Dad ordered to repay all Universal Credit he received during COVID-19

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Gary Blake, 32, got a bill of £5,000 from Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to cover the money he received since July last year when he lost his agency job in the manufacturing trade. He is now one of thousands of people being told to submit photo ID and more evidence of their COVID-19 claims as part of an investigation into Universal Credit payouts during the pandemic.

Gary, of Newcastle, Tyne and Wear, was previously earning £1,700 a month in the agency role. 

But he used the Universal Credit to pay his rent and support his five-year-old son.

Speaking to Daily Mirror, the dad said: “When covid happened, I went onto Universal Credit.

“I applied and they said I was entitled to £370 to 400 a month. That included housing costs. They later found the initial amount had been miscalculated and increased it to £510 a month.

“But out of the blue in June, I got a letter saying I owed £5,149.

“I rang up and they said I’d missed a meeting which I had not.”

Gary, who now works in a flower warehouse and does odd jobs to help pay his rent, says the DWP told him he’d missed a face-to-face appointment at his local Jobcentre.

A letter explained a repayment order had been placed on his account because of missing ID.

The document said he now has to repay £5,149 back in benefits but even if he submits the missing forms, the charge may not be wiped.

Gary is now taking the case to the tribunal and says it’s caused him severe stress.

The dad continued: “We’re all struggling.

“I had a good job and money and was never on benefits until I suddenly had nothing and had to borrow to pay for my son and food. I am already £5,000 in debt because Universal Credit wasn’t enough to live on.”

The DWP denied that Gary was asked to attend a face-to-face meeting.

That’s despite the DWP this week confirming that some claimants have been called in for assessments due to overpayments in recent months. It said that it had sent the overpayment bill because the claimant had not submitted photo ID and tenancy documents.

The DWP said that because it had not received his ID, the government was unable to verify whether his Universal Credit claim was legitimate. It could not say if the charge would be wiped if Gary submitted the documents now.

Under measures being implemented, people that received help last year are being asked to submit photos of their ID, pictures of their street and photos of them with a local newspaper to verify their whereabouts.

A DWP spokesperson said: “Mr Blake did not provide verification for this Universal Credit claim, despite repeated requests to do so online or in person, and as such we are seeking repayment of this claim.

“If claimants have been paid money that they are not entitled to, then it is right that we seek to correct this on behalf of the taxpayer, whilst also offering support to ensure that any repayments are affordable.”

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