§ Ms Ruddock
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many applications for family credit were lodged in November 1994, December 1994 and January 1995 in the local district office for the parliamentary constituency of Lewisham, Deptford; of these, how many applications for family credit are still waiting to be processed; what is the average time taken to process76W applications for family credit; and what help is available to applicants who are experiencing unusually long delays in processing their applications.
§ Mr. Roger Evans
The administration of family credit is a matter for Mr. Michael Bichard, the chief executive of the Benefits Agency. He will write to the hon. Member with such information as is available.
Letter from Michael Bichard to Ms Joan Ruddock, dated 17 February 1995The Secretary of State for Social Security has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question about Family Credit (FC) claims made from the Lewisham area; also about the time taken to process a FC claim and the help that is available to applicants who experience unusually long delays in processing their applications.The vast majority of claims to FC are forwarded by the applicant direct to the FC Unit in Blackpool. Information is not available in respect of the number of applications lodged from any particular Benefits Agency District area.The average time taken to process applications to FC for the months of November 1994, December 1994 and January 1995 are 13.19, 14.93 and 15.21 days respectively. The increase in the average clearance time over this period is due firstly to the loss of productivity over the Christmas period; secondly due to the FC Unit concentrating its resources on clearing cases where there has been a long delay. These cases have arisen due to an increase in workload experienced during October and November.Help is available to those who are experiencing delays in processing their applications. Customers can contact the Family Credit Helpline Service on 01253 500050 where full explanations of any delay can be made and outstanding matters resolved if at all possible. Alternatively, customers can contact the Customer Services section in their local Benefits Agency office, or the Client Advisor in their local Employment Service office, who will attempt to expedite any outstanding claim.If a customer is in financial difficulty as a result of an outstanding FC claim which cannot be resolved, a claim can be made to the Social Fund (SF) section at their local Benefits Agency office. Crisis Loans are available to anyone who needs financial help to meet expenses in an emergency or a disaster, who is facing serious risk or serious damage to their health or safety. The applicant does not have to be in receipt of any benefit, but any income or capital which he has will be taken into account by the SF officer.I hope you find this reply helpful.