HB office processing delays

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  • #22984
    Anonymous
    Guest

    Is there any legislation or guidance I can use – other than the performance standards which I presume don’t have the force of law as such- to encourage a HB office to speed up? They take months just to ask for missing evidence, by which time its harder for the tenant to obtain it. All I can think of is to threaten the Ombudsman but that’s not always appropriate (or kind!) I’ve hunted high and low and can’t find anything useful. The only thing I wondered about was the wording “information and evidence as may [i:f112c6c377]reasonably be required[/i:f112c6c377]” in reg 86(1)- stretching the term reasonably required to cover reasonable[i:f112c6c377] time[/i:f112c6c377] as well as reasonable items?
    thank you

    #10459
    Anonymous
    Guest

    How about Reg 91 of the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006:

    Time and manner of payment
    91. β€”(1) Subject to paragraphs (2) and (3) and regulations 92 to 98 (frequency of payment of a rent allowance, and payment on account of a rent allowance, payment provisions, offsetting) the relevant authority shall pay housing benefit to which a person is entitled under these Regulations at such time and in such manner as is appropriate, having regard toβ€”

    (a) the times at which and the frequency with which a person’s liability to make payment of rent arises; and

    (b) the reasonable needs and convenience of the person entitled thereto.

    (2) Where a person’s entitlement to housing benefit is less than Β£1 weekly the relevant authority may pay that benefit at 6 monthly intervals.

    [b:95525c8613](3) Subject to regulations 92 to 97 (frequency of payment of and payment on account of a rent allowance, payment provisions), every authority shall make the first payment of any housing benefit awarded by it within 14 days of the receipt of the claim at the designated office or, if that is not reasonably practical, as soon as possible thereafter.[/b:95525c8613]

    #10460
    Anonymous
    Guest

    Thanks- yes I thought of that one but this only applies where the claimant has provided all reasonably required info or failure to do it was not their fault. But the HB office hadn’t even ASKED for the missing info by then.
    I suppose I could argue that their failure to ask for the info meant failure to provide it wasn’t claimant’s fault, therefore they should get an interim payment within 14 days? πŸ™‚
    Or is the onus still on the claimant at that point and the fact that the HB office hadn’t reminded them of what was missing is irrelevant and over-ridden by the claimant’s obligation? πŸ™
    I did wonder about stretching the term “reasonably be required” to cover “reasonable in time” as well as “reasonable things” but not sure.
    Any more thoughts on these 2 points?
    cheers

    #10461
    chris harvey
    Participant

    I did think reg 89 might help, it requires LA’s to make a decision on a claim in 14 days or as soon as reasonable thereafter, but this only applies after the info and evidence rules have been complied with. In your case the original fault is with the claimant for not supplying the supporting evidence asked for on the claim form. The Performance Standards and BVPI’s encourage LA’s to ask for the information quickly because it affects the key new claims stats, but there is no legal requirement to do so.
    If this LA is as slow as you say they must have some very poor performance figures which may result in intervention from the DWP in the form of a BFI inspection or the LA Chief Executive after a poor CPA score. Apart from that I cannot see within the legislation that there is much you can do.

    #10462
    Anonymous
    Guest

    thats as i feared! thanks! πŸ˜₯

    #10463
    Anonymous
    Guest

    After posting last week I had another thought about this.

    The legal position is one thing but there are alternatives. I’m assuming that from your post, you represent a housing association or similar?

    Is there any liaison group set up in which you have the opportunity to say to the LA that you are not happy with performance to date but are able to offer alternatives? If not, getting one in place could be a start.

    Another way would be to ask the LA to “train” your Housing Officers on what is needed to complete a claim. If possible, by working withthe claimants / tenants, the more “complete” claims that you get to the LA, the less chance for delay in processing?

    It may appear that you are doing the LA’s work for them but if you think of it that the more “complete” claims they have, the quicker claims will be processed and the less the impact on your arrears.

    #10464
    Anonymous
    Guest

    There is a legal concept “mandamus”.
    Don’t know if it could be applied here, but in essence if you can apply for it (against the LA concerned, if you are successful it instructs them to do what they are supposed to do by law and not over-prevaricate.
    I think there are some difficulties over this, (I am dredging this from the back of my mind from many years ago) I have a feeling you have to apply in the High Court and there may be no recourse to legal aid etc,, but not 100% sure of that.
    Good luck!! Hope this helps 8)

    #10465
    jmembery
    Participant

    I am also working from memory of long ago, but I think the High Court option may be limited. I think the case was CPAG Vs Secretart of State (can’t remember the year)

    #10466
    petedavies
    Participant

    I don’t think Mandanus exists any more – I think Woolfe replaced it with a plain English equivalent which I cannot remember. The concept is still alive and well.

    You probably will not need to go that far anyway.

    Just set out, in a letter, what you believe the LA ought to have done, why you believe they ought to have done it and a time-scale within which you now believe that they should do it – this should be reasonable but can take into account the claimant’s immediate circumstances.

    State that if they do not comply (or provide good reasons for not complying) you will make an application to the High Court to obtain an order compelling them to take the action you have specified.

    Make it clear that your letter is a letter before action and copy the head of the L.A.’s legal services into it.

    Just because there is no time scale set down in statute a L.A.s actions (or inactions!) must still be reasonable and the Court will not allow an authority to use a defence along the lines that “there is no time limit in the Regs”.

    A couple of caveats:

    1) Do not use this type of threat as a matter of course, it will soon lose its impact.
    2) If there is an alternative remedy (e.g. a right of appeal) the matter will not be considered – I know this does not relate to the case in point but thought I’d include anyway (LGO is not an alternative remedy).
    3) It is an extremely expensive course of action which is one reason it can be effective. Do not embark on it unless you are 100% sure of your grounds – you or the claimant could end up with a massive bill of costs although, as stated above, I would not expect you to have to issue any proceedings on a mere failure to make a decision.
    4)The most likely scenario is the L.A. will correct the breach or revert to you with a timetable for rectifying the alleged breach. If it is reasonable, accept it.

    P.S. The emphasis is on the resolution of a dispute not litigation so you will have to be able to demonstrate that you ahev attempted to resolve the matter before initiating proceedings.

    #10467
    chris harvey
    Participant

    The case that jmembery refers to is R v Sec of State for Social Security and Chief Adjudication Officer ex parte CPAG (1988) but I am not sure if it applies in this case. The judge said it was not necessary to deal with every claim within 14 days but it was still intended that claims should be dealt with expeditiously. The problem with this case is the delay is not the fault of the LA it is the claimants for failing to provide all the information. There may be a defence if the LA argues that they were waiting for the rest of the information to come in from the claimant, without which they are unable to make a decision.

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