Requests for information

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    In an effort to get benefit applicants to provide us with supporting documentation more quickly (and hence speed up processing times), my current authority is proposing the following procedure:

    Initial request for information states that the claimant has 7 days in which to provide information.

    After 14 days, if there has been no reply, a second letter will be sent, again stating that the claimant has 7 days in which to reply.

    If there is still no reply, the nil decision on the new claim will not be made until a full calendar month has passed since the first request.

    Provided that we do wait the full month before taking any ‘negative action’, so to speak, that would seem reasonably OK. However, I am concerned by the fact that from the claimant’s point of view they have effectively only been given a maximum of 21 days to provide the information.

    Does anyone know of any CDs where a Commissioner has passed an opinion on practices such as these?


    Sorry, but I think it’s very dodgy personally, and likely to cause you problems.

    Surely it cannot be right to give people deadlines that have no force in law, and even if the actual action is not taken until the calendar month is up, you have in effect told the claimant that they only have 21 days. I think there is an onus on us to give accurate information about time limits.

    I do not know if there is a CD, but I suspect not because (to steal an answer to another recent query) no LA doing this would let it get that far once challenged.

    Edited to add – that the reason you will have problems is because as soon as a claimant seeks advice from a suitably competent person (about anything to do with the claim) the practice is going to come to light. You will have also given a very big hostage to fortune whenever a claimant fails to meet a statutory time limit. Any half-intelligent advisor will simply argue that if the LA cannot give correct information about time limits, how can it expect claimants to comply with them.


    Why don’t you just give them one month from the date that you issue the letter and then following it up with fourteen days left with a reminder?


    I agree, I think it is not a good idea. I didn’t mean to endorse the entire procedure when I said ‘reasonably OK’, just that there is some comfort in the fact they will wait a full month before taking action. I also fully expect that the local welfare rights advisors will tear it to shreds, but I am told that apparently there are a number of authorities operating such a procedure with some success.

    Regarding aosulliv’s suggestion, the thinking is that if you give people a month they will take a month. What I have seen done in another authority is for the initial letter to say fourteen days, then the reminder gives them until the exact date on which the calendar month would expire.


    I’m currently liking the idea of sticking a short deadline at the top of the letter, in bold, saying ‘please return info by $date’ (approx 14 days from letter sent date, adjust at will πŸ˜‰ ), and then at the bottom of the letter putting a paragraph that says ‘if the information requested above is not returned by $date2 (full time limit), we will do X’

    Thus claimants have all the info, but may bring things in faster if they don’t read all of the letter, getting around some of the problems shown above (maybe).

    cyinical? moi? 😈


    This changes things a little…the reminder letter, as well as asking them to provide the information within 7 days, will also state ‘If you do not provide the information by [one calendar month date]…’ you won’t get any benefit.

    The argument about the statutory time limit on the first letter is that the regulations do not require you to [i:5a266bd9d3]specify[/i:5a266bd9d3] on the information request letter that they have a calendar month. And, as the first letter does not threaten them of loss of benefit for failing to reply, ther is no need to show the one month date at that point.

    Kevin D

    I think a combination of the suggestions of aosulliv and Drem would cover it. The 2-week reminder (or thereabouts) would make it much more difficult for clmt’s to subsequently use the “didn’t receive “it”…” line.

    If the “one month” date is clearly stated in the letter, that gives even less leeway for argument later.



    The LA that I work for currently operates a similar procedure. Requests for further information state that the information should be supplied within 7 days of the date of the letter. No negative action is taken until one month has elapsed and generally we follow up with a reminder to the customer after 14 days, or depending on the method used, after 7 days after the first request (e.g. where we have sent text messages to customers).

    I think we did see a small reduction in processing times but it’s mainly amongst the “middle ground” customers. Those customers who always supply evidence as soon as possible, continue to do it as soon as possible. Those who are always late or ignore letters continue to be late/ ignore whether you say 7, 14 days or a month!

    It does cause some problems with postal delays and writing letters on a Friday afternoon that don’t actually get posted until Monday as the customer can be left with very little time. We do also have a number of calls asking for extra time. I would say that if a customer queries we would always advise that the target is used as a prompt and not a deadline and we wouldn’t threaten to take negative action before the month had elapsed.

    I’m not aware of whether we have had been appeals etc. as a result because we would always try to ensure that the customer had the month and an extension if their circumstances made it necessary and that we made the customer aware.

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