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A report by the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate (BFI) on the ...
A report by the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate (BFI) on the

administration of housing benefit and council tax benefit and

counter-fraud activity by Barnsley MBC has been published.

BFI inspected the council against the Performance Standards for

housing benefits. The report found that the council was not fully at

Standard for any of the seven functional areas - strategic management,

customer services, processing of claims, working with landlords,

internal security, counter-fraud, and overpayments.

Historically, the benefit service has had a low profile within the

council. As a result, the report found that performance had been weak

over recent years in terms of administering housing benefits,

identifying and recovering benefit overpayments, and countering

fraud, with no prosecutions undertaken, poor claims performance and a

lack of overpayment activity. However, since the autumn of 2002, the

council's benefit service has been regarded as a priority area by the

council's senior officers and members, who have now put in place the

foundation stones for a much improved benefit service.

The council now has a Vision for the benefit service, underpinned by

objectives linked to performance, and has introduced the Verification

Framework and management checking which have had a big impact on

securing the benefit system from fraud and error. The council has

also put in place a new counter-fraud policy, which clearly informs

action to be taken against benefit fraudsters.

The council still needs to improve in terms of implementing its

prosecution policy, improving the quality of its benefit

administration, and improving the times taken to process claims to

housing benefits. The report concludes that managers and staff within

the council's benefit service are committed to providing a quality

service, and with the support of the council's members and senior

management and the significant investment planned, BFI see no rea son

why the service should not move forward towards Standard.

In 2001/02, Barnsley MBC administered approximately £55.1m in housing benefits. This is approximately 15% of its gross revenue expenditure.

BFI is an independent unit within the Department for Work and

Pensions that reports directly to the secretary of state for work and

pensions on the standard of benefit administration and counter-fraud



1. The process for the inspection at Barnsley MBC included an initial fact finding stage, an on-site visit and

report generation and clearance. The on-site visit took place during

December 2002 and January 2003.

2. Each BFI inspection report is considered by the secretary of state

who decides whether any further action is appropriate. The secretary

of state has powers to issue directions to a local authority to

secure acceptable or minimum standards in performance.

3. In its response to the Housing Green Paper of November 2000, the

Department for Work and Pensions developed a performance framework

for housing benefits. The 'HB/CTB Performance Standards', published

in April 2002, enable local authorities to make a comprehensive

self-assessment of whether they deliver benefit effectively and

securely. They are the Standards that the DWP expects local authorities to aspire to and achieve in time.

4. The DWP has not set a timescale for

when the Standards need to be met by local authorities, other than

the speed of processing claims which local authorities are expected

to achieve by 2005/06.

5. BFI inspects against the seven functional areas of the Performance


- Strategic management - clearly stated aims and action, resources

and monitoring, with effective training and IT

- Customer services - providing an efficient and prompt service that

meets the needs of all claimants and persons with a legitimate

interest in a claim

- Processing of claims - s peedy and accurate claims processing with

effective verification

- Working with landlords - to give private landlords the confidence

to let to claimants and to support delivery of social housing

- Internal security - preventing internal fraud

- Counter-fraud - deterring, preventing, detecting and pursuing fraud

- Overpayments - preventing, identifying and recovering overpayments.

6. The 'HB/CTB Performance Standards' can be downloaded from:

7. Copies of BFI inspection reports can be found on the BFI website.


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