Housing benefit and council tax benefit mandatory reconsiderations

Cheshire West and Chester Council did not have the information requested.

Dear Cheshire West and Chester Council,

I would like to request the following information:

1, the number of housing benefit and council tax benefit decisions taken over the last four years by an outsourced provider/contractor

2, the number of checks undertaken by the council of outsourced housing benefit and council tax benefit decisions over the last four years. Such checks are required under the Contracting Out (Functions of Local Authorities: Income-Related Benefits) Order 2002, rule 4.

3, the proportion of checked decisions that were considered by the council
to be erroneous

4, the efforts made by outsourced providers to prevent such errors from
recurring.

5, the number of mandatory reconsiderations lodged against housing benefit and council tax benefit decisions for each of the last four years

6, the number of mandatory reconsiderations in favour of the individual claimant

7, the identity of the body under such mandatory reconsiderations, ie the council or an outsourced provider and

8, the identity of that outsourced provider.

Thanks.

Yours faithfully,

Robert Thomas

FOI West, Cheshire West and Chester Council

RE: Your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000

Case Reference: RFI 2012

Dear Robert Thomas

Thank you for your email dated 10 December 2019.

It will be treated as a request within the meaning of the Act: this means that we will send you a full response within 20 working days, either supplying you with the information which you want, or explaining to you why we cannot supply it.

If we need any further clarification or there is any problem we will be in touch.

Disclosures Team
Cheshire West and Chester Council
Tel: 0300 123 8 123
Email: [email address]
Location: Cheshire West and Chester Council, 4 Civic Way, Ellesmere Port CH65 0BE
Visit: cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk

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FOI West, Cheshire West and Chester Council

Dear Robert Thomas

 

Thank you for your request for information of 10^th December 2019 which
has been logged as RFI 2012 and has been dealt with under the Freedom of
Information Act 2000. We confirm that Cheshire West and Chester Council
holds some information relating to your request.

 

For the purpose of clarity your request has been reproduced below:

 

1, the number of housing benefit and council tax benefit decisions taken
over the last four years by an outsourced provider/contractor - 21,361
assessments have been completed by a contractor since 10.12.2015 to date.
No other outside providers have been used in the time frame.

 

2, the number of checks undertaken by the council of outsourced housing
benefit and council tax benefit decisions over the last four years. Such
checks are required under the Contracting Out (Functions of Local
Authorities: Income-Related Benefits) Order 2002, rule 4. – Checks have
been completed on 3817 assessments completed by a contractor from
10.12.2015 to date

 

3, the proportion of checked decisions that were considered by the council
to be erroneous – Of these 3817 assessments, 338 were found to have a
financial error (whereby an error had a financial consequence) and 523
procedural errors (whereby an error had no financial consequence but did
not follow procedure). However please note that an individual claim may
have both an financial and procedural error, so the totals cannot be
combined to show the number of total decisions containing an error. The
number of individual cases containing an error is not recorded so this
cannot be provided.

 

4, the efforts made by outsourced providers to prevent such errors from
recurring – No outsourced providers apart from the contracted provider
have been used in the time frame. In regards to contractors, any errors
identified are fed back to the individual contractor for correction. If
trends are identified with a particular contractor, additional training
would be put in place along with increased checking (e.g. a higher
percentage of their assessments would be checked in general or involving a
particular topic that they may have had issues with)

 

5, the number of mandatory reconsiderations lodged against housing benefit
and council tax benefit decisions for each of the last four years – This
information is not recorded by the authority as there is no requirement to
do so. Therefore this information is unavailable.

 

6, the number of mandatory reconsiderations in favour of the individual
claimant – see question 5

 

7, the identity of the body under such mandatory reconsiderations, ie the
council or an outsourced provider and – see question 5

 

8, the identity of that outsourced provider – no outsourced provider has
been used within the stated time frame other than the contractors. The
Council’s contractors are individuals, we therefore consider the names of
individuals exempt from disclosure under Section 40(2) of the FOIA which
states that personal information of third parties attracts an absolute
exemption from disclosure and that such requests must be dealt with under
the Data Protection Act 1998 ( the “DPA”).

