Concern raised that employers will recover overpaid benefits from earnings

Green Party MLA Clare Bailey has today, Monday, 25 July 2016, highlighted her concerns over moves by the Department for Communities to recover overpaid benefits by asking employers to take deductions directly from an employee’s earnings.

Clare Bailey MLA said,

“I am horrified that those who may have an outstanding benefit debt will automatically lose money from their pay-packet. I am concerned that those on already low incomes will be unable to manage their budget if money is unexpectedly taken from them.

“While around 6000 people with outstanding debt will be written to, measures need to be put in place to ensure that they speak to a debt advisor before any repayments are imposed.

“I am concerned that many of those who receive a letter will be worried about the impact of repayments and they should be supported, not penalised.

“I would like to know how much of this benefit debt has come about through error made by the Department, leading to people receiving money in good faith that they were not entitled to.

“That this money is now going to be claimed back in this way is inefficient and stressful.”

Notes to editors

Clare Bailey MLA was responding to a letter from Debt Management in the Department for Communities advising that the Department for Communities will be able to recover overpaid benefits by asking employers to take deductions directly from an employee’s earnings.

This is known as a Direct Earnings Attachment (DEA) and it is currently planned that DEAs will in introduced in Northern Ireland in November 2016.

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