Housing Benefit Payment Frequency and Related Matters

Ms C Kempin made this Freedom of Information request to East Cambridgeshire District Council

The request was partially successful.

From: Ms C Kempin

Dear East Cambridgeshire District Council,

I wish to obtain some information about housing benefit (HB) claims in your Council’s area. For clarification, the meaning of ‘monthly’ in this request is the generally- and legally-accepted meaning, ie calendar-monthly.

1. How many households in the Council’s area are in receipt of HB?

2. What is the total weekly benefit entitlement (in pounds sterling) of all HB claimants in the Council’s area?

The Housing Benefit Regulations 2006 (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2006/...) came into force on 6 March 2006. They include provision for HB claimants who pay rent monthly to receive monthly HB payments (Regulation 91).

3. When did the Council become capable of making monthly payments of HB?
i) If this was after March 2006, why was there a delay in enabling monthly benefit payments?
ii) What adjustments to the computer system were required to facilitate monthly payments?
iii) What testing of the computer system was required to ensure monthly payments were administered correctly?
iv) How long did take it to implement the adjustments and testing necessary to ensure correct administration of monthly payments?
v) Has the Council experienced any problems with the administration of monthly benefit payments? If so, please give details.

4. How many new claims for HB has the Council approved since 1 January 2011?

5. Of the new claimants, how many have their HB paid:
i) four-weekly?
ii) monthly?

6. Of the new claimants, how many are liable for rent:
i) four-weekly?
ii) monthly?

7. What factors does the Council take into account when considering the frequency at which it will pay HB to a claimant?

8. How and when are claimants informed that HB can be paid monthly?

9. How many requests for HB to be paid monthly has the Council received since March 2006?

10. Of these requests, how many were:
i) ignored?
ii) refused?
iii) agreed to?

11. On what grounds were requests for monthly benefit payment:
i) ignored?
ii) refused?
iii) agreed to?

12. What is the average time between a claimant’s first request for monthly payment and the Council agreeing to the request?

13. How many current HB claimants are liable for rent:
i) four-weekly?
ii) monthly?

14. How many current HB claimants have their HB paid:
i) four-weekly?
ii) monthly?

15. How many HB claimants are liable for rent monthly and receive (or their landlord receives) HB four-weekly?
i) What is the total weekly benefit entitlement of all those claimants?

16. How many claimants have their benefit paid direct to their landlord?
i) Why is benefit paid direct to landlords?
ii) Are landlords satisfied with the arrangements?

17. How is benefit (in particular, the daily, weekly and, where applicable, monthly amounts of benefit) calculated for claimants who:
i) receive benefit four-weekly and are liable for rent four-weekly?
ii) receive benefit four-weekly and are liable for rent monthly?
iii) receive benefit monthly and are liable for rent monthly?

18. Four-weekly benefit payments can never be synchronised with monthly rent payments. As a result, when a claimant’s rent is due, there will almost always be a shortfall in the amount of benefit received. Since March 2006:
i) how many claimants have experienced problems paying their rent in full and/or on time because their HB is/was paid four-weekly and they are/were liable for rent monthly?
ii) how many claimants have experienced general financial difficulties because their HB is/was paid four-weekly and they are/were liable for rent monthly?
iii) how many landlords of HB claimants have experienced problems or have made complaints because rent cannot be/is not paid on time and/or in full due to the lack of synchronisation between claimants’ four-weekly benefit payments and monthly rent liability.

19. What computer software does the Council use to administer HB?

20. Please provide a screenprint of the software.

21. When did the Council begin using the software?

22. Which company provides the software?

23. How and why was the software and company chosen?

24. How much did/does the software cost the Council?

25. Is the Council satisfied with:
i) the software?
ii) the service provided by the software company?

26. If the Council is not satisfied, are there any plans to rectify this situation?
i) If any there are any plans to rectify problems, please give details.

27. Please provide a copy of the Guide to Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit used by the Council in assessing benefit claims.

Thank you for your help. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Yours faithfully,
Ms C Kempin

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From: foi
East Cambridgeshire District Council

Thank you for your Freedom of Information request below. This has been logged under reference 10025.3-11/12-599 and passed to the appropriate department. You should expect to receive a reply within 20 working days, being 09/01/2012.