 

1. The requested information is the personal data of the third parties
concerned. The definition of personal data is taken from Section 1 of the
DPA and the personal information requested identifies a number of living
individuals. It would be possible to identify individuals from that
information in addition to disclosing information about their career.

 

The Council considers that disclosure will be unfair and unreasonable as
the requested information held in relation to the individual was not
intended for wider public disclosure:

* The information requested relates to the personal data of a living
individual;

* Disclosure would lead to the identification of the individuals
concerned;

* Disclosure would place personal information relating to the individuals
into the public domain in circumstances where the individuals have had no
opportunity to comment on this disclosure;

* The information held was not intended for wider disclosure;

* The individuals would have a reasonable expectation that the information
would be confidential;

 

As the disclosure would be unfair and unreasonable, the Council does not
have to consider any conditions in Schedule 2 DPA and the request for
disclosure of personal information is refused. However, for completeness,
the provisions of the DPA are set out below with an explanation of how the
DPA applies.

 

2. The Data Protection Act - the Council considers that disclosure will
contravene the first data protection principle, which states that
“personal data shall be processed fairly and lawfully, and in particular,
shall not be processed unless –

(a) At least one of the conditions in schedule 2 is met, and

(b) In the case of sensitive personal data, at least one of the conditions
in Schedule 3 is also met.”

No condition in schedule 2 is met. Schedule 3 does not apply as there is
no sensitive data involved.

 

We trust this answers your queries.

 

The Council considers that your request has been answered in full by
either confirming that information is not held, providing you with the
information requested, or explaining why any information has been withheld
and the reasons for any redaction. Where applicable, the Council has also
told you the reasons for the delay in responding to your request.

 

If you are unhappy with the way your request for information has been
handled you can request a review by writing to the Disclosures Team within
40 working days from the date of the Council’s response.

 

You are entitled to a review by the Council if:

•             You are dissatisfied with the Council’s explanation of why
the application was not dealt with within the 20 working day time limit.

•             All the information requested is not being disclosed and you
have not received an explanation why some information is not being
disclosed.

•             A reason for the disclosures under the request being refused
is not received.

•             You consider that exemptions have been wrongly applied,
and/or

•             You consider that a fee has been wrongly applied.

 

Please set out your grounds for seeking a review together with what
specific part of your request those grounds apply to and the outcome you
are seeking. The Council reserves the right to ask you for clarification
of the grounds for your review request if the grounds are not clear, and
to delay commencing the review if such grounds are not provided.

 

The Disclosures Team can be contacted by email via:
[1][Cheshire West and Chester Council request email] or at the following address:

 

Disclosures Team

Cheshire West and Chester Council

4 Civic Way

Ellesmere Port

CH64 0BE

 

The Disclosures Team will acknowledge a request for an internal review
within 5 working days and complete the review as soon as possible and no
later than 40 working days from receipt of the request.

 

More information about the Council’s internal review process can be found
via:

 

[2]https://www.cheshirewestandchester.gov.u...

 

If you remain dissatisfied following the outcome of your review, you have
a right of appeal to the Information Commissioner at:

 

The Information Commissioner's Office

Wycliffe House

Water Lane

Wilmslow

Cheshire SK9 5AF

 

Telephone: 08456 30 60 60 or 01625 54 57 45

Website: [3]www.ico.org.uk

 

There is no charge for making an appeal.

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

Disclosures Team – Customer Relations and Information

Cheshire West and Chester Council

Tel: 0300 123 8 123

Email: [4][email address]

Location: Cheshire West and Chester Council, 4 Civic Way, Ellesmere Port
CH65 0BE

Visit: cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk

 

 

PD (INH)

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