Social Services would only be interested in learning the financial status of a claimant if they suspect them of claim fraud or incorrect declaration of financial status. Through this article, we will discuss whether or not Social Services can access your bank account and the reasons for it. For a more holistic view of the subject in question, we will also explore pertinent areas such as benefits affected by savings, the concept of deprivation of capital and the consequences of hiding your financial information from a government body.

Can Social Services Access Bank Accounts?

While Social Services (or any other government body for that matter) do not regularly monitor your bank account; however, if they suspect a claimant of fraud or false declaration of data, they may access their bank accounts to verify the data. 

The most common reason why Social Services may need to access the bank accounts of claimants is to conduct a means test or a financial assessment when a benefits claim is being applied for. 

Should a claimant be found to be in ownership of any of the following capital items, these will be accounted for and considered as savings by the Department for Work and Pensions as they assess the claimant’s eligibility for benefits:

  • Property (not your main residence)
  • Joint savings
  • Income bonds
  • Premium bonds
  • Stocks and shares

Whether these items are owned by an individual or a partner/spouse who lives with them, they will be counted as savings.

While most individuals consider that transfer of savings, selling of one’s property or gifting their home to a family member is a safe way of hiding their savings or at least keeping them away from being counted for a means-test, this is considered as deprivation of assets. Additionally, any of the following actions will be counted as deprivation of assets if it takes place within a short period of time prior to one’s claim for benefits:

  • To give away a large sum of money
  • To transfer the title deed of one’s property
  • To spend a large amount of money which is in contrast with the spender’s usual spending pattern
  • To lose money through gambling 
  • To use savings in order to purchase items excluded from a means-test such as a car

Should there be evidence found that an individual has deliberately reduced their capital with the aim to claim state benefits, the government will consider it as notional capital. This means that due to the deliberate reduction in capital, despite not being in possession of the owner, the capita items will be included in their means test and considered to be part of the owner’s possessions.

What Is An Assets And Income Assessment?

Assets and income assessment is a means-based test conducted by local councils to calculate the amount of care home fee that a claimant will be able to contribute considering their financial status, as the council will be bearing the remainder of the expenses. For this purpose, the income, savings and capital of the claimant will be taken into account.

State Benefits such as Attendance Allowance and Pension Credit will be counted as income. However, in the case of Disability Allowance, there will be no accountability for the same.

Based upon the financial assessment of claimants, they will then be categorised into one of the following slots so that local authorities may decide upon the claimant’s contribution towards their care home fee as well as the amount due on the state: 

  • If someone has savings over £ 23,250, the claimant will have to bear the entire cost of the care home fees
  • If someone has savings of £14,250–£23,250, the claimant will have to contribute most of their weekly income towards care home fees. They will also pay an assumed extra amount of £1 per £250 of capital that they have
  • If someone has savings below £14, 250, the claimant will not be required to pay for their care home fees from this amount and will have to pay from their weekly income. 

Which Benefits Are Affected By Savings?

Benefits that are means-tested (this means that the claimants’ income and savings affect their benefits claim) will reduce with an increase in your savings. These include the following:

  • Jobseekers Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Pension Tax
  • Housing Benefit
  • Council Tax Support
  • Universal Credit
  • Working Tax Credits
  • Child Tax Credits

What Is The Savings Limit To Claim Universal Credit?

To be eligible for Universal Credit, your savings (including capital and investments) must be less than £16,000. The amount of Universal Credit that you may be able to claim depends upon the amount of savings you have which may range anywhere from £6,000 to £16,000. In this case, too, the first £6,000 will be disregarded.

However, if you live with a partner and they have savings amounting to £16,000, these will be counted as your savings.

In addition to savings, the eligibility criteria for Universal Credit also require claimants to be above 18 years of age and under the state pension age, be unemployed or on low income and be a UK national.

How Much Savings Can You Have Before You Have To Pay For Care?

If you are a UK resident, the amount of savings you can have before having to contribute towards a care home fee depends on whether you live in England, Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland. Below is the threshold for each country:

  • England: £23,250
  • Wales: £50,000
  • Northern Ireland: £23,250
  • Scotland: £28,750

Anyone who holds savings above this amount will have to contribute towards their care home fees until their savings fall below this threshold. When that homes, claimants will be able to receive financial aid from the state through their local councils. 