PLEASE ALSO NOTE THAT THE DISCLAIMER AT THE END OF YOUR ORIGINAL "WHAT DO THEY KNOW.COM" EMAIL STATES THAT THE INFORMATION PROVIDED WILL BE PUT ON THEIR "WHAT DO THEY KNOW" WEBSITE. THIS WOULD AMOUNT TO A RE-USE OF INFORMATION AND PLEASE NOTE THAT BEFORE DOING SO, AN APPLICANT MUST SPECIFICALLY REQUEST PERMISSION FROM THE COUNCIL, IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE RELEVANT RE-USE OF PUBLIC SECTOR INFORMATION REGULATIONS 2005 AND THE COUNCIL'S OWN POLICY DOCUMENT / FORM UNDER THE PUBLICATION SCHEME (AVAILABLE VIA THE INTERNET.) SUCH A REQUEST WOULD BE CONSIDERED SEPARATELY IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE REGULATIONS AND IS NOT AUTOMATIC. SEE LINK TO COUNCIL POLICY AND GUIDANCE FORMS FOR APPLICATION: http://www.eastcambs.gov.uk/sites/defaul... THEREFORE NO PERMISSION IS IMPLIED IN THE RE-USE OF THIS INFORMATION, UNTIL SUCH REQUEST TO RE-USE IS MADE AND AGREED, SUBJECT TO ANY APPROPRIATE CONDITIONS. I HAVE ATTACHED A LINK TO THE REGULATIONS FOR EASE OF REFERENCE:http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2005/2005151....

Kind Regards

FOI & EIR Administration
East Cambridgeshire District Council
Tel:01353 665555

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From: Ms C Kempin

Dear FOI & EIR Administration,

Thank you for your message dated 7 December 2011.

With reference to your statement on re-use of public sector information, I note that ECDC is familiar with the way the ‘What do they know’ website works, as other requests to ECDC have been fulfilled via the website.

Thus, ECDC will be aware that by replying to my request via the ‘What do they know’ website, consent to re-use the information is implied, and the reply will be published on that website immediately.

If ECDC does not consent to re-use of the information in this way, please do not reply via the website. Instead, please give me an email address so that I can inform you how to contact me privately.

Finally, I hereby formally request permission to re-use ECDC’s response to this FoI request (Housing benefit and related matters) regardless of whether it is sent via the ‘What do they know’ website or direct to me privately.

Thank you for your consideration of this matter. I look forward to receiving your response by the due date of 9 January 2012.

Yours sincerely,
Ms C Kempin

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From: Amanda Pegg


Attachment East Cambridgeshire District Council KEMPIN.doc
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Dear Ms Kempin

Please find attached response in relation to the above FOI request <<East
Cambridgeshire District Council KEMPIN.doc>> .

Many thanks.

Mandy Pegg

Team Manager - QA & Projects

Anglia Revenues Partnership

[1]www.angliarevenues.gov.uk

Tel: 01842 756571

 

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From: Ms C Kempin

Dear Miss Pegg,

Thank you to East Cambridgeshire District Council for its response to my FoI request, which contained some useful information.

However, I would like to request an internal review of East Cambridgeshire DC’s response, because some questions have been answered inadequately, and many of the questions have not been answered at all, instead it is frequently stated “Exempt – see notes”. The explanation in the notes is not satisfactory. In addition, the second paragraph of the notes is difficult to interpret. It reads:

“The time taken to extract the data that has been provided above has already taken in excess of 18 hours in staff time, therefore no due diligence has been carried out on the figures quoted.”

It seems to say that East Cambridgeshire DC has spent over 18 hours gathering the data, although using about twice as many words as necessary. The statement continues “therefore no due diligence has been carried out on the figures quoted”. Please explain the meaning of this phrase.

It is clear that there has been some collaboration between Breckland, East Cambridgeshire, Forest Heath and St Edmundsbury district councils (the four authorities of Anglia Revenues Partnership) in responding to my request (also made to various other authorities), because the text replies are identical or very similar.

