Falkirk Council processes housing benefits in half the time

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Falkirk is one of the fastest councils in Britain at processing new housing benefit claims, figures have revealed.

Between January and March 2019, new claimants waited nine days on average for their application to be completed, Department for Work and Pensions data shows.

That’s below the average across Britain of 19 days.

This waiting time can be worrying for applicants, and the charity Turn2Us, which helps people with financial hardship gain access to welfare benefits, said they can be threatened with eviction and face homelessness as a result.

Legal guidance states councils should respond to the claim within two weeks.

According to the figures, the local authority processed 386 new cases during the three month period.

Including existing recipients, there were 3,461 housing benefit claimants in Falkirk in that time.

During the same three months in 2018, applicants had to wait longer, with an average delay of 14 days.

Debby Mulling, head of engagement at Turn2us, said: “The longer people are made to wait for their Housing Benefit, the more likely they are to fall into rental arrears, face eviction and end up homeless.

“It is vital that in a time of high rents, low affordability and precarious housing arrangements all benefits are paid swiftly.

“Official measures clearly state that claims for Housing Benefit should be processed within 14 days. The Government needs to provide adequate support to councils so they can achieve this target.”

Residents are eligible for housing benefit if they rent, their savings are below £16,000, and they are on low income or other benefits.

Falkirk was quicker at dealing with current claimants, who had changed their living circumstances, than those applying for the first time. Those applications took on average just two days to complete.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: “Housing Benefit is administered by local authorities and the speed of processing has remained stable for a number of years. We work directly with each local authority to monitor performance.”