Benefit claims delays concern for charity

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News

New housing benefit applicants in North Kesteven are waiting almost a month for their claims to be processed, with a charity warning delays could lead to homelessness.

Between July and September 2018, new claimants waited 27 days on average before their application was completed, Department for Work and Pensions data shows.

That’s above the British average of 22 days, which includes weekends.

This waiting time can be worrying for applicants, and the charity Turn2Us, which helps people with financial hardship gain access to welfare benefits, said they can be threatened with eviction and face homelessness.

Legal guidance states councils should respond to the claim within two weeks.

According to the figures, the local authority processed 268 new cases during the three month period. In total, there were 7,165 housing benefit claimants in North Kesteven in that time.

During the same three months in 2017, applicants had less time to wait, with an average delay of 17 days.

Matthew Geer, campaigns manager at Turn2Us, said: “The longer people are waiting for their Housing Benefit, the more likely they are to get into rent arrears, face eviction and in some cases end up homeless.”

Residents are eligible for housing benefit if they rent, their savings are below £16,000, and they are on low income or other benefits.

The amount applicants receive differs depending on whether they rent from the council, or privately, their salary and whether they have any spare rooms.

North Kesteven was quicker at dealing with current claimants who had changed their living circumstances, than those applying for the first time. Those applications took on average just five days to complete.

The Government is currently rolling out Universal Credit across the country, however North Kesteven did not have full service when this data was recorded. Claimants applying for housing benefit under Universal Credit have to wait five weeks, which includes a four week assessment period.