A discretionary waiver is a mechanism, whereby in exceptional circumstances, DFC can exercise its discretion to ‘waive’ recovery of all or part of an overpaid benefit. This has become more important following a change in law which, for the first time, allowed recover of some overpaid benefits even in cases when the overpayment was caused by official error.
As a result, a significant number of claimants are now unable to challenge the recovery of an overpayment even if they had not been responsible for it occurring. Claimants in these circumstances would have to ask for a discretionary waiver if repayment would cause them significant detriment.
The Welfare Reform (NI) Order 2015 allowed recover of overpayments caused by official error for benefits such as Universal Credit, New-Style Employment Support Allowance and New-Style Jobseekers Allowance. This change is contrary to the ‘legacy’ benefit system, which previously ensured that the Department could not recover overpayments caused by official error.
Law Centre NI has raised concern about this law change and poor awareness of the option to seek a discretionary waiver. Earlier this month, we published a Legal Information Briefing which updates on our successful campaign to ensure discretionary waivers are more accessible to claimants.
You can find more information in our Updated Guidance Paper.