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I came home from a lovely day out to find housing benefit reassessment number 3.

This made it clear that they’re throwing 2son off my housing benefit claim because Child Benefit threw him out when he returned to school and stayed there over the summer. After 8 weeks the claim is suspended, especially when you don’t tell them. I appealed and explained the circumstances, and the rules said I could still claim child benefit for him during the school holidays when he was at home. They turned down the appeal and said I could re-apply from scratch as if he were a new born and I really couldn’t face that for £500 odd a year. If I’d known how much disruption it would cause as it throws a red flag up with my tax credit claim since I’ve got him down as still at school but without the child benefit then I might have done things differently.

Mea culpa, I never thought to tell housing benefit that 2son had a residential placement because he still lives at home, even though he’s not always there. So I can write and explain all that. I even have a letter from council explaining this that I used at the appeal, although not my appeal (I had to appeal tax credit as well on the same basis and they accepted).

But,

I also received from Housing Benefit Decisions about 80 pages recalculating my housing benefit and council tax benefit over the last six years. They’ve decided that I owe them over £10,000.

I have a big collection of decision notices without the calculations use to derive them. They all just say due to change in financial circumstances and they cover the last six years. I can and will ask for these calculations.

My guess is, given that I’m self-employed, that they’ve just realised they have never asked me for profit and loss accounts. I have never submitted them as they get their figures through my Tax Return but it turns out that’s not enough and I should have submitted my P&L each year to housing benefit. I didn’t know this. No one ever asked me. My income as shown in my tax return gets used in benefit calculations so I assumed that was fine.

So this part I think is their fault. But apparently even if it is their fault, they can still ask for the money back for overpayments in the last six years.

Now if it is agreed that this is all accidental rather than an attempt on my behalf to defraud the benefit system then I think I only have to repay it at £11.10 a week unless I come off benefits. But I’m not sure of anything any more.

I also wonder if this overpayment puts my tenancy at risk as I live in a council house and if you don’t pay your rent they can (and so they should) chuck you out.

So on Monday I have to go see 4son’s head about his attendance, get a replacement prescription for 3son’s Prozac, get some legal advice (starting at Shelter as my first port of call, probably followed by CAB which is strictly appointment only), writing my first letter of reply that will basically say WTF? Work will have to wait.

I had a really fantastic day today, until I got home and opened the post.

Yesterday, by the way, I got my offer of a place for my counselling course next year so yay!

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