Please note that the 18-hour limit on staff time to be spent on FoI requests applies per request, per authority, it is not to be used as a cumulative total where numerous authorities are able to combine resources. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect the four authorities within ARP to each spend up to 18 hours gathering the information requested.

Moreover, the information requested ought to be easy to extract from the Council’s database using straightforward database queries. Other authorities have provided the information I have asked for, and it seems reasonable to expect East Cambridgeshire DC to do likewise.

The specific problems with East Cambridgeshire DC’s response to my request relate to:

Question 4
East Cambridgeshire DC states that the number of new housing benefit claims cannot be provided because the claim form is combined with that for council tax benefit. This is not a satisfactory explanation. It must be possible to obtain simple data on housing benefit, such as the number of new claims since 1 January 2011, for example by using a simple database query.

Questions 5 i & ii, 6 i & ii, 13 i & ii, 15 & 15 i
Please provide the figures requested. It should be possible to obtain them from electronic records of housing benefit claimants using simple database queries. Indeed, I note that the Academy software used by East Cambridgeshire DC facilitates the use of SQL queries to interrogate the database. Therefore, it must be relatively quick and easy to extract the information requested from the Council’s records.

Question 17
East Cambridgeshire DC states that this information is already in the public domain. However, I have read the regulations and cannot see where it states the specific methods of calculating daily and weekly amounts of benefit. In any case, I would like confirmation of the methods of calculation used by East Cambridgeshire DC. Please tell me the methods used, and ensure you give the exact method used by the software, and not an assumption based on the legislation and/or guidance.

For clarification, the Council will need to know daily amounts of benefit because they will be needed (regardless of payment frequency) when paying a part week, eg when a claim starts or ends part way through a benefit week, or when a claimant’s circumstances change part way through a benefit week. Possible calculation methods (disregarding any deductions, LHA limits, etc which may apply) are shown below.

Question 17 reads:
How is benefit (in particular, the daily, weekly and, where applicable, monthly amounts of benefit) calculated for claimants who:

i) receive benefit four-weekly and are liable for rent four-weekly?
[For example, daily benefit might be calculated as weekly benefit divided by 7, or some other method.]

ii) receive benefit four-weekly and are liable for rent monthly?
[For example, weekly benefit might be calculated as monthly rent multiplied by 12 divided by 52, or some other method; daily benefit might be calculated as weekly benefit divided by 7, or weekly benefit multiplied by 52 divided by 365, or some other method.]

iii) receive benefit monthly and are liable for rent monthly?
[Noted that this is not applicable because East Cambridgeshire DC does not make monthly payments.]

With reference to Question 20, regarding a screenprint of the software, please provide a print of one screen, eg the start page of the software, from where the user might choose various options, eg add a new claim, amend an existing claim, etc.

With reference to Question 23, regarding the choice of software provider, please tell me how and why Capita was chosen to manage the Revenues and Benefits service.

With reference to Question 24, regarding the cost of the software, other authorities have provided this information. Please specify the:
i) original purchase price; and
ii) annual maintenance costs.

With reference to Question 27, other authorities have noted use of various guidance on housing benefit, for example:

DWP guidance http://www.dwp.gov.uk/local-authority-st...
IRRV HB/CTB Law and Administration ISBN 978-1-905782-50-5
2011-12 Guide to Housing and Council Tax Benefit - Martin Ward, Sam Lister, John Zebedee
Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit Legislation - Child Poverty Action Group

Does East Cambridgeshire DC use any of these publications?

For your information, my original request, and East Cambridgeshire DC’s response, can be seen here: http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/ho...

Thank you in anticipation of your help. I look forward to hearing from you in due course.

Yours faithfully,

Ms C Kempin

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From: Ms C Kempin

Dear Miss Pegg,

Please find below an amendment to my message sent earlier today.

Question 17, section iii) should read as follows:
"iii) receive benefit monthly and are liable for rent monthly?
[For example, monthly benefit may be equal to monthly rent, or may be calculated as monthly rent multiplied by 12, divided by 365, multiplied by the number of days in the month for which benefit is being paid.]"

