Employment Support Allowance Fraud (ESA) – settled with £50 civil penalty
Our client was in receipt of Employment Support Allowance (ESA). She had not declared capital of more than £100,000, received after a long and difficult divorce settlement. The large capital sum meant she was not entitled to ESA for which the limit is £16,000. This resulted in an overpayment of almost £18,000. The DWP suspected an Employment Support Allowance Fraud and asked for bank statements.
Our clinet called our fraud expert Keithy Hollywood and decided to instruct us privately. We at once set about preparing her case. We took a comprehensive account of her circumstances. We analysed her finances and advised her to let us make full disclosure, providing statements for all accounts, including the one showing the capital. We also drafted a long letter of representations setting out all her difficulties surrounding the acrimonious divorce aloing with submissions as to why she should not be prosecuted..
We submitted that our client was not guilty of fraud and that at worst she had been negligent. The regulations allow at D1274 a small civil penalty if the DWP are satisfied that a fraud has not been committed.
We obtained agreement that our client was not to be interviewed under caution. After considering our representations as to the circumstances in which the Employment Support Allowance had been overpaid the DWP wrote to say that there would not be a prosecution provided our client paid a civil penalty of £50 and returned the overpayment.
Note: cases of alleged Employment Support Allowance Fraud can be resolved without prosecution if the right steps are taken at the right time. In this case seeking advice early and negotiating a settlement probably also saved our client the 50% administrative penalty offered as an alternative to prosecution where it is belived an offence has been committed.