A report by the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate on the
administration of housing benefit and council tax benefit and counter
BFI first inspected the council in October 1999 and found weaknesses
throughout the benefits administration and counter fraud work.
Following publication of the report the council set up a benefits
working group to oversee and monitor the strategy and implementation
of the BFI's recommendations.
This follow up inspection report finds that the council has made
substantial progress in most areas of work, fully implementing 56
action points and partially implementing another 17 action points out
of a total of 85. Further improvements were still needed in counter
fraud and overpayments.
The improvements were due largely to a significant increase in the
number of staff, restructuring of the teams within the benefit
section, and improved liaison with other organisations. Progress had
been positively supported by greater involvement of elected members
and senior management.
The council had been struggling to overcome backlogs of work but the
second inspection found that outstanding work had been reduced to
manageable levels through close management and monitoring of the
There had been an improvement in the quality of verification and
evidence requested to support claims to housing benefits although
visiting officers needed more support in the form of a visiting
strategy, documented guidance, targets and training.
The council had amended its claim form since the first inspection,
bringing it in line with the BFI's model claim form and tailoring it
to meet local needs. It had also stopped using a shortened claim form
for renewal claims. Verification on renewal claims had improved
There had been an increase in the number of complaints. In 2000/01,
43% of the formal complaints received by the council (63) related to
housing benefits. Reasons for the increase were: increased evidence
requirements to verify claims which can result in longer processing
times; poor publicity arising from the first BFI report; and
complaints from housing authorities and landlords.
The council had improved staff training and development, making
available suitable procedural guides. A corporate training officer
had also been appointed.
The council had also appointed a senior fraud officer, resulting in
an improvement in the quality of counter fraud work, but further
efforts were still required in prosecution work.
In 2000/2001 Allerdale BC administered approximately£19m in housing benefits. This is 44% of its gross expenditure.