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REPORT HIGHLIGHTS LOCAL AUTHORITIES STRUGGLE WITH COMPLEX HOUSING BENEFIT SYSTEM

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A new report launched today, entitled Reaping the Benefit, argues that up to 85 regulation changes to the housing b...
A new report launched today, entitled Reaping the Benefit, argues that up to 85 regulation changes to the housing benefit system, instructed by the government, have caused chaos in some areas and that immediate solutions need to be found.

The report concludes that problems in poor service standards are not universal. Some local authorities, working effectively in partnership with London's housing associations, have succeeded in delivering this difficult service well.

The report also illustrates that contracting out to private sector organisations is not a panacea to all the problems of housing benefit delivery. The government needs to look at other ways in which they might intervene in failing areas to deliver real improvements and accountability.

The report reveals that only two in five London local authorities are managing to meet housing benefit administration targets.

This means that out of London's 160,000 people receiving housing benefit, just over 60,000 are getting payments consistently on time. The remaining 100,000 are often having to wait months for their housing benefit to be paid. In the meantime, their rent arrears are spiralling causing tenants panic and distress and pushing some HAs the edge of bankruptcy.

Reaping the Benefit focuses on the good practice of high performing local authorities and how others can learn from them. It successfully evaluates the current problems with the delivery of housing benefit administration and identifies possible solutions, focusing on positive changes that can be made by government, local authorities and London's housing associations to improve the failing system.

However, the report argues that without changes from the government to simplify the system, most local authorities are going to struggle to meet their performance targets.

Sue Ellenby, head of the London Housing Federation, commented: 'Over the past year there have been over 85 changes to the housing benefit system. It is therefore not suprising that local authorities are struggling to keep up with this ever changing and complex system.

'What we need is for the government to simplify the system, stop making frequent changes and ensure that housing benefit administration is properly funded. This will give local authorities the opportunity to develop the efficient and effective service that landlords and tenants need. I have been delighted with the co-operation of the Association of London Government with this production of this report.

'Thousands of housing associations and their tenants are having to wait months for housing benefit - it's just not good enough. We hope that this report illustrates that by working together to make logical changes we can get the system working.'

Tony Newman, chair of housing oanel, Association of London Government, commented: 'The ALG and its members boroughs recognise that performance needs to improve and that an examination of the constraints on improved performance which also positively promotes best practice has been overdue.

'The ALG and its member have therefore been enthusiastic about co-operating with the London Housing Federation and HACAS on the preparation of this report. The report moves us on from debates focused on attributing blame for what has gone wrong to focusing on finding and promoting solutions.'

Note:

The London Housing Federation is the voice and an advocate of decent housing for all Londoners. It is the membership body representing independent social landlords. The London Housing Federation is a regional office of the National Housing Federation.

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