A loose “definition” of welfare and benefit fraud is to ‘claim benefits you are not entitled to and being aware of that fact’. There are various reasons you might find yourself accused of benefit fraud. Providing false information or failing to report a change in circumstances (such as a partner moving in) are among the most common. If you have received a letter informing you that the DWP suspects you of fraud or a request for an “interview while under caution, it is probably time to seek legal advice.
You Have Received a Letter – What next?
If you have been asked to attend a cautioned interview it is important to understand the significance of this. This interview is as formal as any police interview. It will be recorded like a police interview and what you say can be used in court if they decide to prosecute. If you have been accused of benefit fraud a criminal investigation is being carried out. Would you go to a police interview without a solicitor? If the answer to this is no, this is the time to seek professional advice from a benefit fraud solicitor. This is a niche section of the law and they specialise in this area. They can go with you to the interview and get an idea of what they will be questioning you about, before you attend.
If Your Benefits Have Been Stopped
The citizens advice bureau can help if your benefits are stopped during the investigation. They can tell you where local food banks are and perhaps help with applications for alternative benefits such as hardship payments. Not all benefits can be stopped or reduced, even if you are being taken to court. However, they can enforce these sanctions on any other benefits you might be receiving instead.
After the Interview
Fraud Investigation Officers (FIOs) will ultimately decide whether to prosecute, drop the case or look for an alternative arrangement with regards to the payback of overpayments. The decision will not be made at the end of the interview. You will receive a letter in due course. What they decide will depend on the evidence they have collected as well as what was said in the interview. If you did take a solicitor with you it is important to speak to them about the outcome – Even if they have decided not to take any action.
If You Are Convicted
Sometimes the decision will be to demand payback of overpayments. This can also result in reduced payments or non-payment in the future. If you are taken to court the decision might be a prison term and/or fine that could range from £350 to £5000. If you are convicted in court benefits will almost certainly be reduced or stopped for up to three years. Statutory Adoption payments, Maternity or Paternity Pay and Statutory Sick Pay cannot be stopped or reduced under any circumstances: Not even after a conviction. A benefit fraud solicitor can ensure you do continue to receive any benefits you are entitled to, as well as help find a solution to what can be a very long and stressful road to conclusion – And that’s got to be a good thing!