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Dad gets £5,000 Universal Credit bill from DWP demanding he repay all Covid cash

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Gary Blake, 32, is one of thousands of people being told to submit photo ID and more evidence of their previous claims – and if you don’t, you could be asked to pay every penny back

Dad of one, Gary Blake, has been told to pay back every penny of support he received

A dad has been told to repay all of the Universal Credit he received during Covid, after the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) temporarily changed its applications process for state benefits.

Gary Blake, 32, is one of thousands of people being told to submit photo ID and more evidence of their Covid claims as part of an investigation into Universal Credit payouts during the pandemic.

The father from Newcastle said he was previously earning £1,700 a month on agency work, mostly for car manufacturer Nissan, when Covid struck.

In July, Gary was laid off and pushed onto Universal Credit, which he used to pay his rent and support his five-year-old son.

“When covid happened, I went onto Universal Credit,” Gary told The Mirror.

“I applied and they said I was entitled to £370 to 400 a month. That included housing costs. They later found the initial amount had been miscalculated and increased it to £510 a month.”



Gary says he had to claim government support for the first time last year after losing his job at the start of the pandemic
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Image:

Gary Blake)




Gary continued to claim the support until spring this year when work picked up again.

He now works in a flower warehouse and does odd jobs to help pay his rent and has since moved in with his brother.

“But out of the blue in June, I got a letter saying I owed £5,149,” he said.

“I rang up and they said I’d missed a meeting which I had not.”

Gary says the DWP told him he’d missed a face-to-face appointment at his local Jobcentre.. A letter seen by The Mirror explains that a repayment order has been placed on his account because of missing ID.







It explains that he now has to repay £5,149 back in benefits and even if he submits the missing forms, the charge may not be wiped.

Gary is now taking the case to the tribunal and says it’s caused him severe stress.

“We’re all struggling,” he said.

“I had a good job and money and was never on benefits until I suddenly had nothing and had to borrow to pay for my son and food. I am already £5,149 in debt because Universal Credit wasn’t enough to live on.”





The DWP denied that Gary was asked to attend a face-to-face meeting.

That’s despite the DWP this week confirming that some claimants have been called in for assessments due to overpayments in recent months.

It said that it had sent the overpayment bill because the claimant had not submitted photo ID and tenancy documents.

The DWP said that because it had not received his ID, the government was unable to verify whether his Universal Credit claim was legitimate. It could not say if the charge would be wiped if Gary submitted the documents now.

Have you had a similar experience with your Covid payments? Get in touch: [email protected]

Gary is one of thousands of people being chased for further identification as part of a crackdown on fraud during the pandemic.

Under measures being implemented, people that received help last year are being asked to submit photos of their ID, pictures of their street and photos of them with a local newspaper to verify their whereabouts.

The DWP estimates that it has overpaid the public by £4.8million in total in the past year.

A DWP spokesperson said: “Mr Blake did not provide verification for this Universal Credit claim, despite repeated requests to do so online or in person, and as such we are seeking repayment of this claim.

“If claimants have been paid money that they are not entitled to, then it is right that we seek to correct this on behalf of the taxpayer, whilst also offering support to ensure that any repayments are affordable.”


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