladministration. :tired:

    #108037
    guy
    Participant

    Marcia,
    No problem. I hope they see the advantages of this approach, otherwise I will have to dive in and rescue you.

    What might make ATLAS much more useful is a basic course for key staff on tax credits, such as the one the Child Poverty Action Group run. This will give a better understanding of tax credit elements, calculation of the amounts for relevant periods and the timescales of the renewals process. There will be the last chance saloon deadline of 31 January too, when we may get higher volumes of ATLAS records. Then just familiarise staff with all tax credit income codes and their relationship to additional earnings disregards, disability premiums and then the follow ups I referred to in my original reply. For the ATLAS cancellations and suspensions there is a case for suspending claims to reduce overpayments. These do need CIS enquiries.

    Good luck. Please feel free to contact me if you need to advice. Email Guy.Jones@merton.gov.uk

    #108039
    karencutter
    Participant

    RobBox

    Surely if there is a delay in being told, then we would have to consider if the customer is entitled to any arrears depending on the reason for delay. Ultimately, as Guy said, it is the customer’s responsibility to notifiy us of any changes at the time they happen, so if an overpayment is created which goes back 6 weeks due to a delay in being notified, we should be able to recover??

    Am i grasping the right end of the stick??

    #108043
    guy
    Participant

    Karen,
    I take your view that we should take advantage of the circumvention of the claimant’s failure to tell us about their tax credit change (re profile) we will treat it as a change event for NI181 and reap the benefits of faster processing. Tax credit increase for WTC/CTC can be for reduced earnings and hours , but also for the award of additional elements like child care costs and disability elements too. Cases where overpayments have been created get a decision notice from us as a re prompt to check the earned income we are using and they last declared. We give them the opportunity to notify earned income now and must look at the rules on advantageous changes of circumstances, including going back up to 13 months for late notification in certain circumstances.

    Where we get lower tax credit re profiles, can be just the tougher eligibilty rules since 6 April 2011 e.g. loss of the baby element and lower earnings threshold. I think you have to take a pragmatic approach. You cannot afford to turn every re profile into a virtual local risk based review, because you will be backlogged with unprocessed ATLAS records, especially at the peak tax credit renewal processing periods like now. This would only be possible with resources LAs do not have the luxury of these days. The reminder on the HB/CTB award letter about changes to earnings and hours with a one month follow up diary event (Workflow) where increased earnings or hours are suspected is one idea, that does not impede processing.

    These issues are surfacing because the DWP has not actually specified or even recommended how we use ATLAS records.

    #108048
    nickkeogh
    Participant

    As Guy has pointed out we need to try not to adopt any blanket approaches with regard to the tax credit re-profiles, especially at this time of year. Changes now will mostly be based on the recipients income for the previous tax year and could well encompass changes that authorities have already dealt with. As cumbersome as it may be each case will need to be looked at. This would be no different to how notifications of tax credit awards and changes to awards should be dealt with at the moment.

    The only change is administrative in that a lot of customers do not provide new tax credit notifications. The increased workload will be recorded through SHBE and we will just have to wait and see what, if any, impact this has on admin grants. We consciously decided a long time ago to carry out CIS checks whenever we dealt with a claim due to the large overpayments that were being created due to non-declaration of Tax Credit changes and discovered that approx 80-85% of all claims with Tax Credits on had changed since the last proof was received. Which justifies the whole point of Atlas really.

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