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STREAMLINE HOUSING BENEFIT, SAYS CAMDEN'S LEADER

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Jane Roberts, leader of Camden LBC, has renewed calls for the housing benefit system to be reformed and simplified....
Jane Roberts, leader of Camden LBC, has renewed calls for the housing benefit system to be reformed and simplified. (See LGCnet 11 July REPORT HIGHLIGHTS LOCAL AUTHORITIES STRUGGLE WITH COMPLEX HOUSING BENEFIT SYSTEM).

She has welcomed a report about the difficulties faced by councils, landlords and tenants due to the complex nature of the system.

The report by the London Housing Federation, representing housing associations, found that only two out of five London authorities manage to meet payment targets, leaving two thirds of London's 160,000 housing benefit claimants out of pocket.

Camden's service, dealing with over 400,000 claims a year for housing benefit and council tax benefit, has beacon status and won praise from the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate which found that 'Camden is better than other local authorities we have inspected at making sure things work'.

'Even in Camden, where we process 97% of claims within the statutory 14 days, the complexity of the scheme makes it difficult to administer and impossible to explain to the public,' says Cllr Roberts. 'The frequent legislative changes are confusing for staff and customers alike.'

Cllr Roberts particularly applauded the report's emphasis on the need for councils and social landlords to work together in developing good practice. The report found that there have been over 85 changes to the housing benefit system in the past year.

Lesley Pigott, who heads Camden's benefits service, is a member of the steering group that was set up to oversee this project.

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