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Benefit Service Veronica Dewsbury. Introduction The Benefits Service administers the following: Housing Benefit Council Tax Benefit Discretionary Housing.

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Presentation on theme: "Benefit Service Veronica Dewsbury. Introduction The Benefits Service administers the following: Housing Benefit Council Tax Benefit Discretionary Housing."— Presentation transcript:

1 Benefit Service Veronica Dewsbury

2 Introduction The Benefits Service administers the following: Housing Benefit Council Tax Benefit Discretionary Housing Payments Recovery of overpaid Housing Benefit

3 What we currently do We have a target to process all claims within 14 days of receipt and are consistently performing against this target We have transformed our service to maintain this target and deliver significant savings on the costs of delivery We offer a face to face service from both the Civic Offices and 3 Libraries. The library locations were selected based on claimant profile within the Borough and to provide ease of access We have representation on the following groups: –Child Poverty Action –Worklessness –Homelessness Strategy –Benefit Network

4 Cont’d We work with Landlords and Housing Options to secure new tenancies and prevent evictions We have close liaison with the Department for Work and Pensions to ensure residents are receiving the maximum benefits they are entitled to We have a proactive Fraud investigation team to prevent and detect fraud We deliver training and briefing sessions to internal and external partners to ensure full understanding of new and existing legislation

5 Cont’d Make awards of discretionary housing payments to those suffering short term financial hardship Negotiate affordable repayment schedules for overpaid housing benefit Deliver specialist training to children and learning staff to enable them to support families in times of hardship Share information with other Council departments to avoid delays in the awards of other financial assistance

6 Welfare Reform Programme 2011 Reduction in the levels of Local Housing Allowance with transitional protection for existing claimants Child benefit rates frozen for 3 years Health in pregnancy grant abolished Child trust fund abolished Withdrawal rates for tax credits changes from 39% to 41% Baby element of tax credits abolished Tax credit year end adjustments will be imposed on changes greater than £10,000 instead of £25,000

7 Cont’d 2012 Lone parents will be moved from income support to job seekers allowance when the youngest child is 5 years Single room rate restriction extended to 35 years old from 25 years old – transitional protection starts to end from January 2012 Tax credit backdates restricted to 1 month instead of 3 Couples with children will have to work at least 24 hours between them to qualify for working tax credits If your income falls by less than £2,500 during a tax credit year there will be no adjustment to a higher award

8 Cont’d 2013 Reduce funding of Council Tax Benefit by 10% and introduce localised scheme Introduction of universal credit which will incorporate housing benefit for private and social tenants Housing benefit reductions for social tenants under occupying Child Benefit withdrawn from families with a higher rate tax payer Tax credit adjustments invoked based on changes of £5,000 instead of £10,000 Cap on total benefit entitlement to the average income level for earners – currently deemed to be £26,000 pa Transfer of some elements of the social fund to Local Authorities for local administration

9 The Risks Reduction in Council Tax collection leading to future increases Increase in cost of collection for both Council Tax and Council rents Direct payments to social tenants leading to increase in arrears and evictions Housing associations unable to access cheap borrowing reducing the build of affordable homes Working age families hardest hit by Council Tax Benefit reductions Reduction in income for vulnerable families Increase in Judicial Reviews as appeals not dealt with by Tribunal Service Failure to join up existing forms of support both internally and externally leading to increased costs and failure to meet customer needs

10 The Risks Cont’d Increase in demand on private rented accommodation in the Borough due to benefit restrictions The impact on other initiatives such as child poverty and homelessness Financial burden of reductions in CTB and LHA for either the LA or individual residents The discretionary housing payment scheme and the Council Tax Benefit scheme may need to be revised each year due to funding or increased demand – resource intensive

11 Mitigations Undertaking analysis to determine demand on the new council tax benefit scheme Setting up cross organisation working groups to determine alternate funding streams to assist cases of hardship Consulting on localised council tax benefit and social fund schemes to ensure they are clear and equitable Comparing processes within the local authority on all means tested assistance provided to combine resources and maximise efficiencies Working group with other Essex Authorities on development of schemes to avoid post code lotteries and save on implementation costs

12 Cont’d Consultation on appeals process design which is clear, equitable and supports the written policies Engaging with external organisations to ensure all available funding streams and assistance programmes are fully utilised Continue analysis on employment levels and increase in claimant levels to identify future needs

13 Benefits service Questions ?

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