Reply To: HB Decision Notices


I mentioned software problems in my original post, because several LAs have told me that they are unable to produce computer generated overpayment notices that are schedule 6 compliant.

This seems to be a particular problem with the most commonly used software package.

The main problem with the notices that this (and most other software packages) generate, is that they incapable of producing a notice that gives the reason for the overpayment. At best they give a vague statement that could apply to almost any overpayment; or they give no reason at all.

Even when a reason is given it is usually only a vague explanation of why there was a need to reassess the claim, for instance statements such as

‘claimants circumstances changed’; or,

‘income support ended’.

These statements do not explain why the LA continued to pay benefit to which their claimant was no longer entitled.

Statements that explain why an overpayment occurred might include:

‘claimant did not advise the LA that they had started work’; or,

‘claimant advised the LA that they started work, but the LA did not act on the information’ (in which case the LA need to explain that the claimant or other person affected could reasonably be expected to know they had been overpaid (if indeed they could)).

The second example often occurs when LAs have large backlogs of work, but in most cases the notice will not admit this is the case and ‘persons affected’ have no way of ascertaining from the notice that the overpayment is recoverable.

This means that in most cases when we receive a computer generated overpayment notice, (unless we already know why the overpayment occurred, tenant moved out or something similar) we need to appeal against the decision, just to get the information we should have received on the original notice.

This means that we are making numerous (often unnecessary) appeal requests that the (in most cases) already overburdened LA has to process.

I realise that we have the option of requesting a fuller statement of reasons, but if subsequently we decide that we still want to appeal, this just adds another layer of bureaucracy that we and I would imagine most LAs could do without.

Some LAs I work with have resolved this problem by typing letters on a PC, but the impression I have from most of them is that this is not such a simple matter. especially in the larger London Boroughs! And any LA that is already under pressure probably does not need the additional workload that all that extra typing produces.

The letter typing solution is fine where the LA is prepared to concede that their computer generated notices are not schedule 6 compliant, but some LAs argue that they are.

What do others think?