Skip to main content

Housing Benefit

Volume 470: debated on Thursday 10 January 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps his Department plans to take to improve the administration of housing benefit by local authorities. (175328)

Since 2002-03, housing benefit and council tax benefit (HB and CTB) administration has improved significantly. In 2002-03, the national average for the time taken to deal with new claims to HB and CTB was 55 days, with the worst 15 per cent. taking an average of 99 days. These worst 15 per cent. performing authorities have made the greatest improvements in 2006-07 by processing claims in 54 days. In 2006-07, the national average had improved to 33 days.

Complaints to the local government ombudsman regarding HB and CTB administration have also fallen by 72 per cent. between 2000-01 and 2006-07 from 4,028 to 1,121 complaints. In 2006-07, HB and CTB administration accounted for only 6 per cent. of complaints, compared to 21 per cent. in 2001-02.

We will continue to monitor local authorities’ performance, engaging where appropriate with the poor performers and will continue to provide consultancy support and good practice on all aspects of HB and CTB administration.

We are continually taking steps to simplify the system to make it easier for local authorities to administer the scheme, for example, the roll-out of the local housing allowance from April 2008 is a more straightforward and transparent way of calculating entitlement to housing benefit in the private sector. We have also developed a new IT link which passes information about DWP benefits straight to the computers of housing benefit/council tax benefit staff. These initiatives will help in the administration of the scheme.