I've received a couple of letters from the DWP recently saying I have been overpaid benefits over a number of years, ending about two years ago, because of a mistake in their calculations of how much I was due and therefore I must repay them.
It was their fault. I believe they added some supplement to my Income Support benefit incorrectly and I had no idea at the time it wasn't meant to be added as the calculations are complicated.
The sum totals a few thousand pounds.
I am aware of this situation from before, and I was paying back a sizeable sum each week when I was on benefits.
However, I am no longer on benefits as of a year and a half ago and am very short of money, as I don't have an income. I am now a part-time student and I look after my elderly father who is quite ill. I get by on a very low expenditure, with money my father gives me from his pension (spending about £5 a week on my groceries for example).
The letters are becoming more forthright. The latest one I have just received states:
"DO NOT IGNORE
About the £xxxx owed
We have contacted you about paying back this money
You must make a payment by xx/xx/xxxx
Please do not ignore this letter. This will not mean you can avoid paying back this money, and you need to contact us to stop any further action being taken"
It goes on to say that they will consider recovering the money through the courts or "refer the case to a private company for repayment collection. You may have to pay additional costs if this happens, and your future credit rating may be affected"
I am very worried as you can imagine. I simply don't have the money.
I don't know what to do. I know from past experience the DWP can be inefficient (even in their current letters they are commenting I am on benefits, which I haven't been for a long time now) and do you think they might pass over/'forget' this fairly old overpayment if I ignore their letters, including the one I have just received? Or will they continue to pursue it?
If they will pursue it, what do you think I should do pls?
Do you think the Balding case which has referred to on these forums, in which the DWP couldn't claim for overpayments made because of their fault, could help with this situation too? I am aware that the previous posts on these forums about the case were a few years ago, so does the Balding case still apply or not does anybody know?
I am very appreciative of any help anybody could offer please.