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Monday, 23 June 2014

Benefit delays - housing benefit

Posting a copy of my complaint for the purpose of sharing on Twitter.

To Whom it may concern,

As you are aware Tax Credits are renewed every year between April and July. When they are renewed before the individual concerned even has a paper notification of the decision from the DWP their benefit changes are sent through to the local council. As soon as these notifications come through the council have the system set up that it puts the person's benefit on hold immediately (a letter is sent to the individual at that stage). After this happens the council work through the notifications, and amend the claims, and reinstate the person's benefit. I understand quite clearly why you put the benefit on hold (to stop over payment) and this system works well if the council are able to process the notifications quickly thus not leaving the person's benefit on hold for a long period of time. My understanding is that the DWP send these notifications to all local authorities, and it is up the the LA whether they put the benefit on hold whilst these are pending.

Usually the turnaround time is quite fast, but when I phoned on this occasion having received my 'on hold letter' I was advised that the turnaround time is 8 weeks, and that the service had lost a huge volume of staff. If this is the case why have you still proceeded with putting people's benefit on hold when you know you will leave them out of pocket, and struggling to pay their rent for a period of time? Whilst people have to use their overdrafts they incur fees with the bank. Other's may be at risk of eviction. If the council is able to choose what they do once the notifications have been received why have contingency measures not been looked at due to the lower staffing levels? Annual renewal is a predictable event, so it would have been known that it would increase the volume of work significantly. Even if you send your paperwork immediately you are still treated to the same delay/hold despite notifying as soon as the change takes place.  

I would like this treated as a complaint in respect of the current turnaround times, and the LA's lack of consideration for the management of people's finances. It's also frustrating when you initially contact the Customer Service team they are unable to give you a turnaround time for your claim (or confirm the date the notification was received) When I asked for a call back from a manager was finally able to tell me the date my notification was received.