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Thread: ESA - reporting changes

  1. #1

    ESA - reporting changes

    I reported changes in April and was told that as I was just over the then £125 earnings limit and that if I had called the following week I could have stayed on the benefit... the decision maker said he would check what he should do and call me back. He didn't so I called again and was told it works on averages so as my income can vary I should be fine.

    On 17th May I took another shift and never thought too much more about it. I have now called the DWP to report the change and also I may on average still be under the threshold's I would rather save myself the hassle so have signed off. There is an overpayment of about £400 which I am happy to pay back but have been told it will be passed to Debt Management but the guy on the phone couldn't tell me when I should hear from them. I have two concerns. Will I be in trouble for reporting late? I have reported within a month so some places say that's within the timescale but that tends to be for other benefits not ESA. Secondly, will I get a fine? I'm quite concerned someone somewhere will decide to do me for fraud (I have anxiety and my mind tends to run away with me and jump to the worst case scenario)

    Can anyone help?

    thank you

  2. #2
    Senior Member nukecad's Avatar
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    It can be tricky doing exempt (Permitted) work if you earnings/hours vary.

    For any week(s) when you earned above the limit then ESA is not payable, hence the overpayment.
    The earnings limit is based on 16x minimum wage, so the current eanings limit is £131.50, before April it was £125.50.
    (The person you spoke to was wrong, in that it's when you earned the money that counts not when you report it).

    There is no actual legal requirement to inform the DWP that you are doing exempt (permitted) work.
    As long as the work is under the limits you are OK.
    But if you don't inform them and let them check that it falls within the exemptions then it can lead to problems, as you have found.

    However there is no such thing as 'reporting late', by law if you are under the limits then you don't need to report at all so how can it be late?
    Although that is a bit of a trickier question if/when you do exceed the limits.

    Although exceeding the earnings limit stops ESA payment for that week it should not close the claim entirely, unless you regularly exceed the limits.
    The DWP have been known to get their own PW rules wrong and stop claims entirely.
    (They did it with me once and I hadn't done any work for months, I was told someone clicked the wrong button?. Of course I got it overturned and ESA reinstated).

    There is guidance about averaging out earnings, but these generally only apply to self employment and are pretty complicated.
    As you say that you 'took another shift' I'm guessing this is not self employment.

    You don't say just what you have increased your hours to; but if you have increased your hours/earnings then it's probable that you do now regularly exceed the 16 hour/£131.50 limits, so were right to close your ESA claim.

    So you will have been overpaid ESA for any weeks where you exceeded the limits.
    As the OP is £400 that would say it's only a few weeks.
    All such overpayments are now passed on to Debt Management department for recovery, and they will/should send you a letter about it.

    As you have now closed your ESA caim then they will want you to pay it back all at once, you can counter by making a payment offer (weekly/monthly).
    The letter may say that they 'may be' considering a £50 'civil penalty', note that's only a 'may be'.

    The 'civil penalty' should only be levied where a claimant has deliberately tried to hide information, but the DWP don't have enough proof to prosecute for fraud.
    (Many people disagree with the DWP being able to do that; find you guilty and fine you without any actual proof).
    If they do try to take such a penalty then challenge that as well, they seem to have no legal grounds to make it in this case.

    EDIT
    If you are only working short hours/low wage then you may want to consider claiming Universal Credit.
    Try putting you details into one of the online benefit calculators and see what you would get if you claimed UC:
    https://www.gov.uk/benefits-calculators
    Last edited by nukecad; 06-14-2019 at 10:06 AM.
    I don't know everything. - But I'm good at searching for, and finding, stuff.

    Migration from ESA to Universal Credit- Click here for information.

  3. #3
    Thanks for your reply.

    Yes it's all quite complicated.

    Yes, it's self employment as I am a subcontractor. Technically, as of 17th May I have been doing 3 shifts a week but it's not guaranteed work. There is no notice period. They can just get rid of you. I probably should have called sooner but wasn't sure if it the hours and earnings would just be averaged out.

    I spoke to Debt Management who can't tell me anything as my case is not on their system but they said they would accept an offer. They said civil penalises are added in quite a lot of cases. Technically, I have been over the threshold for 2 out of the four weeks since 17th May and therefore have exceeded the limits and it could be construed as late.

    By the sounds of it, I could be waiting weeks/months for this to be resolved and it won't do my anxiety any good.

    I'm quite new here but I wanted to say thanks nukecad because you respond to a lot of people and are very helpful

  4. #4
    Just an excerpt from the application form:

    Role:

    Authority to operate via BWW as a Wall Guide

    Contract manager for role: BWW Service Manager

    Employment status: Self-employed

    Rate of remuneration:

    £65 per 6 hour session to be paid against time sheets submitted monthly in
    arrears.
    A per hour payment is made for supervision attendance which is mandatory.

  5. #5
    Senior Member nukecad's Avatar
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    Although they say that they want you to get back into work, and most work done under the ESA exempt work rules is know to be self employed, they do seem to make it over complicated and put unnecessary obstacles in the way of doing self employed work.

    It's becoming clear that self employment and Universal Credit doesn't work properly either, for many of the same reasons.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mrsnutkin View Post
    They said civil penalises are added in quite a lot of cases.
    Whether they are legally justified or not, I suspect.

    It's about time that they were taken to court/Judicial Review about these self imposed 'fines', and they are fines no matter what they try to call them.
    But of course the organisations who do that kind of thing have bigger injustices to fight at the moment. Sanctions for instance, as well as various DWP major errors in law.
    I don't know everything. - But I'm good at searching for, and finding, stuff.

    Migration from ESA to Universal Credit- Click here for information.

  6. #6
    Senior Member nukecad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mrsnutkin View Post
    Authority to operate via BWW as a Wall Guide
    Sorry, Yes I do know what it is, but it just conjured up a vision:

    "This is a brick, this is the mortar in between, here's a gatepost". Attachment 2092

    Hopefully you can see that attachment, they don't always show up for a while.
    I don't know everything. - But I'm good at searching for, and finding, stuff.

    Migration from ESA to Universal Credit- Click here for information.

  7. #7
    I can’t see that attachment no.

    So you think I have a case if they try charge me £50. Is there any chance of me getting a criminal record here?

  8. #8
    Senior Member nukecad's Avatar
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    No criminal record, it's a 'Civil Penalty' not a 'Criminal' one.
    The DWP can't impose criminal penalties only criminal courts can do that, even in benefit fraud cases they have to ask the court to impose criminal penalties. (Much like the police have to ask the courts to impose them).

    I think that you could try and challenge it through the benefits tribunal, just like you would any other DWP decision.
    But I'd have to double check on that because the DWP would probably argue that it's a 'penalty' not a benefits decision so outside of the tribunals juristriction.
    As I said above it's really a job for the Big welfare guns, it's one of those issues where the claimaint alone may get swamped.
    I don't know everything. - But I'm good at searching for, and finding, stuff.

    Migration from ESA to Universal Credit- Click here for information.

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