Overpayments may occur if an extra payment of an allowance, pension, assistance or any other benefit is made to you by the Department of Social Protection.
If you have been overpaid, the Department will inform you of:
The liability to repay overpayments may continue to exist after your death. Your personal representatives may be asked to repay the amounts owed from your estate.
The Social Welfare Act 2012 changed the procedure for repayments of overpayments. Since 28 January 2013 15% of your personal weekly rate of payment can be deducted to recover an overpayment. Before that date you had to give your written consent for any deduction that brought your payment below the weekly rate of Supplementary Welfare Allowance for your family circumstances.
From 30 September 2013 deductions of up to 15% can be made from your earnings (under section 15 of the Social Welfare and Pensions (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2013 (pdf)). An overpayment can also be taken from money that you hold in a bank or other financial institution. It is also possible that you may not be able to withdraw money from a bank account (for example) until the overpayment has been repaid. You must be notified in writing before deductions can take place.
The Department can ask you to repay the overpayment by:
When deciding the rate of repayment, the Department will look at the following factors:
The Department will suggest a repayment method that it believes you can afford. If you cannot afford to repay the amount you were overpaid, the repayment may be reduced, deferred or suspended. If your circumstances subsequently improve, you will be required to repay the amount owed at a rate you can afford. If you do not repay social welfare overpayments the Department of Social Protection may take a civil case against you through the courts system. If your overpayment arose as a result of fraud you may be criminally prosecuted (see ‘Fraud’ below).
If you received payments that you were not entitled to under one social
welfare scheme, but would have been entitled to payments under another scheme,
this will be taken into consideration in deciding how much you have to repay.
The Department of Social Protection makes every effort to recover the overpayment in full. The Department may reduce or cancel an overpayment if it occurred because it:
If you think that the Department has made an error, you should bring the matter to the Department's attention as soon as possible.
If the overpayment happened as a result of fraud the Department can take a criminal prosecution against you (even if you pay back the overpayment). The most common types of welfare fraud include:
You can read more about the Department’s efforts to counteract fraud in its Fraud Initiative 2011-2013 (pdf).
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.