Notes / Social Security / Social Security Benefits and Contributions / Social Security Benefits: General and Common Provisions / 25 Failure to notify a change of circumstances

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25 Failure to notify a change of circumstances

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It is an offence to fail to notify a change of circumstances affecting entitlement to any benefit, payment or other advantage (Social Security Administration Act 1992 ss.111A and 112, as amended by s.16 of the Social Security Fraud Act 2001). The offences are defined in terms of failing to report changes in circumstances that the claimant knows will affect entitlement to benefit, rather than to changes that regulations require him to report.

A list of offences that are triable either summarily or on indictment is set out in s.111A(1A) to (1G) as follows–

(a) dishonestly failing to give prompt notification of a change of circumstances in relation to the claimant himself (s.111A(1A));

(b) dishonestly causing or allowing another person to fail to give prompt notification of a change in their circumstances (s.111A(1B))

(c) where the claimant and recipient of a benefit are different people, the recipient is guilty of an offence where he dishonestly fails to give a prompt notification of a change in the circumstances of the claimant (s.111A(1C) and (1D));

(d) it is an offence if a third party, knowing that a particular change in circumstances affects the claimant’s entitlement to benefit, dishonestly causes or allows a person with the right to receive payments on behalf of the claimant to fail to make a prompt notification of that change (s.111A(1E));

(e) in relation to the landlord of a tenant entitled to housing benefit, a landlord cannot be guilty of an offence unless the change in circumstances that the landlord has failed to notify promptly are those which relate to the claimant’s occupation of the dwelling or to his liability to pay rent. The subsection further provides that the landlord must either know that the change in question is one that affects the claimant’s benefit, or be one which he could reasonably be expected to know (s.111A(1F)).

S.111A(1G) provides that a notification is “prompt” if it is given as soon as reasonably practicable after the change occurs. For each offence there must be a failure to give prompt notification in the “prescribed manner to the prescribed person”. These matters are prescribed by the Social Security (Notification of Change of Circumstances) Regulations 2001. In relation to jobseeker’s allowance, notice must be to the office the claimant is required to attend (Reg. 3); in relation to housing benefit it must be given or sent in writing (or in some circumstances or telephoned) to the relevant authority at the designated office (see Reg. 4); and, in relation to changes affecting any other benefit payment or advantage, it must be in writing or by telephone to the Secretary of State at the appropriate office (Reg. 5). In some cases, where the Secretary of State has agreed and the change only relates to a birth or a death, notification may be to the local authority. In most cases notifications may also be sent electronically.

A list of summary only offences is set out in s.112(1A) to (1F) of the Social Security Administration Act 1992 (as amended by the Social Security Fraud Act 2001, s.16(3)). These summary offences mirror those in s.111(1A) to (1G): see s.112(1A) (failing to give prompt notification of a change of circumstances in relation to the claimant himself); s.112(1B) (a third party who causes or allows another person to fail to give prompt notification in a change in circumstances); s.112(1C) (third parties failing to give a prompt notification of a change in circumstances of the claimant where they have a right to receive payments on behalf of the claimant); s.112(1D) (a third party, knowing that a particular change in circumstances affects the claimant’s entitlement to benefit, causes or allows a person with the right to receive payments on behalf of the claimant to fail to make a prompt notification of that change); and s.112(1E) (a landlord cannot be guilty of an offence unless the change in circumstances that the landlord has failed to notify promptly are those which relate to the claimant’s occupation of the dwelling or to his liability to pay rent).

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