DWP apologises to 93-year-old woman with dementia after demanding £7,000

The Department for Work and Pensions
The Department for Work and Pensions -Credit:PA

A woman who saw the horrors of the Second World War and now lives with advanced Parkinson's Disease has received an apology from The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) after they demanded that she repay over £7,000. The elderly woman was told to return the funds she had received as part of the severe disability premium of Pension Credit from 2019 to 2022.

This situation arose when the woman's daughter, Rose Chitseko, who previously worked in adult social care, started receiving Carer's Allowance in 2019 due to her mother's inability to look after herself. According to the regulations, this made Rose's mother ineligible for the disability premium.

The DWP claimed that the nonagenarian "failed" to inform them of the change in circumstances, leading to what they considered a fraudulent claim of benefits. Rose contested the allegation, arguing that her mother's severe health condition prevented her from reporting the changes. Despite this, the DWP dismissed the appeal and proceeded with the recovery of the funds, reports the Mirror.

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The Guardian first highlighted the case as part of its probe into Carer's Allowance overpayments, and Rose has now confirmed to the paper that the owed amounts have been cancelled. She and her mother received an apology from the Government department.

Speaking to the Guardian, Rose expressed her dissatisfaction: "They apologise, which is something, but they don't explain why they took the money in the first place. It's frustrating that they don't explain. They give me a number to call for information but if they don't want to say anything they're not going to say anything."

Previously, Rose's mother was repaying substantial sums each month from her pension and life savings, amounting to a third of her life savings. Relieved that her mother's struggle has ended, Rose shared with the Guardian her concerns about the DWP's lack of discretion in handling the situation.

She remarked: "Here you had an elderly lady whose powers were declining ... if that's not a case for discretion, what is? ".

A DWP spokesperson commented on the matter to the Guardian, stating: "Following a review of the case, we have cancelled the overpayment and apologise [to the claimant] for any distress. We will refund all repayments already made."

The case was highlighted during the Guardian's investigation into overpayments of Carer's Allowance. The newspaper reported last month that "tens of thousands" of individuals, primarily from low-income households caring for ill and disabled relatives, are being compelled to repay their benefits after breaching the benefit's employment rules.

Carer's Allowance is valued at £81.90 per week and is granted if you provide care for someone for at least 35 hours a week. While claiming, you can work but your earnings must not exceed £151 per week after tax, National Insurance, pension contributions, and allowable expenses.

If your earnings fluctuate weekly or monthly, your average earnings are used to determine your eligibility for Carer's Allowance. If your earnings surpass the limit - even by just £1 - you forfeit your entitlement to Carer's Allowance.

Carers have previously expressed that the rules regarding earnings can be perplexing - especially if your hours vary, or your pay increases. The Guardian states that "most" of the overpayment cases were "genuine mistakes" made by the claimant, with the National Audit Office reporting that less than 10% of Carer's Allowance overpayments were fraudulent.