CTC exceptional circs – failure to report change

My client lost or gave up responsibility for caring for her children a few years ago, and reported that change to HMRC. However, in an earlier interim period she was advised by social work not to report the change as it was unclear whether the children would return to her care. In that period she paid all CTC to the relatives caring for her children.
She is now pursued for an overpayment of ~£3000 for the interim period.

My client is a carer, and her only income is CA+IS, so I’m aiming for the hardship route to reduce recovery, but I’m wondering if the TC846 route could work?
It states ‘exceptional circumstances which meant you were unable to meet your responsibilities on time’ as a possible grounds – I think if the children had actually moved back in with my client and/or the interim period had been shorter she could go that way, but in the present circumstances I’m not so sure?

Provided the client can evidence it with bank statements etc, is there any merit to arguing against recovery on that basis? From what I understand the relatives were eligible to claim CTC in that period but only did so after the move was finalised/settled.

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