Universal Credit claimants are being warned of the changes to circumstances they must make the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) aware of.

If the Government believes you deliberately did not tell them of a change in circumstances in order to receive an overpayment, you could be prosecuted for benefit fraud.

DWP guidance outlines a number of changes that you should make them aware of.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

They include, but are not limited to:

  • Finding or finishing a job
  • Having a child
  • Moving in with your partner
  • Starting to care for a child or disabled person
  • Changing your mobile number or email address
  • Changing your email address
  • Moving to a new address
  • Changing your bank details
  • Your rent going up or down
  • Changes to your health condition
  • Becoming too ill to work or meet your work coach
  • Changes to your earnings - only if you’re self-employed
  • Changes to your savings, investments and how much money you have
  • Changes to your immigration status, if you’re not a British citizen

You can report a change online through your Universal Credit account or journal if you have one.

You can also call the Universal Credit helpline, though that is likely to take longer, or report the change at the Jobcentre.

You may be asked for proof by the DWP, which could include a letter from your employer if you have found a new job.

If you are unable to provide proof you must make the DWP aware, and then you will be advised on what you can do to provide evidence.

Failing to report changes to the DWP could result in you receiving a £50 fine.

Since October 2012, the DWP has had the power to impose a fine on benefit claimants who have received an overpayment due to not informing authorities of a change in circumstances.

The ‘civil penalty’ is £50 and will be added to the amount of the overpayment and will be recovered by the same method.

Turn2Us, a national charity providing help for people who struggle financially, explained what could cause a £50 civil penalty.

They explained that for a civil penalty to apply, the overpayment must:

  • have happened after 1 October 2012, and
  • be an amount of £65.01 or more, and
  • be recoverable

The overpayment of benefit also must have been caused by a person:

  • making an incorrect statement, or
  • negligently giving incorrect information, and
  • that person not taking ‘reasonable steps’ to correct the error

A civil penalty will not be applied if the DWP decides to take action under benefit fraud provisions.

The charity also explained how you can challenge the £50 fine. They said: “If you agree that you have been overpaid but you don’t think you should have been given a civil penalty you can challenge the decision to give you a civil penalty.

“You will first have to request Mandatory Reconsideration of the decision. You have one month to request Mandatory Reconsideration. You should explain why you think you should not have been given a civil penalty.

“If the DWP do not change their decision, you can appeal to an Independent Tribunal. You only have one month from the date of the DWP’s decision on your request for Mandatory Reconsideration to request an appeal.”