Camden housing benefit claimants wait more than a month for first payment
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New housing benefit applicants in Camden are having to wait more than a month for their claims to be processed. This could lead to eviction and possible homelessness according to a leading housing charity.
Between July and September last year, new claimants waited on average 38 days before their application was completed, according to data from the Department for Work and Pensions.
The figure is significantly higher than the British average of 22 days, which includes weekends.
This waiting time can be worrying for applicants, and the housing charity Shelter says they can be threatened with eviction and face homelessness.
Over the same period in 2016 applicants had less time to wait with an average delay of 26 days.
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MP for Hampstead and Kilburn Tulip Siddiq said the delays were worrying. “With financial pressures on councils causing resources to be spread more thinly, it is deeply concerning that local residents are experiencing lengthy delays to housing benefit payments, with the waiting time reaching almost double the national average.
“Delayed payments can cause significant anxiety and generate a real sense of helplessness.”
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She is also concerned about the introduction of Universal Credit to Camden later this year. “It has already caused chaos in other areas of the country. It is therefore crucial that this issue is addressed as soon as possible.”
Charities have warned that delays in processing the means-tested benefit can have a serious impact on the applicants’ lives.
Polly Neate, Shelter chief executive, said: “Processing delays and admin errors mean landlords are increasingly reluctant to let to anyone on housing benefit.
“Payments are also too low and completely out of synch with the cost of private rents. This has left too many struggling renters battling against the tide to keep a roof over their head.
A Camden Council spokesman said: “We took prompt action to increase the number of staff handling these claims after we saw a rise in applications during July and September last year. Average times have steadily improved since and we are now assessing new claims in 30 days. We will continue to work hard and find further ways to reduce waiting times.”