Social Security Benefits

Work and Pensions written question – answered on 30th March 2010.

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Photo of Philip Hammond Philip Hammond Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much has been (a) paid out and (b) recovered in benefits to dead people in each of the last 10 years.

Photo of Helen Goodman Helen Goodman Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Work and Pensions)

Unfortunately, through no fault of any individual, overpayments of benefit can arise following the death of a benefit recipient. Such overpayments normally arise as a result of the Department being notified of the death too late to stop an automated payment being made into the deceased's account.

We are doing all we can to improve the current process. We now receive electronic notifications of death from the Office for National Statistics on a daily basis. This will assist in enabling a prompt cessation of payments following death and reduce such overpayments occurring.

As from early 2009 we have a system in place whereby registrars in England and Wales automatically inform the Department on a daily basis of deaths notified to them. The Scottish Registrar's Office now notifies us of deaths by daily e-mail; this will be fully automated as from October 2010.

The Department has a duty to seek recovery of all overpaid funds where it is reasonable and cost-effective to do so. However, we seek to do this as sensitively as possible, taking account of the fact that this will be a stressful time, particularly if the person contacted is a close friend or family member. Overpayments are written off if the deceased has no estate or there are insufficient funds in the estate.

The following table details how much was paid to, and recovered from, the deceased as from 2006-07. The systems on which this information is based were only introduced during 2005-06 and comprehensive information is only available from 2006-07.

2006-07 2007-08 2008-09
Paid out (£ million) 62.0 71.7 77.4
As a proportion of benefit expenditure (Percentage) 0.05 0.06 0.06
Recovered (£ million) 38.0 46.0 51.0

Management Information from the Shared Services Debt Manager via Business Objects computer system.

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