Thanks to the on-going economic downturn and effects of the credit crunch, the government is cracking down hard on benefit fraud cases and tripling the resource that it puts into pursuing such cases. This means that increasing numbers of claimants are finding themselves to be the subject of potential fraud investigations. It is true to say that this can be stressful and worrying, but it is important to understand the facts of what is involved in these investigations, your rights and the processes that must be followed.
A number of lawyers specialise in these types of cases and will support individuals with civil appeals against benefit fraud. Some will specialise in cases where individuals have been claiming tax credits or benefits in another country, as well as the UK.
Lawyers will provide services to help individuals that are being investigated or pursued for potential fraud for Jobseeker’s Allowance, Disability Living Allowance, Income Support, Child Tax Credit, Attendance Allowance, Working Tax Credit, Carers Allowance, Housing Benefit or Council Tax Benefit.
The lawyer will seek to negotiate and defend the claim. Where this is not possible, they will seek to obtain the right outcome, such as the repayment of the claimed benefits, with acceptable payment terms that the client can meet, rather than a criminal prosecution. In some cases, they will prepare a written statement that can avoid an arrest entirely, or a tape-recorded formal interview, carried out by the police or Fraud Enquiry Office.
Individuals are sometimes tempted to break the law to meet the pressures of their rising costs or family life, where they lack options or sources of help. In these cases, bad decisions can lead to unfortunate situations. Good legal representation can ensure that the individual’s case is heard fairly. The lawyer may seek to mitigate any penalties via benefits off-setting to meet the amount of the overpayment. This process can also avoid a potential sentence and many lawyers will recommend an early plea of guilty to ensure this. Evidence of sound character and commitment to repayment can also help the individual, as can a doctor’s report showing stress or depression.
Finding a good lawyer
A good lawyer will ensure that full representations are made around the circumstances of the individual’s offence, detailing how the benefits fraud began and under what circumstances. By doing this, it is clear if the individual was struggling to deal with illness, family concerns or disability; which are all common cases. Other common situations include fraud through forced marriages, abusive partners, poor English and a failure to understand the law. Some legal firms also specialise in fraud investigations related to the NHS, such as when a care worker has claimed sickness benefit, when they were in fact well, or when they used a false name or misrepresented their practice qualifications.
Contact the experts
To find out more about a specialist lawyer that focuses in this field of law, contact Hylton-Potts Legal Consultants.