Agencies pay phenomenal salaries as housing benefit crisis bites

28 Sep 00
Morale is plummeting among staff in housing benefit departments because of the crisis over late payments in many local authorities.

29 September 2000

Peter de la Moth, benefits policy and appeals officer at Camden Council, said staff shortages meant that many authorities were having to turn to agencies that were charging exorbitant prices for temporary workers.

In one way, he told a fringe meeting at the National Housing Federation conference, it was a good time to be a housing benefit officer: 'You can virtually write your own cheque. The agencies are paying phenomenal salaries.'

One council received an agency quote for temporary staff that was higher than the salary it pays its chief executive, he said, adding: 'It's not surprising staff are feeling unsettled when they see pound signs being flashed around.'

An NHF survey published to coincide with the conference showed RSLs are owed a total of £84m in unpaid housing benefit.

Camden itself has one of the best records among London authorities. Moth appeared to blame the government's fixation with tackling fraud for some of the delays experienced elsewhere.

'Every chief executive has had a letter saying they must tackle housing benefit fraud. I leave it to your imagination how many letters we have received about providing a better service.'


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