HC Deb 22 June 1993 vol 227 cc163-5W
Mr. Hendry

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what plans he has to ensure that local authorities are meeting the requirement to process housing benefit claims within 14 days.

Mr. Burt

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave him on 19 January, at column211. Full statutory responsibility for the administration of the housing benefit scheme rests with local authorities. They are required to ensure that the system is working effectively and in accordance with the rules of the benefit scheme. Regulations prescribe that claims should be processed within 14 days of receipt of all the necessary information, or as soon as possible thereafter. Where through no fault of the applicant, a claim to rent allowance cannot be settled within 14 days, interim payments should be made.

We recognise the continuing concerns about some authorities' performance in this area, and the Department plans shortly to issue strengthened guidance reminding all authorities of their legal duties to make interim payments.

My reply to my hon. Friend on 2 March 1993 at column 112 referred to the housing benefit performance measures, prepared by the Audit Commission, under the citizens

for each of these measures between the years 2000 and 2025 where these can be estimated in broad orders of magnitude.

Mr. Scott

Information on the projected costs/savings of each of the main measures was announced by the former Secretary of State on 10 January 1990 at column482. The table estimates in broad orders of magnitude these costs/savings for 1993–94 to 1995–96 and the likely effect for 2000–01 at the latest price base. It is not possible to provide estimates in the longer term since the costs and savings depend on a large number of factors which cannot be accurately forecast.

charter initiative within local government. Publication of the results, both locally and nationally, will ensure that authorities monitor more closely how they meet the 14-day requirements.

Mr. Hendry

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what evidence he has on the extent to which local authorities are meeting the 14–day target for housing benefit claims; if he will list those authorities which did not meet the target for the two most recent years where figures are available; and how many days it took those authorities to process such claims.

Mr. Burt

[holding answer 10 June 1993]: The available information has been placed in the Library. Information on the actual number of days that authorities take to process benefit claims is not available.

Figures reported by many authorities indicate how well they administer housing benefit. Regulations provide that authorities should process claims within 14 days of all the necessary information becoming available. In 1991–92, overall figures, based on the 345 authorities supplying data, indicated that around 70 per cent. of authorities achieve, or exceed, the national average of 75 per cent. for the processing of housing benefit claims within 14 days of all relevant information becoming available. Some 40 per cent. of responding authorities process 90 per cent. or more of claims within 14 days.

Source: Housing Benefit Management Information System Statistical Return (1991–92).