Dealing with your priority debts

Benefit overpayments

​You may be told by the DWP that you have been overpaid a benefit, such as Income Support, and that they want you to pay this back. The DWP must tell you if the overpayment can be recovered from you and why. If you do not agree that you owe the money, you can ask for a review. The law on overpayments is complicated, so before deciding whether to appeal, contact your local advice centre or contact us for advice.

The DWP can make deductions from most types of benefits to collect overpayments. There are maximum weekly amounts that can be taken. If this will cause you hardship, contact the DWP and ask them to take less.

Use your personal budget and explain why the payments will cause you hardship.

In some circumstances, the DWP will agree to 'write-off' the overpayment if your repayments are causing you hardship. Ask your local MP to help.

How you treat an overpayment will depend on whether you receive any benefits and whether you are in work. Contact us for advice.

Dealing with your non-priority debts

Extra advice:

special rules

If your council says you have been overpaid Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit or the council say they have overpaid you as part of the Council Tax Reduction Scheme, special rules apply. Contact us for advice.

Extra advice:

deductions from earnings

The DWP has the power to recover benefit overpayments and Social Fund loans direct from your wages. This is called a Direct Earnings Attachment and can be done without a court order. The DWP have said that they will only use this method when people don't get in touch or are unwilling to agree a recovery plan. The amount the employer must take out of your wages depends upon your weekly or monthly income, but normally is not more than 20% of your net earnings. Your net earnings are your wages after income tax, National Insurance contributions and pension payment have been taken out.  If you have been found guilty of an offence, the amount taken can be doubled to a maximum of 40% of your net earnings. But if other amounts are being taken from your earnings at the same time, the deduction should be reduced so that you should not be left with less than 60% of your net earnings. Contact us for advice.


The DWP could take action against you in the county court to get their money back.

  • You will usually receive a claim form from the county court. This gives details about the debt and how much the DWP says you owe.
  • You can complete the ‘admission’ form if you admit the debt and want to make an offer to pay the debt in instalments.
  • If you want to dispute all or part of the debt, contact us for advice.
  • The court makes the final decision about how much you should pay towards the debt. As long as you keep to the payments that the court orders, the DWP cannot take most types of further action against you.

Sometimes you may get paperwork from the court telling you that the DWP has already got a court order against you for a benefit overpayment. This is because the DWP can use a special ‘fast-track’ court procedure where you do not get a claim form before the court order is made. If you think this has happened to you, contact us for advice.