Interview under caution: jargon buster
Most towns have advice centres such as Citizens Advice Bureaux, (CAB) or independent advice centres (often these are in community centres). Unlike some other professional help, help from an advice centre should always be free. If you go for advice, take this guide with you as it will help them to know what you need them to do. They will only go with you to an interview if they have experienced staff available but can help you to prepare before, and sort out what to do afterwards.
Someone appointed by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to claim and manage benefits or pension on behalf of someone who can’t do it for themselves.
The caution at the start of an interview explains your rights during that interview. It is different from a police caution or a formal caution.
A section of your local council, or local authority (LA), pays benefits such as Council Tax Benefit and Housing Benefit.
If the DWP/council decides to prosecute you, your case will go to court. Less serious cases go to the magistrates' court, but more serious ones to the crown court where the judge can sentence you to a stronger punishment if they decide you are guilty.
DWP (Department for Work and Pensions)
The DWP, including Job Centre Plus, used to be called the Benefits Agency (BA) or the DSS (Department of Social Security). They pay most benefits, but don’t pay Housing and Council Tax benefits, tax credits or Child Benefit.
If the DWP believe they have enough evidence to prosecute you they may offer you this instead. If you accept it means you are signing to say you agree that you are guilty of that offence, but it doesn’t give you a criminal record.
Benefit fraud is if you say something that’s not true, (or don’t tell something you should have), deliberately so as to gain (or to keep) benefits, for yourself or someone else.
Penalty or administrative penalty
If the DWP or the council believe they have enough evidence to prosecute you they may offer you the choice of paying a penalty (30% of the overpayment), on top of re-paying any overpayment, instead of prosecution. It does not mean you have a criminal record.
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An official body (for example, the DWP or council) can prosecute you (take you to court) if they think you have committed a crime. If you are found guilty you will have a criminal record, but the prosecution, or threat of it, isn’t recorded.
This guide was written by Jana Elles with material from Dave Walsh, School of Law and Criminology, University of Derby. It was produced by Advice Services Alliance (ASA) Advicenow for Community Legal Advice. ASA Advicenow would like to thank all those who provided feedback on drafts of the guide and took part in the review.