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If the DWP says you've had an Income Support overpayment

This advice applies to England

You might be able to get the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to change what you have to pay.

They sometimes make a mistake - you might not have actually been overpaid. Or you might not need to pay all the money back, for example if paying won’t leave you enough to live on. 

Check if the DWP made a mistake

The DWP might think you’ve been overpaid because they’ve got some information wrong. For example, if they think:

  • you live with a partner when you don’t
  • you’re earning more than you are
  • you have more savings than you do
  • you’re not a carer when you are

They should say why they think you’ve been overpaid when they write to tell you about the overpayment. If the reason isn’t clear - or you can’t find your overpayment letter - call the DWP.

DWP - Income Support
Telephone: 0800 169 0310
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm
Textphone: 0800 169 0314 

Calls cost up to 12p a minute from landlines and up to 45p a minute from mobiles. It should be free if you call from your mobile and have landline calls included in your contract. 

Make a note of the date and time you call. Also write down the name of the person you spoke to. You might need these details if you challenge the overpayment.

If you think you were paid the right amount

You should tell the DWP you think you were entitled to all of the Income Support you got and weren’t overpaid. To do this, you’ll need to ask them to look at the decision again - known as a ‘mandatory reconsideration’.

See challenging an Income Support decision for how to ask for a mandatory reconsideration.

If you’ve been paid too much by mistake

You should challenge paying back an overpayment that’s the DWP’s fault. For example, if you were overpaid because they:

  • made a mistake when calculating your payments
  • didn’t correctly record your information or any change of circumstances you told them about
  • didn’t put right a mistake you told them about

Carefully read the overpayment letter, or call the DWP, to find out if they want you to pay back the overpayment. Sometimes they won’t ask you to pay them back if they know the overpayment was their fault.

If they do want you to pay them back, ask for a mandatory reconsideration to challenge the decision.

If in their letter the DWP says you must pay them back ‘under common law’, you should get advice. They sometimes try to get back overpayments under common law that they shouldn’t.

If the DWP didn’t make a mistake

You might have been overpaid because you didn’t tell the DWP something you were meant to. For example, if you didn’t tell them you’d:

  • moved in with your partner
  • been paid more, for example because your part-time hours increased
  • stopped being a carer
  • stopped getting the disability benefit that entitled you to an Income Support disability premium
  • had a miscarriage - if claiming while pregnant

In some circumstances you can challenge the overpayment if you didn’t tell the DWP something or if you made a mistake on the form.

It can be hard to get the DWP to agree you don’t have to pay back the overpayment - so it’s best to get help. Contact your nearest Citizens Advice to ask an adviser to help you challenge the overpayment.

If you don’t have a reason to challenge paying back the overpayment, you can ask to pay in instalments.

You should tell the DWP if you can’t afford to pay anything at all. See paying back an Income Support overpayment for how to do this.

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