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Paying back an Income Support overpayment

This advice applies to England

If you have an Income Support overpayment you must pay back, you should deal with it as soon as possible.

While having to pay back money can be worrying, there are lots of ways to pay the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) - including in instalments.

If you have other debts

You should check you’re dealing with the most urgent debts first. Use our get help with your debts tool to work out if you should prioritise other debts before your Income Support overpayment.

How you’ll be asked to pay the DWP

When the DWP wrote to tell you you’ve been overpaid, they’ll have said how they want you to pay the money back.

Coronavirus – if you’re paying back a benefit overpayment to the DWP

You don’t have to make any repayments to the DWP until at least 1 July 2020 – this includes payments to debt collection companies.

If money is normally taken off your benefits or earnings to repay an overpayment, this will stop – you don’t have to do anything.

If you normally repay the overpayment yourself, you can stop making payments. If you pay by direct debit, you can ask your bank to cancel it.

If it will be difficult for you to pay this way, call the DWP debt management centre and ask to change how you pay. You should also call if you can’t find your overpayment letter.

DWP debt management contact centre
Telephone: 0800 916 0647 
Textphone: 0800 916 0651
Calling from abroad: +44 (0)161 904 1233 
Monday to Friday, 8am to 7:30pm 
Saturday, 9am to 4pm

Calls are free from mobiles and landlines.

It’s important to 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 something goes wrong and your repayments aren’t changed.

Paying from your Income Support

The DWP will usually ask you to pay them back through your Income Support payments. You can call the DWP debt management centre if you want to pay another way, for example by paying them directly through your wages.

The maximum they’ll usually take off your weekly Income Support payment is £11.10. The DWP can increase this amount by half of any:

  • weekly earnings disregard you get
  • benefit you get subject to a £10 disregard
  • charitable income subject to a disregard

If this amount won’t leave you enough to pay for essentials like food or heating, call the DWP debt management contact centre. Ask for a smaller amount to be taken each week.

The DWP can take up to £29.60 if they think you were overpaid because you deliberately gave the wrong information, known as ‘fraud’. If they’ve written to tell you the overpayment is due to fraud, they won’t usually agree to reduce your weekly repayments.

Once you’ve paid the overpayment, your weekly Income Support payments will go back to the full amount.

Using other benefits to pay

You can pay back the DWP through another benefit if you don’t get Income Support any more.

You’ll usually need to pay a third of your weekly benefit payment to the DWP. If this amount won’t leave you enough to pay for essentials like food or heating, call the DWP debt management contact centre. Ask for a smaller amount to be taken each week.

Call the DWP debt management contact centre and tell them which benefit you would like the money to be taken from. The only benefits you can’t use to pay the DWP are:

  • Child Benefit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Guardian's Allowance

They will write to tell you how much is being taken off your benefit and how long for.

Paying from your wages

If you work for a company with 10 or more employees, the DWP can take money from your wages for the overpayment - they don’t need to ask your permission. Your employer will pay the DWP and take that amount from your weekly or monthly wages.

If the DWP has said they want you to pay a different way, you can ask to pay from your wages by calling the DWP debt management contact centre.

You’ll be sent a letter from the DWP confirming how much can be taken from your wages. Your employer should also write to confirm how much is being taken no later than the day you’re paid your reduced wage.

The maximum amount your employer can give the DWP is 20% of your wages - and this is only if you’re paid £2,240.01 or over a month after tax. This increases to 40% if you were overpaid because you deliberately gave the wrong information, known as ‘fraud’.

You must tell the DWP if you leave your job and where your new job is, if you have one.

Paying the DWP directly

If you don’t get any other benefits and the DWP isn’t taking money from your wages, you can pay them directly.

Usually the DWP will ask you to pay the overpayment in one go, but you can call the DWP debt management contact centre and ask to pay in instalments.

See the different ways you can pay the DWP directly on GOV.UK, for example through online banking. 

If you’re challenging the overpayment

The DWP shouldn’t take any money from you until your mandatory reconsideration or appeal has been decided. If they do, you can make a complaint

The DWP will give back any money they’ve taken if your challenge is successful.

If your Income Support is paid to your mortgage lender

The DWP will ask them to pay back the mortgage interest overpayment if it was because:

  • you stopped being entitled to Income Support
  • the DWP didn’t reduce your mortgage interest payments when the interest rate was lowered
  • the DWP didn’t reduce your mortgage interest payments when some of your mortgage was paid off

If the overpayment was for another reason - for example, because you moved house - the DWP will ask you to pay the money back.

Usually, the DWP will stop paying your mortgage lender until they’ve saved the amount of the overpayment. They shouldn’t do this if stopping the payment will increase your mortgage debt - known as ‘going into arrears’.

If you do go into arrears, get help as soon as possible from your nearest Citizens Advice.

If you can’t pay any money back

You might not have to pay the DWP if paying any money would mean you can’t pay for essentials, like rent or electricity. 

It’s unusual for the DWP to do this and you’ll need to show it would be very hard for you to pay even a small amount back. For example, if you’ve got a mental health problem. 

You can use this budget sheet to show the DWP that you don’t have enough money to pay back the overpayment.

You should call the the DWP payment helpline to explain why you can’t pay back the debt. If you need any help, visit your nearest Citizens Advice and ask an adviser to call for you.

If the DWP agrees, you won’t need to pay them back. They should write to you to confirm you don’t need to make any repayments.

Even if they don’t agree, they still might let you pay in smaller instalments or reduce what you have to pay.

If the DWP won’t change how you pay

You can make a complaint if you think the DWP has unfairly refused to change your payments. They’ll try to sort out your complaint as soon as possible.

See how to make a complaint on GOV.UK.

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