If we suspect you of benefit fraud
You will be asked to attend a formal interview to discuss your housing benefit and/or council tax support claim, or a claim that your circumstances may affect.
What is a formal interview?
A formal interview is carried out under the guidance of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (P.A.C.E) where there are grounds to suspect that an offence has been committed.
With regard to claiming housing benefit and council tax support, and other Social Security Benefits, it is an offence to:
- Fail to promptly notify a relevant change in circumstances
- To 'knowingly allow' someone to fail to promptly notify a change in circumstances
- To make a statement which you know is false
- To provide documents which you know are false
- To 'knowingly allow' someone to give false information or documents
- You will be given more details about the alleged offence at the interview
What's the purpose of the interview?
The main purpose of the interview is to find out the facts about the claim. Enquiries will already have been made into the claim for benefit. These enquiries have raised questions about the claim and whether entitlement is correct. The interview is your opportunity to answer any questions we have about the claim for benefit and provide us with an explanation.
Why a formal interview?
If information comes to light at a formal interview that an offence has been committed, the Council can take action which can include a criminal prosecution.
What are my rights?
Before we ask you any questions at the interview, we will 'caution' you.
The caution is as follows:
You do not have to say anything but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.
When you attend the interview you are not under arrest and you may leave at any time during the interview.
The interview will be tape recorded so there is a record of the questions we ask and the information you tell us.
Can I bring someone with me?
Yes. You can bring a friend or relative to sit with you in the interview. Their role will be to support you, but not to answer questions on your behalf.
Check your letter - we may have told you that someone may not be able to sit with you in the interview. This is because we may need to interview this person separately and it isn't appropriate that they are present during your interview.
You can bring a solicitor or legal representative to be with you during your interview. Again their role will be to support you and to give you legal advice and not to answer questions on your behalf.
If you need an interpreter at the interview, please contact the investigator immediately you receive your appointment letter and arrangements will be made.
As you will be shown documents at the interview please remember to bring your reading glasses or other reading aids.
What happens if I want legal advice?
If at any time during the interview you wish to have a legal representative or an
Interpreter with you, the interview will be suspended until a new interview can be arranged.
Who will interview me?
Two officers are normally present during a formal interview. If the allegation only affects your entitlement to housing/council tax benefit, two officers from Preston City Council will interview you.
If the allegation also affects entitlement to another social security benefit, e.g. income support, job seekers allowance, incapacity benefit etc, one of the two interviewing officers will be from the Department for Work and Pensions.
What will happen at the end of the interview?
This depends if we can complete the interview and what you tell us at the interview.
- We will suspend the interview if you tell us something that we need to check out. We may then ask you to attend another interview if we need to ask you some more questions.
- If at the end of the interview, there is sufficient evidence that an offence has been committed, we will read out the allegation and give you a chance to respond to the allegation if you wish.
- One of the two tapes used to record the interview will be sealed in your presence.
What will happen after the interview?
- You will be notified in writing if your claim is reassessed.
- You will be notified in writing if the council is going to take any action against you.
- If you do not agree with our decision, you have the right of appeal.
What happens if I don't attend the interview?
If you cannot attend the interview because the date and time of the interview is inconvenient, you must tell us straight away so that we can make alternative arrangements.
If you refuse to attend the interview this may not stop the council taking action against you, including criminal proceedings.