Many thanks for your help.

Yours sincerely,

Ms C Kempin

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From: foi
East Cambridgeshire District Council

Thank you for your Freedom of Information request below. This has been logged under reference 10025.3-11/12-664 and passed to the appropriate department. You should expect to receive a reply within 20 working days from when we received the request, being 7/2/12.

PLEASE ALSO NOTE THAT THE DISCLAIMER AT THE END OF YOUR ORIGINAL "WHAT DO THEY KNOW.COM" EMAIL STATES THAT THE INFORMATION PROVIDED WILL BE PUT ON THEIR "WHAT DO THEY KNOW" WEBSITE. THIS WOULD AMOUNT TO A RE-USE OF INFORMATION AND PLEASE NOTE THAT BEFORE DOING SO, AN APPLICANT MUST SPECIFICALLY REQUEST PERMISSION FROM THE COUNCIL, IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE RELEVANT RE-USE OF PUBLIC SECTOR INFORMATION REGULATIONS 2005 AND THE COUNCIL'S OWN POLICY DOCUMENT / FORM UNDER THE PUBLICATION SCHEME (AVAILABLE VIA THE INTERNET.) SUCH A REQUEST WOULD BE CONSIDERED SEPARATELY IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE REGULATIONS AND IS NOT AUTOMATIC. SEE LINK TO COUNCIL POLICY AND GUIDANCE FORMS FOR APPLICATION: http://www.eastcambs.gov.uk/sites/defaul... THEREFORE NO PERMISSION IS IMPLIED IN THE RE-USE OF THIS INFORMATION, UNTIL SUCH REQUEST TO RE-USE IS MADE AND AGREED, SUBJECT TO ANY APPROPRIATE CONDITIONS. I HAVE ATTACHED A LINK TO THE REGULATIONS FOR EASE OF REFERENCE:http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2005/2005151....

Kind Regards

FOI & EIR Administration
East Cambridgeshire District Council
Tel:01353 665555

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From: Ms C Kempin

Dear FOI & EIR Administration,

Thank you for your message dated 12 January 2012.

With reference to your statement on re-use of public sector information, I note that ECDC is familiar with the way the ‘What do they know’ website works, as other requests to ECDC have been fulfilled via the website.

Thus, ECDC will be aware that by replying to my request via the ‘What do they know’ website, consent to re-use the information is implied, and the reply will be published on that website immediately.

If ECDC does not consent to re-use of the information in this way, please do not reply via the website. Instead, please give me an email address so that I can inform you how to contact me privately.

Finally, I hereby formally request permission to re-use ECDC’s response to this FoI request (Housing benefit and related matters) regardless of whether it is sent via the ‘What do they know’ website or direct to me privately.

Thank you for your consideration of this matter. I look forward to receiving your response by the due date of 7 February 2012.

Yours sincerely,
Ms C Kempin

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From: foi
East Cambridgeshire District Council


Attachment FOI Kempin review 12 02 07.doc
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Good morning Mrs Kempin

When we arrived at the office this morning we received a delivery report from our email system stating that the email below had been "Returned to Sender as Undeliverable". We are re-sending it this morning and hopefully you will receive it this time, we apologise if there was a problem with the delivery system at our end.

Kind Regards

FOI & EIR Administration
East Cambridgeshire District Council
The Grange, Nutholt Lane, Ely, Cambs, CB7 4EE

01353 665555
[East Cambridgeshire District Council request email]

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ECDC Private and Confidential Notice The information contained in this e-mail is intended for the named recipients only. If you are not the intended recipient you may not copy, distribute or take any action or reliance on it. Opinions expressed are those of the individual and do not necessarily represent the opinions of East Cambridgeshire District Council. If you have received this e-mail in error please notify the sender immediately by using the e-mail address or by telephoning (01353 665555 Ext.6497) Please note that this e-mail has been created in the knowledge that Internet e-mail is not a 100% secure communication medium. We advise that you understand and observe this lack of security when e-mailing us. Although we have taken steps to ensure that this e-mail and attachments are free from any virus, we advise that in keeping with good computing practice the recipient should ensure that they are actually virus-free.

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