First things first, and to set your mind at ease, you are not going to go to prison. Total value of this sounds like roughly 5000 pounds of benefit fraud (2 years of IS at approx 120 every fortnight and 2 years of approx 1000 per year council tax) and, if you have no previous convictions, you wouldn't be going to prison.
When you attend the interview, I strongly suggest you arrange to get a local solicitor to attend with you - they can be paid under the legal aid scheme so it shouldn't cost you a penny and it's well worth having someone by your side who understands exactly what's going on and can advise accordingly.
In terms of what might happen after the interview, there a number of options. The DWP/local authority can take no action at all, give you a formal warning (just noted on your account with the relevant benefits agency in case of any further irregularities), administer a penalty (30% payment on top of what was received fraudulently - call it a fine without going to court) or, in the worst case scenario, issue a summons to court.
Even in the worst case scenario of being summoned to court, you will not be going to prison. Max sentence I'd envisage for something like this would be a community order with requirement to undertake 100 hours of unpaid work - like the old community service.
It's perfectly possible that this will not go to court so don't get yourself too worried about it.
You will be required to repay the money in any event. Dont be surprised if you receive a letter from the DWP/local authority debt collection department seeking immediate repayment. If you do get this letter, contact them immediately to arrange payment, lumpsum if you can, or by installments.
Hope that assists but please feel free to ask any follow-up questions that occur.
Information-wise, they may well not have everything. DWP and local authority audit and investigation departments use what they call 'data-mining'. Basically, under their statutory powers they have access to all sorts of information registers, for example people applying for student loans. They compare those registers against benefits claimants and if anything comes up then they will begin to investigate further.
It's possible that they only know about one or other of the two non-declared capital assets, i.e. they know about the ISA but not the bond or the other way around. They do have the statutory power to request information from banks etc but tend to ask you for permission first before doing so - if you refuse they are within their rights to require the bank to provide information.
Re: prosecution - it's impossible to tell what they'll decide to do. Repayment is inevitable but you may wish to consult the solicitor who'll attend with you to decide on the best time tactically to repay. My view is that it's best to get the interview over and done with and then at the conclusion to have your solicitor speak to the investigating officer to see what can be done. It may be that they only have in mind to warn you but it's worth your solicitor finding out what is likely to happen in order to address it, i.e. offer payment of the administrative penalty if appropriate (total sum repaid + 30% on top) if it looks like they're considering prosecution. Administrative penalty is an attractive option as it ensures full repayment quickly and gives them income.
Re: naming and shaming - DWP dont tend to go out of their way to do this, local authorities sometimes do. Some LA's have a Borough magazine or similar which include people who have been successfully prosecuted but rarely include those who've been warned etc.
If it does proceed to court then, again, things are sometimes reported in local newspapers, there isn't a lot that can be done about. That said, the wish to name and shame someone shouldn't be included in the decision whether or not to prosecute.
I really would contact a local solicitor asap to get them teed up and on aside straight away.
Hope that assists.
Apologies for delay in getting back to you.
Not so sure myself that advice you've been given is accurate - I've had cases involving over 5,000 pounds dealt with by administrative penalty: may still be worth exploring, i.e. get your solicitor to write to the DWP/local authority and offer your acceptance of an administrative penalty.
Re: intention - there are two offences that deal with benefit fraud, s.111a Social Security and Administration Act and s.112 of the same act. The former is more serious as it requires dishonest intent, rather than just knowledge that the forms were filled in inaccurately. I'd plump for a guilty plea to s.112 - i.e. you knew you had the bond/ISA but didn't declare it. They should accept that, and if they dont a certain amount of pressure can be applied given that they didnt interview and give you a chance to give your account.
Even if they don't accept the s.112 offence, it may still be wise to plead guilty to s.111a as, to be honest, there's not a lot between them in terms of sentence for something like this. Discuss with your solicitor fully.
Best case/worst case - best case if they accept administrative penalty - you pay the penalty and repay the funds received and nothing else happens. Best case if prosecuted - sentence likely to be conditional discharge (order requiring you to be of good behaviour for a period, usually 12 months) to a community order. Worst case, sentence likely to be high end community order, i.e. 200 hours of unpaid work.
To reiterate, you will not be going to prison for something like this as it's comparatively low value, it should be the s.112 offence and you have a young child.
Only other thing I should mention is that these things take time - it may well be that you don't hear anything for a few months and then suddenly receive a summons - this is entirely normal. I would though hassle your solicitor to see about offering the administrative penalty as it is a purely financial remedy that doesn't involve the courts.
Feel free to ask anything further if questions occur.
Very glad it assisted and that you;ve got a good solicitor on side. Don't worry about it too much but do stay in touch with your solicitor to keep up to date with what's going on.
If you're content with the answer given, could I ask you to click the 'ACCEPT' button to effect payment? Question won't close and if anything other queries occur you'll still be able to put them to me.
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