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i The advice on this page applies to anyone with personal debts taken out in the UK.

DWP Debt Management

Benefits overpayments

Benefits overpayments can happen when the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) makes a mistake with how much and what you’ve been paid. This may be a mistake by the DWP, or you may have provided the wrong information when you applied for the benefit.

DWP Debt Management collect money owed from benefits overpayments and other government debts.

What are benefits overpayments?

Sometimes you’re overpaid benefits due to a mistake being made in the calculation. Overpayments can also happen if your circumstances change (such as getting married, or your children growing up) meaning you’re no longer entitled to as much as you were before.

You may also be overpaid benefits, including Universal Credit, if:

  • You give the wrong information when you apply for the benefit
  • You don’t let the DWP know about a change in your circumstances
  • The DWP makes an administrative error
  • Information that you’ve given the DWP is not considered correctly

Worried about not being able to pay back benefit overpayments?

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What if your benefits have been overpaid?

If you don’t tell the relevant benefit provider that you’re being overpaid, you could be prosecuted for benefit fraud or fined . To avoid this, you should always let the benefit provider know as soon as possible if you think you’ve been overpaid.

Remember that the longer an overpayment continues, the more you’ll eventually have to pay back.

Dealing with Universal Credit overpayments

You can report an overpayment by signing into your Universal Credit account, or by calling the Universal Credit helpline.

If you’ve been overpaid benefits, repayments can be taken from you by one or more of the following means:

  • Making deductions from your continuing benefit payments or wages through a direct earnings attachment
  • Getting a court order to recover the debt

If you’re receiving benefits, overpayments are normally repaid by reducing your benefit payments.

DWP Debt Management and benefits overpayments

If the relevant benefits office believes you’re being overpaid (this is usually DWP debt management), they may send you a letter to let you know.

This letter should include details of:

  • How much you were overpaid each week
  • For what period you were overpaid
  • The total that has been overpaid

If you think any of these details are wrong, you should contact the benefits office straight away to let them know.

You can call the DWP debt management centre if you want to query an overpayment, or if you want to discuss how you can pay it back. Their details are as follows:

  • Telephone: 0800 916 0647
  • Textphone: 0800 916 0651
  • Relay UK - if you can't hear or speak on the phone, you can type what you want to say: 18001 then 0800 328 1344
  • If you need to call from abroad, the number is +44 (0)161 904 1233.

The DWP debt management centre is open from Monday to Friday, 8am to 7:30pm and Saturday from 9am to 4pm.

Make sure when you call them to make a note of the time and date you called, and who you spoke to. You might need to have these details to hand if your request isn’t dealt with as you’ve requested.

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What happens if I don’t repay my benefits overpayment?

If you don’t repay what you owe, you may be subject to court action. If this happens, you should seek debt advice immediately.

What if I’m struggling to pay back my benefit overpayment?

You may be worried about having to pay back a benefit overpayment. But there are lots of ways to pay DWP debt management, including in instalments.

If you’re struggling to pay the DWP back, you should call them immediately to explain why.

You may not have to pay back the DWP if any repayments would mean you can’t pay for your basic living costs, such as your rent or utilities.

However, this is unusual, and you’ll have to provide proof that you can’t pay even a small amount back, in the form of a budget. You should also let the DWP know if you’re experiencing mental health problems.

You can use the Debt and Mental Health Evidence Form to explain this to creditors.

If the DWP agrees, you won’t need to pay them back, and they’ll confirm in writing that you don’t need to make any repayments. If they don’t agree, they may still offer to let you pay in smaller instalments or reduce what you have to pay.

How long can I be chased for a benefits overpayment?

Even if a benefits overpayment debt is statute barred (because action hasn’t been since to recover it for more than six years) the DWP may still be able to recover it without going to court.

For example, they’d still be able to get a direct earnings attachment to deduct the money from your wages.

Find out more about statute-barred debts.

Can benefit overpayments be written off?

In very rare cases, benefits overpayments can be written off. However, this is usually only after a long period of time, and usually only if the DWP considers that it would be seriously detrimental to the health and wellbeing of you or your family. The DWP would discuss how they would come to this decision.

If you’re struggling to deal with a benefit overpayment, it may be a sign that you’d benefit from expert debt advice. Use our online debt advice tool or call us.

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