‘Gaping hole’ in safety net

Homelessness. Pic posed by model
Homelessness. Pic posed by model

New housing benefit applicants in North Lincolnshire are waiting more than five weeks for their claims to be processed, which a charity has warned could lead to homelessness.

Between April 2018 and June 2018, new claimants waited 39 days on average before their application was completed, according to Department for Work and Pensions data.

That's significantly above the British average of 23 days, which includes weekends.

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.

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

According to the figures, the local authority processed 420 new cases during the three month period.

In total, there were 16,405 housing benefit claimants in North Lincolnshire over that time.

During the same three months in 2017, applicants had less time to wait, with an average delay of 33 days.

Pritie Billimoria, head of communications at Turn2Us, said: "Housing benefit is not a luxury, it’s a safety net for people who simply do not earn enough money to be able to keep a roof over their head without it.

"Delays in paying housing benefit creates a gaping hole in the safety net leaving people without any money getting into debt that can’t pay back and in some cases at risk of slipping into homelessness.

"We need to see people receive prompt payment within the legal timeframe so that they can focus on other needs such as work and family and start to plan for their future with dignity.” Residents are eligible for housing benefit if they rent, if savings are below £16,000, or if on low income or other benefits.