launched by work and pensions minister Chris Pond.
The new scheme, the first major reform of Housing Benefit since its
Allowance,' varying only by the size of family. At present, Housing
Benefit is related to the total rent of a house or flat.
So tenants will have the chance to shop around, finding cheaper
property and pocketing the difference, or going up-market and making
up the extra rent themselves.
Set locally by rent officers, the allowance will be based on rents in
the area and the number of occupiers in their property. As now,
entitlement will be subject to proof of a valid tenancy.
Payment will normally be made directly to the tenant instead of the
landlord to encourage tenants to take responsibility for budgeting
and paying their rent themselves rather than having it paid for them.
Lewisham is one of nine Pathfinder areas that will test the scheme
which will run for two years. Evaluation of the Pathfinders will
inform the roll-out of the scheme across the country.
Chris Pond, who visited Lewisham today to see the new scheme for
himself, said: 'This new system for Housing Benefit will increase
choice and responsibility for tenants. It will be much simpler and
quicker to administer. Customers will also have greater certainty
about how much help with their housing costs they would receive if
they went back to work, helping them bridge the gap between being
unemployed and taking a job.'
Steve Bullock, mayor of Lewisham, said: 'We are delighted to be
included in this pilot scheme which will reform the way in which
Housing Benefit is administered. From today new claimants in Lewisham
will have a clearer idea of how much Housing Benefit they could
receive regardless of the property they choose to rent making it
easier to balance their weekly budget.'
1. The new scheme has been designed to pay the same amount to tenants
with similar circumstances living in the same area. This differs from
the existing scheme, which ties the level of benefit to the rent
actually paid (subject to a range of restrictions applied by a rent
officer). Currently, tenants who live in smaller properties than they
are entitled to, or less attractive properties, generally receive
less benefit than those with similar needs in the same area, who live
in larger or more attractive properties.
2. With the Local Housing Allowance there will no longer be a need to
ask for a 'pre-tenancy determination' - which told tenants how much
benefit they might receive for a particular property, which added
more time onto the overall process. Under the current system, tenants
often found that Housing Benefit could not meet their rent only after
they have already signed a tenancy agreement. This should happen less
frequently under the new scheme as a major uncertainty will have been
3. There will no longer be a need for the complex rent restrictions
and individual referral of rents to rent officers that currently
contribute to the delay in processing claims by private tenants. The
complexity of the Housing Benefit scheme makes efficient
administration difficult, illustrated by the fact that a new claim
takes an average of 47 days to be processed, with the bottom quarter
of authorities taking on average between 56 and 142 days. 4. Lewisham
is the second of nine councils to go live with the LHA. Blackpool
started on 17 November, Coventry and Teignbridge will start on 12
January, Brighton and Hove on 2 February and Edinburgh, North East
Lincolnshire, Conwy and Leeds on 9 February.