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Cornish families waiting a MONTH for housing benefits

Cornish families waiting a MONTH for housing benefits

Published by Helen Down at 8:00am 23rd February 2019. (Updated at 8:28am 23rd February 2019)

New housing benefit applicants in Cornwall are waiting 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 31 days on average before their application was completed, Department for Work and Pensions data shows.

That is significantly 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 833 new cases during the three month period.

In total, there were 25,471 housing benefit claimants in Cornwall in that time.

During the same three months in 2017, applicants had less time to wait, with an average delay of 26 days.

"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.

"Housing Benefit is a necessity in this time of high rents and minimal social housing. We are seeing a concerning rise in rent arrears as more and more people are being pushed into poverty.

"It needs to be processed and paid efficiently to avoid renters ending up in vulnerable situations."

Campaigns Manager at Turn2Us Matthew Geer

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.

Cornwall 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 12 days to complete.

"We spend around £23 billion a year on housing benefit - more than any other OECD country as a proportion of GDP.

"We work directly with each local authority to monitor housing benefit performance and will continue to work closely with local authorities as Universal Credit rolls out."

Department for Work and Pensions

The Government has rolled out Universal Credit in Cornwall, which aims to replace benefits such as housing benefit, Jobseeker's Allowance and child tax credits.

These figures include only people who were receiving the old housing benefit payments.

"While we try to progress new housing benefit claims as quickly as possible, there are a number of reasons there could be delays in the process.

"The average time is calculated from the moment an application is submitted, regardless of whether all the required information is included, and delays can be caused when we need to chase more details.

"We look to reduce these delays as much as possible by looking at new claims as soon as they are received, which enables us to advise the resident what they need to provide as evidence.

"We do this by attempting to ring them, texting or emailing them and as a last resort write to them, which can obviously slow the process down.

"Where someone has been waiting for a decision on their housing benefit and as a result is coming under pressure from their landlord, we will look to prioritise where we can.

"We would encourage anyone in this situation to contact us immediately.

"We don't have a specific target for new claims processing, our target is for a combination of new claims and change of circumstances.

"That target stands at 13 days, which we have hit for the past two years."

Cornwall Council

You can check the full figures for Cornwall here

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