What does it mean?
Many towns still 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.
Administrative penalty (or Ad-Pen, or 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, on top of re-paying any overpayment, instead of prosecution. It does not mean you have a criminal record.
This is different from a Civil Penalty.
This is 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.
If at the start of any interview you are warned or ‘cautioned’ that whatever you say can be used as evidence in court, then it is an Interview Under Caution or sometimes called a Cautioned interview. If you are not cautioned, then a court may not accept a record of the interview as evidence. A Cautioned interview is different from any other type of interview such as a compliance or work focused interview.
A section of your local council, or local authority (LA), pays Council Tax Benefit and may pay Housing Benefit (until Universal credit has been fully rolled out to replace it).
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 Jobcentre 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. They pay Universal Credit.
Some Local Authorities have the option of giving people formal cautions instead of prosecuting them or giving them an Administrative Penalty. This is a written warning that is held on file by the council and will be taken into account if the cautioned person reoffends. If you accept a formal caution you are admitting to the offence. A formal caution would normally only be offered if you have admitted the offence, you have not been accused of fraud before, and the overpayment was fairly small amount.
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.
Loss of benefit for fraud offence/sanction
If you admit to or are found guilty of fraud, the DWP or council can suspend your ongoing benefit for a period of time. This does not stop your entitlement or mean you need to claim again, but means that you will get either no benefit for a number of weeks or less benefit for a number of weeks. This should only happen once a decision has been made about whether there was fraud. It is usually for 4 weeks if you accepted an Administrative Penalty or Formal Caution, 13 weeks if you are prosecuted and found guilty, and longer if you have been found guilty/admitted benefit fraud before. Sometimes this loss of benefit is referred to as a penalty or a sanction, but it is not the same as the Administrative Penalty, or a normal Jobcentre Plus sanction.
An official body (for example, the DWP or council) can prosecute you (take you to court) if they think you have committed a crime such as benefit fraud. If you are found guilty you will have a criminal record, but not if you are found innocent or if the prosecution doesn’t go ahead.