Preston housing benefit applicants waiting almost a month

New claimants in Preston waited 26 days on average
New claimants in Preston waited 26 days on average
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New housing benefit applicants in Preston are waiting almost a month for their claims to be processed.

Between July and September 2018, new claimants waited 26 days on average before their application was completed, Department for Work and Pensions data shows.

That's above the British average of 22 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 483 new cases during the three month period.

In total, there were 12,326 housing benefit claimants in Preston in that time.

During the same three months in 2017, applicants had less time to wait, with an average delay of 20 days.

Matthew Geer, campaigns manager at Turn2Us, said: "The longer people are waiting for their Housing Benefit, the more likely they are to get into rent arrears, face eviction and in some cases end up homeless.

"Housing Benefit is a necessity in this time of high rents and minimal social housing. We are seeing a concerning rise in rent arrears as more and more people are being pushed into poverty.

"It needs to be processed and paid efficiently to avoid renters ending up in vulnerable situations."

Residents are eligible for housing benefit if they rent, their savings are below £16,000, and they are on low income or other benefits.

The amount applicants receive differs depending on whether they rent from the council, or privately, their salary and whether they have any spare rooms.

Preston was quicker at dealing with current claimants who had changed their living circumstances, than those applying for the first time.

Those applications took on average eight days to complete.

A DWP spokesman said: "We spend around £23 billion a year on housing benefit - more than any other OECD country as a proportion of GDP.

"We work directly with each local authority to monitor housing benefit performance and will continue to work closely with local authorities as Universal Credit rolls out."

The Government has rolled out Universal Credit in Preston, which aims to replace benefits such as housing benefit, Jobseeker's Allowance and child tax credits. These figures include only people who were receiving the old housing benefit payments.