South Tyneside Housing Benefit applicants waiting almost a month for claims to be completed
New Housing Benefit applicants in South Tyneside are waiting almost a month for their claims to be processed - with a charity warning delays could lead to homelessness.
Between July and September 2018, new claimants waited 28 days on average before their application was completed, Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) data shows.
That’s significantly above the average of 22 days.
Legal guidance states councils should respond to the claim within two weeks.
According to the figures, the local authority processed 309 new cases during the three-month period.
In total, there were 8,663 Housing Benefit claimants in South Tyneside in that time.
During the same three months in 2017, applicants had less time to wait, with an average delay of 22 days.
A spokesman for South Tyneside Council said that the authority had experienced “some small delays” in processing claims due to the roll out of the new Universal Credit system.
Matthew Geer, campaigns manager at support charity 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.”
South Tyneside 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 13 days to complete.
A spokesman for South Tyneside Council said: “Due to the work needed to implement and adapt to the new Universal Credit system, we have experienced some small delays in processing housing benefits claims in common with neighbouring authorities.
“We cannot carry out a housing benefit assessment until a Universal Credit application has been assessed and this process is also taking longer than under the previous system.
“We fully understand that any delays to our processing can affect the circumstances of our residents and we are always committed to improving our processing times.”
A DWP spokesman said: “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.”