I’ve made a mistake

Hello, I’m new here so please be gentle with me.

I’m a carer for my 16 year old who has autism. I also look after my dad (he lives alone) and he is severely disabled.

I started working part time in September 2019, I then moved to another job, also part time which I left in June 2020 because of the pandemic. I now work part time for my husband. I do this to help my husband while my son is at school. I checked online and the advice was I could work as I was caring for my son for more than 35 hours a week. I now know this is incorrect.

I’ve now had a letter from DWP saying I’ve been overpaid and saying I might be prosecuted. I’ve given them all the information they have asked for online. I realise I should have notified them of my change of circumstances, it’s completely my fault. I’ve phoned them and written to them to admit my mistake and said I’ll pay it back - I don’t want anything I’m not entitled to. I’ve consulted the CAB.

I’ve looked online at what might happen - penalties, prosecutions, interviews under caution. I’m absolutely terrified. Will I go to prison? What will happen to my son and my dad? I also have mental health issues and had a breakdown a few years ago and was suicidal. I’m still on anti depressants. I’m so scared. It was just a mistake, I just didn’t think about it. What can I do?

Thank you

Hi Sarah & welcome

I know it’s easy to say - stop worrying. But you must try - lets put things to some perspective. The DWP aim is if someone has been over paid in any benefit. Is to reclaim as much of that money back as possible. That can done in many ways.

I’m not able to find a link for carers allowance overpayments. But the recovery action is somewhat similar.

I’m and sending this post to help you to stop worrying.

I will add more soon.

Thank you for your reply. I’m grateful you took the time.

I’m so worried. I’m in tears at the moment, trying to hide my face from my children. I don’t want them to be upset. I’m so frightened.

I’ve now had a letter from DWP saying I’ve been overpaid and saying I might be prosecuted

What information has the DWP provided re: over payment.

I checked online and the advice was I could work as I was caring for my son for more than 35 hours a week


The type of care you provide
You need to spend at least 35 hours a week caring for someone. This can include:

helping with washing and cooking
taking the person you care for to a doctor’s appointment
helping with household tasks, like managing bills and shopping

Are you saying you are not providing these hours. Does your son live with you. You can work but to qualify you must provide at least 35 hours. And be within the earnings limit for that year.

What information have you received from Citizens Advice.

My son is 16 and lives with me. I get him up in the morning, help him to get ready for school etc He were to be supervised -he can’t cross the road, he is fascinated with broken glass, he will spend an hour in the shower, he can be aggressive, he’s punched a hole in the wall, burnt the carpet etc I am with him virtually all the time except school hours.

It was my mistake and I’m scared. I will pay it back without question but I’m frightened of prosecution. It was just a mistake.

I didn’t realise there was a cap on earning. My mistake. I’ve heard nothing from CAB.


the DWP do make mistakes.

it sounds like your son needs more than 35 hours of care a week.

Did you earn over the earning limit?


I do earn over the limit, not by much. I work part time for my husbands business at home. For what it’s worth, I no longer claim anything for my son. This a all retrospective.

Were you self employed by your husband business. Because there are some allowable deductions.

Did your husbands accountant not give any advice.

My husband is self employed and I work for him, part time. He does have an accountant but the accountant didn’t mention it.

Oh Sarah I do feel for you. A few years ago my very elderly Mum was very ill in hospital and we thought we might lose her. The hospital was a 60 mile round trip and I went most days. With all this going on I wasn’t thinking about form filling or anything and I genuinely forgot to tell the DWP that Mum was in hospital. She was in there for 9 weeks. Towards the end of her stay it suddenly dawned on me and I contacted DWP to tell them and apologised for the delay. They wrote me a horrible letter and said they were fining me and I felt absolutely dreadful. I paid it immediately and pointed out that I DID tell them albeit late and I was definitely not trying to con anybody.

I don’t know what to suggest because it is a horrible feeling but just take it a day at a time and know that it will get sorted and you will be OK. Xx

If you worked for your husband and your husband paid you from that business. I would speak to the accountant and ask him to look into the time you were claiming carers allowance.

Hello, Sarah. Please try not to worry about this. You have contacted DWP and said you will pay back the overpayment. It is now for them to notify you of how much you should pay back and by what means.

Letters from these people can sometimes be set out in terse and threatening language. Please be aware that these people have their jobs to do. They must set out the case in clear terms because, unfortunately, some people will try their best to cheat the system. You are not one of those people; you just made a mistake. If you settle the debt, why would they want to go through the hassle of prosecuting you? You would have no case to answer in court. No judge would send you to prison, hence preventing you from either paying your debt or caring for your family, for a minor matter like this.

On the phone, they can sometimes sound stern and unfriendly. I have had experience with this. Just set out your case in a mildly friendly and factual manner. Apologise for your mistake but don’t grovel or get emotional. You should be OK.

Get the debt paid, then review your working and caring hours, and see if there is a better way to conduct your life. The DWP may even be helpful with this.

Do keep in touch and let us know how you get on.