Overpayments may be recovered by deduction against future payments. There is discretion to vary the terms of repayment. Where an overpayment has been assessed, the person is to be informed of the factors, the proposed decision, the amount of overpayment and the method of recovery. He is to be given the opportunity to make representations in relation to the assessment, the method of repayment and other facts and circumstances relevant to the matter.
The officers must take the representations into account. The amount of repayment should not, without the person’s agreement cause the person to fall below the minimum rate of supplementary welfare allowance applicable to the person’s family.
The Department may reduce the amount of repayment if this is attributable to failure by the Department to act where facts or circumstances warranted it. It may also be reduced by the amount of other benefits which the person would have been entitled to.
A sum paid into a financial institution after the death of the claimant may be recovered directly from the institution.
A personal representative of a person who had been in receipt of a means tested payment must give notice of the assets to the Department of Social Protection not less than three months before distributing them. The Department actively checks the files.
Where there is a discrepancy between the means as appears from the schedule of assets and not declared, a repayment may be required. The personal representatives may if requested within three months, be obliged to retain monies in relation to the repayment. The personal representative may be personally liable if he fails to comply with the obligation.
Where a person is convicted under the theft and fraud legislation, of having received benefits or assistance to which he was not entitled, he is liable to repay the some in relation to which he was convicted. Generally, where a person receives sums to which he was not entitled, he is legally obliged to repay it. The sums may be recovered in summary proceedings as a simple contract debt in the District Court and Circuit Court or High Court, depending on the amount concerned.
The 2011 Act provides that where a fraudulent social welfare overpayment occurs, any other social welfare benefits to which that person may have qualified for during the period in which that overpayment occurred will not be offset against the amount of the overpayment to be recovered.
The 2012 Act made changes in relation to the recovery of social welfare overpayments by way of weekly deductions from a person’s ongoing social welfare entitlements. It 13 allows for a deduction of an amount of up to 15% of a liable person’s relevant personal weekly rate of social welfare payment for the purpose of recovering an overpayment.
A person is not entitled to compensate for any overpayment deduction from their primary social welfare payment by seeking an additional payment of supplementary welfare allowance.
The 2014 Act extended the powers for the recovery of social welfare overpayments to include recovery from certain lump sum payments made by the Minister for Social Protection to that person, i.e. refunds of PRSI contributions, lump sum payments made under the Redundancy Payments Act 1967 and the Protection of Employees (Employers’ Insolvency) Act 1984.
It extends the provisions relating to the recovery of social welfare overpayments by way of notice of attachment to include situations where the person who has been overpaid has sources of income from payments made from State funds, e.g. grants, refunds and repayment of tax, etc.
The 2015 Act provides that an overpayment that results from the fraudulent claiming of a social welfare payment cannot be reduced by any other social welfare payment that may have been due to that person during the period in which the fraud occurred.