§ Mr. Pond
We are piloting Pathways to Work across Great Britain, a groundbreaking scheme that gives people on Incapacity Benefit access to a comprehensive range of work focused support which is already generating encouraging feedback. This scheme is currently being piloted in three areas including Renfrewshire, and will be extended to a further four areas in April 2004.
The overall strategy for reforming Housing Benefit is to improve administration, promote choice and responsibility, enhance work incentives and reduce levels of fraud and error in the system. As part of our reforms, the Local Housing Allowance, a flat rate allowance based on household locations, family size and income, is being tested in nine pathfinder areas, including Edinburgh; the pathfinder went live on the 9 February 2004 and will run for two years.
§ Chris Pond
The Housing Benefit Reform Programme was launched in October 2002. Building on improvements in the administration of Housing Benefit, the overall aims of the reforms are to promote choice and responsibility, enhance work incentives, and reduce levels of fraud and error.
The first stage was to improve administration and this is well under way. For example, between October 2002 and April 2003 we introduced a streamlined Housing Benefit reclaiming process after short periods of work, similar to the arrangements introduced for Jobseeker's 1242W Allowance and Income Support in October 2001. From April 2004, we will remove the need for customers to make a new Housing Benefit claim when moving from benefit into work. Instead, this will be treated as a change in circumstances.
The second stage is restructuring benefit support for people on low incomes. We have now introduced the `Local Housing Allowance' in nine Pathfinder areas across Great Britain, including one in Edinburgh, which went live on the 9 February 2004. This is a flat rate allowance based on household location, family size and income. There will be a comprehensive and independent evaluation of the reforms.