House of Commons Papers
Management of Benefit Overpayment Debt
HC 294, Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General, Session 2008-2009
- National Audit Office (NAO)
- TSO (The Stationery Office)
The Department for Work and Pensions (the Department) increased recoveries of benefit overpayments from £180 million in 2005-06 to £272 million in 2007-08, and preliminary results suggest that the Department has achieved its recovery target of £279 million for 2008-09.
However, recoveries are not keeping pace with the rate of increase in identified overpayments. In 2007-08, £106 billion of benefit payments were made directly by the Department to customers. In the same period 1.3 million overpayments were identified, totalling £558 million, exceeding recoveries made of £272 million. The stock of debt therefore increased by some 7% - from £1.67 billion to £1.8 billion.
The National Audit Office (NAO) report also found that the Department recovers about £3 for every £1 spent on debt recovery operations, though recoveries in 2007-08 represent only some 15% of the identified debt outstanding by the end of the year.
The Department's ability to accelerate recovery is restricted by a number of factors, including limitations on the amount that can be deducted weekly from customers' benefits payments under Social Security legislation, and difficulties in tracing some customers who are no longer on benefits.
The NAO recommends that the Department:
pilot increased use of customer contact methods - such as texting - to encourage prompter notification of changes in circumstances that affect benefit entitlement;
use risk profiles for customer groups to better target debt collection activities;
seek more information, for example proof of earnings, when negotiating repayment plans with 'off benefit' debtors; and
enhance performance indicators to monitor the performance of debt collection operations.
|Format||Paperback||Published||01 May 2009|
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