All Housing Benefit fraud allegations are now dealt with by the Department for Works and Pensions, (DWP), although all changes in circumstances should still be reported to the benefits section at Chesterfield Borough Council. Council Tax Support fraud is still being dealt with by the council.
Failing to declare your true circumstances or not reporting a change in circumstances may lead to a fraud investigation by the DWP, who may decide to conduct a formal interview, which is recorded on CD, under caution by one or more officers from DWP.
If the decision is made that an offence has been committed, you may have to pay a penalty as well as repay the Housing Benefit overpayment. The penalty at present is 50% of the overpayment figure, subject to a minimum of £350 and a maximum of £2000, (this is called an Administrative Penalty).
If the decision is made to prosecute, you could end up in front of a magistrate to explain why you did not inform benefits of your correct circumstances. If found guilty the possible outcome may be a custodial sentence, unpaid work or a fine, for which you would also receive a criminal record.
Chesterfield Borough Council Benefits Section conduct reviews of Housing Benefit/Council Tax Support claims to ensure the correct amount of benefit/support is being paid, but should a discrepancy occur, the details will be passed to the DWP for them to consider investigating, or if Council Tax Support is in payment, then an officer from Chesterfield Borough Council may conduct an interview.
When making a claim for council benefits, or completing a form, make sure you read it thoroughly, and answer every question. If you're not sure whether you should mention something on the form, put it down anyway. The staff at the Customer Service Centre will check if it affects your entitlement. You can contact the benefits section for more information, they are happy to go through the form with you, and offer advice.
If you are already claiming, and your circumstances change, let the benefits section know as soon as possible. Again, if you're not sure that the change will affect your benefit, tell us anyway. After all, it's better to be safe than sorry.
If you believe someone is committing benefit fraud, you can report it:
By phone: call the National Fraud Hotline on 0800 854 440 (your call is free and confidential; you do not have to give your name or address).
In writing: NBFH, P O Box 224, Preston, PR1 1GP