STBAs and affordability
You will normally only get a a short-term benefit advance (STBA) if the DWP Decision Maker decides you can afford to repay within 12 weeks (or within 24 weeks in 'exceptional circumstances' - see below).
Decision Makers have discretion to decide (that is, they must make choices about) how much you can afford to repay. But DWP guidance1 limits your repayment rate to 25% of your weekly benefit in all circumstances. If repayment over twelve weeks is more than the limit, your STBA will fail the affordability test and be refused2.
In such a case you may be offered a lower amount when the Decision Maker phones you.3 You must accept this offer for the advance to be made.
'Exceptional circumstances' (domestic violence)
The only example given in DWP guidance of 'exceptional circumstances', where you can get more than 12 weeks to repay, is where you are fleeing domestic violence:4
This is because the claimant may have had to leave their home suddenly and without the opportunity to take anything with them. In these circumstances, they may need time to get back on their feet so recovery may be deferred for a short period (up to 12 weeks), but recovery must be able to be made within a maximum of 24 weeks.
Your 'exceptional circumstances' can also be considered if you ask for your STBA repayments to be rescheduled.
Overpayments and other debts to the DWP
The affordability of your STBA is not affected by any repayments you are making on other benefit debts. This is because DWP will suspend recovery of other benefit debts (for example old social fund loans) while you repay your STBA and until it is paid off.5 If you have a previous STBA that is still being repaid, DWP will pass recovery action to Debt Management.6
If you think the Decision Maker has misjudged your ability to repay, or overlooked your 'exceptional circumstances', ask the DWP to revise their decision.
- 1. STBA Guidance for Benefit Centres, paragraph 29. All references to DWP guidance on this page are to STBA Guidance for Benefit Centres unless otherwise stated
- 2. See the example of Carl in STBA Guidance, Appendix 2.
- 3. STBA Guidance, paragraph 113
- 4. STBA Guidance, paragraph 16(3)
- 5. STBA Guidance, paragraph 164
- 6. STBA Guidance, paragraph 168