The following criteria will be applicable in this case:

  • If someone has savings over £ 23,250, the claimant will have to bear the entire cost of the care home fees
  • If someone has savings of £14,250–£23,250, the claimant will have to contribute most of their weekly income towards care home fees. They will also pay an assumed extra amount of £1 per £250 of capital that they have
  • If someone has savings below £14, 250, the claimant will not be required to pay for their care home fees from this amount and will have to pay from their weekly income. 

Is Deprivation Of Assets A Criminal Offence?

Yes, deprivation of assets is considered a criminal offence simply due to the deliberate reduction of assets by claimants of benefits, especially those who are about to apply for care home residency.

However, in order to prove that a deliberate reduction of assets has taken place, there needs to be evidence supporting that the applicant knew at the time of the said reduction of assets that they will be in need of care home residency shortly. Also, there should be no other motivation or intention for the reduction of assets that may be proven with supportive evidence.

Council authorities may also apply for a judgement debt in Country Court; or in the case of false declaration of financial assets in a Social Security form, the individual can be taken to a Magistrate’s Court as the act is considered a criminal offence.

What Can I Buy That Is Not Deprivation Of Capital?

According to the Guidance manual on assessment of capital, the following situations will not be considered as deprivation of capital:

If the claimant has sold or transferred capital with the intention to:

  • Reduce or return the debt that they owe (either to an individual, bank or the state)
  • Make credit cards payments
  • Pay for mortgage
  • Make payments for day to day expenses
  • Improve their quality of life (for e.g by purchasing a new car or rebuilding a kitchen)
  • Improve their quality of health through medical expenses
  • Go on a holiday

On the other hand, if local councils are able to prove a deliberate reduction in any of the following by individuals claiming benefits, they will be held responsible for the deprivation of capital, making it considered as notion capital:

  • Residential premises (other than the one the claimant lives in)
  • Capital under the care of someone else
  • Payments or instalments of income
  • Compensation payments
  • Arrears of payment
  • Capital not held in the UK
  • Business assets
  • Company or trusts owned by the claimant

Does Deprivation Of Capital Affect Housing Benefit?

According to The Deprivation of Capital Rule in Welfare Benefits | Social Welfare Updates | News deprivation of capital will directly lead to the capital being considered as notion capital; which means that capital that was earlier excluded from the means test will not be accounted for. This act reduces (in some cases removes) the benefits claim of individuals against whom the deprivation is proven.

If you live in sheltered or supported housing and are above state-pension age, you may be able to claim a Housing benefit (recently replaced with Universal Credit) to pay for your rent. The eligibility criteria also state that claimants must either be unemployed, on a low income or have low savings. However, Housing Benefit will not cover the costs of food, heating, energy or heating costs. If your Housing Benefit does not cover the entire amount of rent, you may consider applying for a Discretionary Housing Payment through your local council. 

Conclusion:

The discussion in this article makes it clear that Social Services does not maintain a regular check on the bank accounts of claimants of benefits; however, if they suspect a claim to be false, they do have the authority to access the claimant’s bank account and other financial transactions to confirm whether a benefit fraud has taken place.   

FAQs: Can Social Services Access Bank Accounts?

Who has access to my bank account information?

Government agencies have access to your bank account information. The reason for this is so that in case someone falsely declares bankruptcy or is under government debt, the amount can be recovered from their bank account or it may be frozen.

Can local authorities check your bank accounts?

Local authorities can only check your bank accounts if they suspect your of a fraudulent benefits claim or you owe money to them. In this case, they may review your bank statements, mortgage accounts and bills. 

Can people look at my bank account?

No, people, in general, cannot look at your bank account. In fact, not all bank employees have access to your bank account. Those who do may not have access to all the information regarding the account.

Can Social Services put my mother in a home in the UK?

If there is evidential proof that someone’s needs are not being met at their own residence, Social Services may have to force you to put your mother in a home in the UK. This is only done to make sure that the needs of the elderly are met in the best environment possible.

How do I know if my bank account is being monitored?

If your bank account is being monitored due to an ongoing investigation, the bank will formally and officially inform you of the investigation and also give you certain instructions with regard to the usage of your account.

References:

Social Services – financial question | Dementia Talking Point

Declaring assets to social services | Gransnet

How do savings and lump-sum payouts affect benefits?

How much savings can I have on benefits? | Raisin UK

Effect of savings on benefits | Disability charity Scope the UK

Deprivation of savings and other capital

Savings rules in working-age benefits

BP1 – Assessment of capital

Shelter Legal England – Treatment of capital in housing benefit calculations

How savings can affect benefits

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