Benefit investigations

If you have been invited to attend an interview under caution

If you have been asked to attend an Interview under Caution it is because the Council has obtained evidence that suggests you may have committed a criminal offence in respect of housing benefit and/or council tax reduction. The interview is held to give you an opportunity to provide an explanation of the events that have occurred. Should evidence emerge during the interview that you have committed an offence, you could be prosecuted.

There is no legal obligation on you to come to an interview. However if you fail to attend on three separate occasions without reasonable grounds, the Council may take further action, such as having you arrested and interviewed at a Police Station or summonsing you direct to court.

You can appoint a solicitor or legal representative to be with you or your local Citizens Advice Bureau may be able to help you. You can bring anyone with you for moral support, this could be a friend, a social worker or a relative; however they are not allowed to answer questions for you. If we believe this person is connected to the investigation they will not be allowed into the interview.

If you have difficulty reading or writing you will need to bring an appropriate adult to assist you. The appropriate adult must not be connected to your claim. If you have a severe hearing impediment or you have difficulty understanding or answering in English the Council will supply a translator at no expense to you. If you need to use glasses to read it is advisable to bring them with you.

The Council has no childcare facilities and cannot interview you if you bring a dependant child with you.

You will usually be interviewed by one or two officers from the Council's investigation team, who have been specially trained to conduct this type of interview. However, if there has been a joint investigation with another agency such as the Department for Work and Pensions the officer from the other agency will identify themselves. Before the interview starts you will be given an outline of the allegation against you, this is called disclosure. Before you are asked any questions the officer will give you a notice explaining your rights at the interview.

You will then be asked questions about your benefit claim, the Council's officers are not bound to accept the first answer you give but are under a duty to try and establish the truth about what has happened. The interview is tape recorded to protect your interests and rights as well as those of the interviewing officer(s). When the interview has finished you will be given forms which explain how you may obtain a copy of the tape recording and what happens next to your case.

Your attendance
Your attendance at the interview is voluntary, however if you choose not to offer an explanation of the facts it may take us longer to resolve our queries and make a decision on your claim. Your claim may remain suspended for longer as a result. In more serious cases police involvement may be necessary.

The investigation officer
The investigation officer will not be able to discuss details of your case prior to the interview; however they can discuss procedures in relation to the interview and advise you of where you can obtain independent advice.

Your benefits while an investigation is being conducted
Under the Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2001 an investigation officer can suspend your claim If they are not satisfied you meet the conditions of entitlement. If this is the case you will be notified in writing however if the investigation is in to a past period of a benefit claim suspension will not be required.

Independent advice from Citizens Advice Bureau

Sutton - 020 8405 3552

Carshalton and Wallington - 020 8405 3552

North Cheam - 020 8405 3552

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