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Wiganers wait three weeks for new housing benefits claims

Wigan Council says it values accuracy as well as speed regarding new claims
Wigan Council says it values accuracy as well as speed regarding new claims

Wiganers are still waiting more than three weeks for their new housing benefit claims to be processed, figures have revealed.

Between April 2017 and March 2018, new claimants waited on average 25 days before their application was completed, according to data from the Department for Work and Pensions.

Although this is a significant decrease from the year before, when applicants were subjected to a 42-day wait on average, the figures still remain above the British average of 22 days for the year, including weekends.

Wigan Council has acknowledged the annual figures, but also insisted that the wait is continuing to decrease according to the most recent quarterly figures.

Lesley O’Halloran, assistant director for customer services, said: “The latest published statistics for quarter four from the Department for Works and Pensions shows Wigan Borough at 22 days for new claims and two days for a change of circumstances.

“When processing housing benefit claims, we concentrate on the accuracy of the assessments as well as the speed of processing.

“We also look to maximise customer entitlement to benefits, council tax discounts and exemptions, ensuring residents are getting what they are entitled to.

“The risk of failing to deliver a high quality service can have a huge impact on some of our more vulnerable residents, and this is why we work extremely hard to ensure claims are completed accurately.

“Residents submitting new claims for Housing Benefit can expect their claim to be looked at within one week of being received by us, however new claims often require more data gathering often directly from the claimant and this can lengthen the process.

“Care should be taken when interpreting the data, particularly when comparing across difference local authorities, the continued roll out of universal credit impacts on the speed of processing figures at a local authority level.”

The local authority processed 5,713 new cases over the 12-month period. In total there were 20,571 housing benefit claimants in Wigan in February 2018, which is the latest public data.

Universal Credit Full Service rolled out in Wigan from 18 April 2018, since when residents cannot put in a new claim for housing benefits unless they have two or more children, are of state pension age or they live in temporary or specified accommodation.