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Social Security Experience Panels: overpayments

This report outlines the Social Security Experience Panels views expressed in a survey about overpayments.

This document is part of a collection


Previous experience of overpayments 

To design a process to deal with overpayments, we wanted to hear Experience Panel members’ past experiences regarding overpayments from government bodies. Most participants talked specifically about DWP in their responses. Just over half of survey participants had previous experience of receiving an overpayment (56 per cent.) 

Experience of Overpayments  %
Yes  56
No 44
Total  100

Table 7: Participants  experience of overpayments (n=141) 

Of those who had previous experience, we asked participants to rate that experience. Participants were asked “on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is ‘very poor’ and 5 is ‘very good,’ how would you describe your overall experience of being overpaid?” 

Three quarters of participants (75 per cent) rated their experience as poor (a one or two). Only 14 per cent of participants rated their experience as positive (a four or five). 

Table 8: Participants ratings of overpayment experience (n=77) [5]

Ratings of experience  %
1 62
2 13
3 12
4 7
5 7

Participant Views 

Participants were asked to tell us more about their experiences of receiving overpayments.

Many participants explained that the process of receiving and paying back an overpayment took a large amount of time. They explained that being notified of an overpayment took a long time and so to did sorting out the overpayment and paying it back:

“It took five years to resolve” 

“when they overpay you they don’t want the money back right away, sometimes it is months before they ask for the return by which time it is spent”

“Did not find out about the so called over payment until it was too late to appeal”

“many overpayments are due to failure of DWP to react and correspond with claimants clearly and within proper time scales”

The idea that the claimant was not at fault was expressed by many participants: 

“Overpaid child tax credit through no fault of our own. We provided correct information at start of claim but they didn’t take this into account!

“It usually happens through no fault of the claimant!”

“On two occasions the error was on part of DWP but it was left to us to prove it wasn’t our error. For example we notified DWP of increase in occupational pensions but they didn’t adjust DWP payments resulting in overpayment”

A common theme that emerged throughout participants answers was that of poor contact and communication. Many participants spoke of the difficulties they had in contacting DWP. Participants spoke about the inflexibility and limitations in how to contact DWP. They also told us about the high cost and time associated with the contact.

“Trying to arrange to pay it back at more than the minimum rate was a hassle. We had to write a letter in to the DWP to state we were happy to have more taken from our income support each week. I don’t see why a verbal communication on the phone isn’t enough.”

“Communication and response to the overpayment to resolve was awful took numerous letters and phone calls over a 6 month period”

“Everything was done by post it was up to us to phone them and if I wanted to speak to someone it was a three hour phone call back”

“Being able to speak to someone about the mistake that they had made was impossibe; no phone number; no answer to letters”

“they expect people to phone them – which is still an 0345 number and takes an average of an hour hanging on a phone to actually speak to someone.”

Throughout responses, many participants expressed their concerns over the manner in which staff handled the overpayment and how they were treated by staff. Participants talked about staff being rude, not listening, and about the impact that this had on their health:

“We had been overpayed working tax credits and we have thought that they were quite rude in the way they were trying to get it back.”

“Sometimes feel as though they just don’t listen.”

“I was treated very badly with the majority of staff I dealt with.”

“I experienced increased mental health problems due to the way I was being dealt with ie refused to be listened too[sic] and treated as if I was totally wrong.”

Contact

Email: eilidh.shearer@gov.scot

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