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Paying back an Income Support overpayment

This advice applies to Northern Ireland

If you have an Income Support overpayment you must pay back, you should deal with it as soon as possible.

While having to pay back money can be worrying, there are lots of ways to pay the Department for Communities (DfC) - including in instalments.

If you have other debts

You should check you’re dealing with the most urgent debts first. Use our get help with your debts tool to work out if you should prioritise other debts before your Income Support overpayment.

How you’ll be asked to pay the DfC

When the DfC wrote to tell you you’ve been overpaid, they’ll have said how they want you to pay the money back.

If it will be difficult for you to pay this way, you can ask to change how you pay online.

If you urgently need to change how you pay, call DfC Debt Management as this will be quicker than online. You should also call if you can’t find your overpayment letter.

DfC Debt Management
Telephone: 0300 123 1030
Textphone: 028 9023 2106
Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

Calls cost up to 12p a minute from landlines and up to 45p a minute from mobiles. It should be free if you call from your mobile and have landline calls included in your contract.

It’s important to make a note of the date and time you call. Also write down the name of the person you spoke to. You might need these details if something goes wrong and your repayments aren’t changed.

Paying from your Income Support

The DfC will usually ask you to pay them back through your Income Support payments. You can call DfC Debt Management if you want to pay another way, for example by paying them directly through your wages.

The maximum they’ll usually take off your weekly Income Support payment is £11.10. If this amount won’t leave you enough to pay for essentials like food or heating, call DfC Debt Management. They can reduce your payments to £3.70 each week.

The DfC can take up to £18.50 if they think you were overpaid because you deliberately gave the wrong information, known as ‘fraud’. If they’ve written to tell you the overpayment is due to fraud, they won’t usually agree to reduce your weekly repayments.

Once you’ve paid the overpayment, your weekly Income Support payments will go back to the full amount.

Using other benefits to pay

You can pay back the DfC through another benefit if you don’t get Income Support any more.

You'll usually need to pay £11.10 per week from your benefit payment. If this amount won’t leave you enough to pay for essentials like food or heating, call the DfC Debt Management. Ask for a smaller amount to be taken each week.

Call DfC Debt Management and tell them which benefit you would like the money to be taken from. You can pay them from:

  • Attendance Allowance (AA)
  • Carers Allowance (CA)
  • Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
  • Incapacity Benefit (IB)
  • Industrial Injuries Allowance (IIA)
  • Job Seekers Allowance (JSA)
  • Personal Independence (PIP)
  • Retirement Pension (RP)
  • Severe Disablement Allowance (SDA)
  • Widows Benefit (WB)
  • Widowed Mothers Allowance (WMA)

They will write to tell you how much is being taken off your benefit and how long for.

Paying from your wages

If you work for a company with 10 or more employees, the DfC can take money from your wages for the overpayment - they don’t need to ask your permission. Your employer will pay the DfC and take that amount from your weekly or monthly wages.

If the DfC has said they want you to pay a different way, you can ask to pay from your wages by calling DfC Debt Management.

You’ll be sent a letter from the DfC confirming how much can be taken from your wages. Your employer should also write to confirm how much is being taken no later than the day you’re paid your reduced wage.

The maximum amount your employer can give the DfC is 20% of your wages - and this is only if you’re paid £2,240.01 or over a month after tax. This increases to 40% if you were overpaid because you deliberately gave the wrong information, known as ‘fraud’.

You can check how much can be taken from your wages on nidirect.

You must tell the DfC if you leave your job and where your new job is, if you have one.

Paying the DfC directly

If you don’t get any other benefits and the DfC isn’t taking money from your wages, you can pay them directly.

Usually the DfC will ask you to pay the overpayment in one go, but you can call DfC Debt Management and ask to pay in instalments.

See the different ways you can pay the DfC directly on nidirect, for example by debit card.

If you’re challenging the overpayment

The DfC shouldn’t take any money from you until your mandatory reconsideration or appeal has been decided. If they do, you can make a complaint

The DfC will give back any money they’ve taken if your challenge is successful.

If your Income Support is paid to your mortgage lender

The DfC will ask them to pay back the mortgage interest overpayment if it was because:

  • you stopped being entitled to Income Support
  • the DfC didn’t reduce your mortgage interest payments when the interest rate was lowered
  • the DfC didn’t reduce your mortgage interest payments when some of your mortgage was paid off

If the overpayment was for another reason - for example, because you moved house - the DfC will ask you to pay the money back.

Usually, the DfC will stop paying your mortgage lender until they’ve saved the amount of the overpayment. They shouldn’t do this if stopping the payment will increase your mortgage debt - known as ‘going into arrears’.

If you do go into arrears, get help as soon as possible from your local Citizens Advice.

If you can’t pay any money back

You might not have to pay the DfC if paying any money would mean:

  • you can’t pay for essentials, like rent or electricity
  • your health problem will get worse, for example if you have depression
  • your family will suffer, for example if you won’t be able to afford food for your children 

You should call DfC Debt Management to explain why you can’t pay back the debt. If you need any help, visit your nearest Citizens Advice and ask an adviser to call for you.

If the DfC agrees, you won’t need to pay them back. They should write to you to confirm you don’t need to make any repayments. 

Even if they don’t agree, they still might let you pay in smaller instalments or reduce what you have to pay.

If the DfC won’t change how you pay

You can make a complaint if you think the DfC has unfairly refused to change your payments. They’ll try to sort out your complaint as soon as possible.

See how to make a complaint on nidirect.

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