Housing benefit delays could cause homelessness in Aylesbury Vale

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Published by Dan Gooding at 11:58am 21st February 2019. (Updated at 1:38pm 21st February 2019)

New housing benefit applicants in Aylesbury Vale 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's 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.

£20 notes - money
Claimants are being left waiting around a month for their benefit

According to the figures, the local authority processed 567 new cases during the three month period.

In total, there were 17,805 housing benefit claimants in Aylesbury Vale in that time.

During the same three months in 2017, applicants had less time to wait, with an average delay of 22 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.

"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."

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.

Aylesbury Vale 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 six days to complete.

A DWP spokesman said:

"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."

Hazel Hutt, Group Manager of Customer Relationships at AVDC said:

“Due to the work needed to implement Universal Credit in September 2018, we experienced some slight delays around that time in processing housing benefits claims.

"However, this was a temporary issue that was quickly dealt with by our Revenues & Benefits team.

“We’re now pleased to report that our processing of housing benefit claims is well ahead of the national average, with new claims being processed in around 13 days and changes in circumstances in as little as 2 days.

“We fully understand that any delays to our processing can affect the circumstances of our residents.

"Which is why we’re committed to ensuring our processing times are kept well within our target of 22 days.”

The Government has rolled out Universal Credit in Aylesbury Vale, 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.

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