Housing benefit delays for applicants in East Devon

PUBLISHED: 10:13 26 November 2018 | UPDATED: 10:20 26 November 2018

Between April 2018 and June 2018, new claimants waited 18 days on average before their application was completed. Picture: PA.

Between April 2018 and June 2018, new claimants waited 18 days on average before their application was completed. Picture: PA.

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New housing benefit applicants in East Devon have waited almost three weeks for their claims to be processed, new figures have revealed.

New housing benefit applicants in East Devon have waited almost three weeks for their claims to be processed, new figures have revealed.

Between April 2018 and June 2018, new claimants waited 18 days on average before their application was completed, according to Department for Work and Pensions data, below the British average of 23 days including weekends.

The Journal put the figures to East Devon District Council, a spokeswoman for the council said: “Unfortunately there was a dip in our performance of new claims in the first quarter of this year. We had experienced a 15% increase in the number of new claims compared to the same quarter for 2017/18.

“This coupled with some staffing issues together with preparing for Universal Credit had a detrimental impact on our performance.

“However, our performance for the second quarter has improved to an average of 14.73 days, but for October the time taken to process new claims was reduced to 11.60 days.”

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 503 new cases during the three month period.

In total, there were 9,151 housing benefit claimants in East Devon over that time.

During the same three months in 2017, applicants had less time to wait, with an average delay of 15 days.

Pritie Billimoria, head of communications at Turn2Us, said: “Housing benefit is not a luxury; it’s a safety net for people who simply do not earn enough money to be able to keep a roof over their head without it.”

EDDC’s spokeswoman said the authority recognises the impact a delay on can have and prioritises new claims ‘to ensure we don’t create any further hardship’.

She added: “It should be noted that although our performance did dip in the first quarter we were still the second highest performing council in Devon and the sixth highest in the South West for our time to process new claims.”

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