NHF calls for urgent reforms to housing benefit administration

25 May 00
Immediate steps must be taken to tackle poor administration of housing benefit, MPs were told this week.

26 May 2000

While accepting that long-term reform must wait until there is greater coherence in social housing rents, the National Housing Federation accused the government of failing to recognise the serious maladministration taking place in some local authority benefit offices.

Last month's housing green paper included a list of options for improving the service to claimants, but failed to indicate if or when the measures might come into force.

In evidence to the House of Commons social security select committee's inquiry into housing benefit on May 24, federation officers described the green paper as a 'missed opportunity' to tackle the major delays that have built up.

Among steps the federation wants to be taken immediately are the introduction of fixed award schemes; allowing claimants to retain benefit for a period once their circumstances change; and the publication of rent limits, so saving on the time taken for referrals to rent officers.

The green paper stated that fixed awards might reduce administration but would also be open to abuse.

But NHF chief executive Jim Coulter said: 'The green paper mentions these proposals only to dismiss them. We argue that they should at the very least be piloted to find out whether the government's reservations are well founded.'

The federation also proposes an increase in earnings 'disregards' (which have not been raised since 1988) and the delegation of verification powers to registered social landlords.


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