The Daily Mail - U-turn on pension credits clawback

Saturday, 11 March, 2006

TENS of thousands of Britain's poorest pensioners, who were overpaid Pounds 130million in pension credits after Government blunders, will receive begging letters asking them to give the money back.

In a dramatic climbdown, Pensions Minister Stephen Timms yesterday said ministers will not force them to hand over the cash.

But he said the elderly will be pressured to return the payments voluntarily.

'When there has been a mistake, a letter goes out,' he added. 'It makes it clear social security law does not allow us to require repayment. Of course, if people want to we'll be pleased. But nobody will be forced to pay the money back.

Tory welfare reform spokesman David Ruffley, who exposed the fiasco, accused the Department of Work and Pensions of a Uturn and demanded to know how much it will cost to send the letters, which he said would 'unnerve' pensioners.

'Ministers don't know if they are coming or going,' he added. 'British pensioners won't have much confidence in them after this shambles.'

Overpayments of pension credit have trebled over the last three years from Pounds 40million to Pounds 130million.