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council benefit driving me crazy


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I am self employed earning a very low income. Last year I was asked by the council to fill out a self employed income form I did not return the forms in time & the council stopped our benefit. I handed in new forms in January & asked for benefit to be backdated to October as I have £1000 of rent arrears

 

it took them almost 8 weeks to recalculate our benefit & they only backdated to 29/01/07 we went to them to question the amount of benefit as it was less than in October I also asked for them to reassess as I had suffered income loss. I was told it would take up to 2 weeks to sort out. It is now 6 weeks & they still have no decision I have phoned them over 10 times & each time they tell me to phone back in 2 or 3 days.

 

Is there anything I can do to speak directly to the people who are assessing the claim or can I concider legal action as my wifes health is suffering because of this

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Hi there; first of all, you need to know that what you have described is a standard situation. The ubelievable delays, the incompetence and the sheer complexity of the rules are the source of frustration for many. The very high staff turnover of the frontline staff at CTB/HB offices means that claimant are left to deal with undertrained, target-bullied, badly paid "customer services adviser" or whatever your local authority calls them.

With regards to the backdating: your benefit can only be backdated for up to twelve months if you have a 'good cause' for a late claim - (but there are special rules you are aged 60 or over). Good cause is not laid down in regulations. It depends on case law and therefore the situations in which you may be able to argue that you had a good cause are wide. It would be therefore important to let us know why you did not apply in time and what happened during the period prior to the date you have actually applied for CTB (only some situations are likely to consitute a good cause however- mainly when the delay was due to circumstances beyond your control).

 

If you wish to consider complaining about the delays, you have to exhaust internal complaint process first and then, if you are not satisfied, take your complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman The Local Government Ombudsman

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I don't want to sound nasty or callous here but you were late getting information to them yet you expect rapid service?

 

You may find they take more notice if you put your complaint/request in writting rather than a phone call which may get dissmissed, written on a scrap of paper etc - post always gets more notice paid to than a call as it takes more effort.

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I would agree with you on that point but I got all the information I could to them to help with my claim but because the first form came while I was on holiday I didnt know how long I had to reply. When I did get back to them I had missed the deadline & they stopped the claim.

 

I don't expect rapid service & I have a certain amount of patience for the council department but I have called or visited their office 20 times or more & each time I am told "just a few more days or it is with the senior assessor" I then phone them 3 days later to be told it will take another week 2 at max & we are being given priority over new claims.

 

I went to the office again only to be told the exact opposite & it will be at least another week.

 

I owe over £1000 in rent so I need to know if they are going to back date it but I still have no answers its been almost 3 months since they made an assessment I just can't see what else they need to look at.

 

we have an eviction notice which has been put on hold indefinately but once the council make their final decision I don't know what will happen

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I have received a letter from them this morning they say they will not back date the claim to October which leaves me in an impossible situation for both council tax & rent arrears I do not know what to do & I feel very upset that it has taken them this long to come to a negative decision.

 

Does anyone know what I can do

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If you are in receipt of HB you may apply for Discretionary Housing Payments.They are not payments of housing benefit. There are some circumstances where DHP cannot be paid but I would have to ask you too many personal questions, so if in doubt, my rule of thumb is always apply. There is no set claim form for a discretionary housing payment . It is up to your local authority to decide whether to accept a claim and in what form. You should find out whether the local authority prefers claims in a specific format. Then make a claim in writing and keep a copy. A claim should include the reasons why you need a discretionary housing payment (severe financial hardship, possible rent arrears-caused eviction etc etc). The local authority may request more information depending on what it thinks is appropriate. There is another thread here about DHP- have a read.

 

Next, find a welfare rights agency in your area and appeal the "no backdating" decision. This has to be done ASAP, as there is a limited period for appeals. I would advise you very strongly to do this rather then seek advice from here as we may only help in general terms and often don't have enough info etc. You can use The Directory (don't forget to tick the LSC Funded Provider option. Try to find a law centre in your area rather then solicitors as your kind of enquiry are their bread and butter (as opposed to solicitors' conveyance, divorces etc ). Do this today and call the on Monday- do not wait.

 

Next; write to your landlord and CTax office of your local authority. Explain the reason for your arrears and inform the that you are appealing the backdating decision. Ask them to allow you some time to deal with it and if they will not agree write again and offer lowest instalements posible.

 

Fingers crossed and keep us posted!

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