Headlines: November 19th, 1998

There’s been praise for the way in which different parts of the public sector are working together to improve the housing benefit system.The review of the system, the ‘Housing Benefit Simplification and Improvement Project’, involves the DSS, local authorities and housing associations, among others.

Social Security Minister Angela Eagle said “We are working closely with local authorities and other interested parties on the review. The present system can be a barrier to work and its complexity can cause frustrations and worry for many claimants.

“The review aims to make housing benefit fairer, simpler and therefore easier for claimants to understand. Simplifying the rules will also improve administration, which in turn will help reduce fraud and abuse.”

It is councils that administer housing benefit, and Cllr Sir Jeremy Beecham, chair of the Local Government Association, said: “It is long overdue for reform and I am delighted the Government has asked the LGA to work with it on this review.

“Ministers have set a challenging timetable, but the LGA is committed to working in partnership with them to help develop a fast and efficient service which reaches those claimants who need it, and provides better incentives for those seeking work.

“Local authorities are key stakeholders in the delivery of the welfare state and I sincerely hope that we will be able to extend this level of co-operation to other areas of the welfare reform agenda.”

The key findings and recommendations of the review into housing benefit will be presented to the Prime Minister’s Welfare Reform Group in January 1999.