The Chair of the Work and Pensions committee, Rt Hon Frank Field MP has called for an urgent inquiry into overpayment of Carers’ Allowance after it was revealed up to 1,000 carers face prosecution.Advertisement
One man from Leyland faces losing his home after he was wrongly paid more than £19,000 and was convicted of benefit fraud, the BBC reports.
In a letter to the National Audit Office, Mr Field said: “It is deeply concerning that the department has allowed such eye-wateringly large overpayments – nearly £50,000 at the top of the range.
“More than just oversight, these figures suggest that systemic failings or gross incompetence – or a combination of the two – are at play.
“It is carers who will bear the brunt of these failings, as the department seeks to claw back the money from people who can ill afford to lose it.”
Carers’ Allowance is administered from Duchy House, Preston, but in October The Guardian reported 10,000 carers could face fines with a further 1,000 facing prosecution as a result of overpayments made by the DWP.
Many were unaware the allowance is means tested and were unaware of the requirement to notify the DWP of a change in their work or income.
Figures from the DWP reveal £700m has been overpaid in Carers Allowance in the last five years.
Following the report Mr Field wrote to the permanent secretary Peter Schofield seeking clarification of the sums involved and methods used to assess recipients for repayment of Carers’ Allowance.
On November 27 he received a response which revealed overpayments ranged from £65.20 to £48,560.30 – prompting Mr Field to call for an urgent inquiry.
The DWP has access to HMRC records which contain details of claimants income.
However changes in the way data is matched has resulted in some overpayments going undetected for many years, resulting in large overpayments and carers facing proceeds of crime procedures to reclaim the money.
Read more: DWP disputes overpayments were due to staffing cuts in Preston
The National Audit Office announced on Wednesday (19 December) it would be conducting an enquiry into the overpayments during the Spring of 2019.