Overpayments – Circular A13 2006

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  • #22508
    peterdelamothe
    Keymaster

    Is it me or is this one of the most confusing Circulars issued in some months?

    “At present we have some LAs correctly applying the one-month delay, whereas others are beginning recovering immediately”

    “Only a small number of customers actually appeal against their overpayment decision, so delaying recovery on all overpayments is a waste of time in most cases”.

    “Delaying recovery for one-month is sensible”

    “Overpayments for small amounts can be deducted very quickly, sometimes in one or two instalments. It is not therefore necessary to wait one month for these cases”.

    “There is no reason why the excess CTB cannot be posted to the council tax account within the one-month appeal rights’ period”.

    Edit – Mark has pointed me to para 10. I still think it will cause confusion though – because paras 15 and 16 are intended to be seperate. If you are going to hold up recovery for one month, then sending out an invoice and debiting the CT account does not seem right to me?

    #8335
    Mark
    Participant

    You need to re-read the circular – especially the last sentance in Para 10. Paras 11, 12 , 13 and 14 are all arguments that have been used for immediate recovery that the DWP are rejecting.

    #8336
    seanosul
    Participant

    It is not yet available on the DWP site, can you forward a copy. Thanks

    #8337
    peterdelamothe
    Keymaster

    Mark yes I see that now – thanks. But what about paras 15 and 16? These are not part of the “reasons” not to delay and rather threw me. It seems to be suggesting LA’s CAN debit the Council Tax Account and CAN issue an invoice within the one month so I am stuill confused as to what DWP are suggesting.

    #8338
    Mark
    Participant

    I was surprised by paras 15 and 16 too. I doubt that the Obmudsman, who has shown quite a bit of interest in this recently, would have the same view.

    #8339
    Stalbansbenefits
    Participant

    I had to re-read it a few times to realise what paragraphs 11 to 14 were all about.

    It does seem a really bizarre circular though. It spends ages stating why authorities shouldn’t commence recovery action until the period for the claimant to appeal has elapsed, but then basically states you can do whatever you want within that month except take Court Action. Were any authorities really slapping court orders on claimants within a month of the overpayment decision anyway?

    Don’t even get me started on underlying entitlement. Since when did ‘back-dating’ come into it??

    #8340
    Kevin D
    Participant

    There is one upside to commencing recovery promptly (pointed out more than once by another poster):

    It prompts clmt’s to dispute the decision quickly. Otherwise, the number of late appeals increase, along with all the hoops that have to be jumped through for a late appeal.

    However, once a dispute is received, I’d totally agree that recovery action should be IMMEDIATELY suspended until the dispute is dealt with.

    Regards

    #8341
    Nicky
    Participant

    [quote:f92b54979c=”Stalbansbenefits”]

    Don’t even get me started on underlying entitlement. Since when did ‘back-dating’ come into it??[/quote:f92b54979c]

    or advantageous changes in circumstances

    #8342
    Anonymous
    Guest

    On the plus-side, the summary of the Tribunal of Commissioners’ decision is excellent.

    #8343
    peterdelamothe
    Keymaster

    That’s when you backdate an underlying entitlement for five years but only if the customer has “good cause”, has an A in their name and Henry scored for Arsenal the previous Saturday. Sounds fair to me.

    Anyway, no need to worry about something called law or legislation in Circulars – mix and match is the way.

    #8344
    Anonymous
    Guest

    I’ve a couple more obs.

    Firstly, if, within the one month, you can debit overpaid CTB to the Council Tax account as, according to the circular, that will only issue a revised bill, etc…., what happens if the customer appeals? Are we expected to recredit o/p CTB until the appeal is dealt with? If we don’t, the customers subsequent installments will be higher than they should be so we are, in effect, recovering the o/p before the appeal has been dealt with.

    Secondly (and apologies to stalbansbenefit!!), whats all this about underlying entitlement? I know it must be considered, and I agree that if, after one month, no reapp has been made then the o/p becomes final (or as final as it can be), but I don’t see the link they are making with the DAR one-month rule? If an o/p occurs as we have amended a claim, UE has already been taken into account. If an o/p occurs because we terminate entitlement, then it hasn’t unless the customer reapplies. How does a reapplication suddenly come under DAR amendment rules?

    I’ve always been of the view that UE must be worked out whenever we have sufficient info to do irrespective of how long it may have taken to obtain it. Not really sure that I agree with the bit about it being our responsibility to go looking for this info either. I presented a case at TTS a while back where an o/p occurred following a private tenant vacating. The chair asked if I had considered HB in lieu of notice – the answer was no as there had been no indication that notice was required. However, the chair was insistant that I go look into this, i.e. consider UE, before he made a decision on the o/p. I queried this with the district chair who made it clear he wouldn’t have taken this course of action – if the customer hadn’t made requested further benefit, we don’t have to go look for it.

    Maybe its just the heat but I’m not really following this one! 😳

    #8345
    peterdelamothe
    Keymaster

    I think I would add that as UE is not an award of benefit, I am not convinced that any reference to the normal entitlement rules apply. I know we have had the discussion on timescales before on more than one occassion but we all know custom and practice differs wildly from LA to LA. I really do not think this Circular will answer those issues because (with the greatest of respect to individual colleagues) I really dont think DWP agree themselves what the law is.

    #8346
    Anonymous
    Guest

    I agree that the Circular is a bit confused about the D&A implications of overpayment decision making. It makes the common error of confusing advantageous changes of circumstance with the time limits for revision in the claimant’s favour – not the first time someone has fallen into that trap by any means. If there has been a change of circumstance in an overpayment case, you tend to find that it disadvantageous – wouldn’t be overpaid otherwise, would they? What they really mean is that the overpayment decision needs to be put right within a month if the claimant wants the amount reduced – this is revision, not supersession for a change of circs. I assume the term “good cause” is used as a Plain English rendering of special circumstances, and likewise that “backdate” is used as a Plain English alternative to accepting an application for revision out of time.

    The circular also adopts the common approach of conflating “true” underlying entitlement as provided for by HB Reg 104 with simple revision/supersession of the claimant’s previous award(s) from £x a week to £x-y a week. Fair enough, since underlying entitlement is only business jargon and not a legal term. In practice both uses of the term amount to the same thing: don’t commit to an overpayment decision until you have given the claimant a chance to show that the correct overpayment is less than the full amount paid; and once you have committed to an overpayment decision you can revise it in the claimant’s favour if new information comes to light within a month, or longer if you accept a revision application out of time.

    I’ll repeat though: very nice summary of the Commissioners’ decision, highly recommended.

    #8347
    andyrichards
    Participant

    I have not seen this circular yet but as a general observation, I would say that DWP could look at the layout of some of their circulars covering more than one matter. It is sometimes hard to work out where one subject ends and another begins. I have seen this cause some confusion, for example where some change to the pensioner regs is being discussed in the same circular as a change to the working age regs.

    #8348
    andyrichards
    Participant

    I have now seen A13 and it’s a prime example! Admittedly if you read Para 10 in its entirety the meaning of the next few paras is clear, but miss that and you’re all over the place! And this business of numbering the paras continuously through each subject doesn’t help. Why don’t they number each main heading and then number the paras in each section individually? It would make it alot clearer!

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