Returning claim forms to customers

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    It appears to be a growing practice in LA’s to refuse to accept a claim form if part or all of the information is missing.

    Instead, the form is marked as “interest registered” and returned to the customer with a note as to what information they need to provide and by when. The claim is then “accepted” when the customer returns with the missing documentation.

    I am attracted by this idea. I believe it was some consultancy that suggested this and I can see the logic in it. Getting customers to return with the info is a real issue in the borough. They seem to think that once the form is in they can relax.

    It seems to me that the legislation does not entirely preclude such a policy. If it improves time taken to process claims (i.e. because of the lack of double handling) it must have some benefits.

    Thoughts anyone?


    If handled correctly, this approach seems to match the structure of Reg 83 very nicely. Para (1) requires a claim to be in writing on a “properly completed form”; para (9) says the form is properly completed if the claimant has followed all the instructions, including instructions to provide supporting evidence. If the form is not properly completed, it is defective: para (6). Para (7)(a) says that the Council may “request the claimant to complete the defective claim” and para (8)(a) says the claim is good if the Council “receives the completed claim or the information requested to complete it” within a month (or longer if allowed).

    I think all of that process is complied with if the Council says “take this away and read the instructions properly”, provided there is no danger of somehow “forgetting” that the form was first presented, incomplete, on an earlier date. That’s the obvious danger. I still hear far too often of councils arbitrarily imposing their own time limit of less than a month, this is of course completely unacceptable.

    I also think LAs might be kidding themselves if they are hoping to cheat on their performance stats by doing this: saying that the claim has not been accepted is surely just semantics: the DWP wants to know how long it took from the claimant’s first written contact. LAs will surely be rumbled very quickly if that’s what they are up to.

    But as an efficient way of getting information and reducing paper-shuffling at the HB office: yes, why not?

    Andy Thurman

    The basic process detailed is being trialled here, following reports of its success elsewhere.

    I have some concerns over it, which I’m glad to say have in the main been taken on board in the detail.

    While you comment that legislation does not preclude such a policy, I see nothing that allows an LA to refuse to accept a claim – it could be treated as defective but even in this case, it should be accepted & claimant given a month (or longer) to remedy.

    So – the form should be accepted as received in the first instance. The subsequent ‘handing-back’ of the form is fine & it does appear to act as a strong reminder (although the form or at least the 1st couple of pages ought to be copied and held on records as proof of receipt).

    PI’s – where this process gets more prompt response from customers, leading to a genuine performance improvement – fine – but I wonder how many LA’s are treating rec’d date for PI purposes as the day the form & all evidence is brought back rather than the date the form was initially ‘received’. As above, I don’t see how the claim could be refused by the LA in the first place & PI should count the time taken to ‘remedy’ any defective part of the claim.

    What if the form isn’t subsequently returned? If the form was initially ‘refused’, there is no claim on which to make a decision. An LA’s new claims caseload could be affected with the LA receiving no ‘credit’ for dealing with claims which would otherwise fall to be nil-ent decisions.

    The process could also lead to inconsistency in assessing new claims, the claimant being treated differently if claiming via post rather than in person – while it makes good sense to send a customer away with a form after visiting, is it really appropriate for posted in forms?
    In many LA’s, a form rec’d by post is scanned & indexed to a DIP system by an officer who would not be able to make a decision on whether sufficient info rec’d. An assessor then picking this up would not have the paper form – would they need to locate the form to send with the evidence request?

    Reminders – if the claim is not accepted by the LA, there is no facility to send reminder/call as per PS enabler E4. The process could also impact on E1 & E3.

    Finally (I think 😉 ), and this is a bit er… very…left field 😯 what about the [i:05e060a697]overall[/i:05e060a697] efficiency angle if this is done with posted forms? For one claim, the difference between sending a single-page letter and sending a form with that letter is minimal (& cost to LA under current postal regime the same) but multiplied over the whole country for all claims, that’s quite a bulk of paper making 2 additional journeys (back to clmt, then back to LA). Benefits sections are not isolated from society as a whole – does the performance improvement justify the use of fuel etc. associated with these unnecessary movements.

    OK, one more point: It may take a while to ‘educate’ the whole of your client base, but in my experience, a clear nil-det policy detailed in info requests, followed up with [b:05e060a697]reminder phone calls [/b:05e060a697]is quite effective.


    This was recently discussed on Rightsnet.
    My post on that discussion is copied below.

    I think there are two separate issues here. To understand both I think it is important to stress that a “form” and a “claim” are not the same thing. Most claims are made on a form, but the form is just a means to make a claim and not a claim in itself.

    1) Sending the form back to the claimant.

    A claim must be made in writing on a properly completed claim form or any other form acceptable to the LA, such as a letter. Once the form or letter has been received by LA or appropriate DWP office a claim has been made.

    If the claim is defective because, although made on an appropriate form, it has not been properly completed, the LA should ask the claimant to properly complete the form. In this case sending the whole “form” back may often be a sensible way of achieving this. Note, however that the claim has still been made and will need to have a decision made on it, even if the form is never sent back to the LA by the claimant.

    Where a form is not properly completed because, for example a question has not been answered or a box has not been ticked, then sending the form back may be the only way of resolving the defect whilst maintaining an audit trail. (In my LA we take the form back to the claimant in a visit and ask them to complete the form then). The issue is where the form has all questions answered and boxes ticked etc, but it is not supported by all the evidence requested on the form. The claim is still defective, but I don’t see any real reason why sending the form back is helpful or necessary as a simple letter requesting the missing evidence would appear to work best. However, other benefit managers whom I know to be committed to customer care are convinced that by sending the whole form back to the customer they increase the chances of all the correct evidence being provided and the claim ultimately being successful.

    2) Treating a defective claim as only an intention to claim.

    I can find nothing in the regulations at all to support this as a proposition. Yes, it may enable the LA concerned to falsely return very good performance figure, but quite frankly if this is the intention then why go to all the effort, why not just make your figures up? Both solutions have no basis in regulations and are equally dishonest.

    I don’t think you can get around the fact that once a claim is made you have to make a decision on it, even if the claim is defective.


    I generally agree with jmemberry on this; especially the bit about Pi’s, no need to scheme and devise a way of making your La look good just “say” that you are – job done.

    Actually this is quite a sticky process, I have no doubt that you are likely to have an application treated differently if you present at an La with your application than if you posted it in.

    For example, you turn up at the La with a form which you got from a friend (no phone call to register first contact etc.), you have put your name and address in part one, scribbled through some boxes and handed it in, unsigned.

    The La officer upon examining your “claim” explains that you need to fill out a lot more of it (all relevant parts) and sign it as well as providing id, evidence of rent/income etc and passes it back to you to fill in and get you evidence which you say you have “in the car” – off you go, no record of your visit, no claim made, no decision ever made…

    Send the same “claim” in by post and there will be log of it being received and a date that it was received etc. the info required may be requested (or form sent back) just as before but in this case a decision must be made even if just to say this is a defective “claim”.

    Personally I believe there is a case, in some circumstances, for returning forms where they are “substantially” incomplete but I can think of cases where no ctb was ever paid because no rent details were supplied on a form which was sent back!

    Of course this makes things difficult for those who deal first hand with the customers, I am sympathetic with people who cannot be aware of the implications of their actions at an enquiry desk (good or bad for the La or customer).

    I also say that each application, however incomplete, must ultimately lead to a decision and dont see sending everthing back as an excuse for not doing so.

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