Thursday, February 09, 2012
DWP, JSA and a right load of crap
Here's what's gone on.
In summer 2011 I was jobhunting and claimed Job Seekers Allowance (JSA). When I got a temporary job with an agency I signed off. I sent the form to the Jobcentre to tell them I was starting work.
Fast foward to December 2011 and I get a letter from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) Debt Management Centre saying I owe almost £500 as I was overpaid JSA because I hadn't told the Jobcentre I was starting work.
I called the number on the DWP letter but each time I called them, it rang and rang and rang. So I wrote to them instead, asking for clarification of how they thought I had been overpaid and explaining that I had told the Jobcentre I was starting work.
They replied to say they were the Debt Management Centre only, had no details they could pass on to me other than that, according to their records, I owed almost £500 and they wanted it back as soon as possible.
Another letter arrived, threatening debt collectors if I didn't pay up.
In the meantime, I'm trying to speak to someone at the DWP for some help and advice and I call the number on the letter but it rings and rings and rings. I write to them again. All I want, I tell them, is a breakdown of the JSA payments made and dates they all covered so I could see where and why the overpayment had happened.
And also, I pointed out, that as I told the Jobcentre I was starting work, then this overpyament surely isn't my fault? DirectGov website says if that's the case, the debt doesn't have to be repaid. If the Jobcentre kept on paying me JSA during those 7 weeks of temping for an agency, why were they doing so when I wasn't signing on?
Of course I'll repay it if I have to. I just need to know for sure what they're chasing me for and why the Jobcentre isn't being blamed for this cock-up instead of me? And why is it up to me to obtain details to get clarification in order to clear up what they say is my fault?
The situation at the moment is that the DWP sent me another letter saying I needed to call my local Jobcentre to get the dates and amounts of JSA paid during 2011. I called the number on their letter. It wasn't the Jobcentre. I was given another number. The Jobcentre told me they couldn't help and referred me to the Benefits Agency who were, actually, helpful. Nice lady there said she'd send me the archived file but it would take three weeks. That's two weeks longer than the DWP is allowing me to have and they have forced me into making an appeal, which I've had to do today.
If making the appeal halts the debt collection threat, then it was the right move to make. If it makes someone, somewhere, in the DWP take note and halt proceedings, it'll have been worth it. And if it makes someone at the Jobecentre admit they made a mistake in paying me money when they were told I wasn't entitled to receive it, all the better still.