Priority Debts

Benefits Overpayments

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) may say that you have been overpaid a benefit, such as Universal Credit or Personal Independence Payment. This could be because you provided incorrect information when you made your claim, you failed to report a change of circumstances, or because the DWP has made a mistake.

Benefit overpayments are usually a priority debt because the DWP has strong powers to recover the money even without a court order.
What can I do?

  • Contact the DWP or our adviceline to check that the overpayment amount is correct. If you believe the decision is incorrect, you can challenge the decision by requesting a Mandatory Reconsideration within 1 month of the date on the letter telling you that you have been overpaid.
  • Find out how much you can afford to repay and make the offer to the DWP. You can do this by working out all of the money you have coming in and the money you have to pay out for essentials. You can use your bank statements and any bills and any benefit letters to help you work out how much you can afford to pay. You can also work out your budget by going to and clicking on "Your budget". When you have filled in your budget, go to Step 2. You can then send a copy of your budget and make an affordable offer to the DWP. If the DWP is taking money from your benefit or wages check whether you can afford this. If the amount they are taking causes you hardship contact the DWP and explain why.
  • Contact the adviceline for further advice and support if you are threatened with court action or receive court papers. Contact us at the Advice line on or book an appointment with one of our Advisers using this link for further advice and help.

The rules are different if you have been overpaid Housing Benefit. Please visit the Housing Benefit Overpayment section for more information.
What can the DWP do if I have an overpayment?
To recover the money the DWP will send a letter confirming the amount of the overpayment and the reason for it. They can take the following action to recover the money:

  • Take money directly from most benefit awards.
  • Tell your employer to take money directly from your wages.
  • Get an order in the County Court which lets them use enforcement, such as bailiffs to try and take your goods or a charging order to secure the debt against property you own. This could put your property at risk. A charging order cannot be made against a property that you rent.

When you make an offer to repay, the DWP will assess your case and can reduce the amount you repay each month or 2 weeks, based on your financial circumstances.

Our Debt information has been developed in partnership with The Money Advice Trust.

Date modified: September 22 2021 | Date created: June 17 2021

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