Wednesday, 17 February 2021
Guest blog by Conrad from the Tenant Support Team
Dealing with Housing Benefit authorities on behalf of our tenants can be frustrating. It’s a complicated process requiring expertise, patience, tact, and the use of a great deal of information from a spectrum of sources. Let me tell you about a case we dealt with recently. It illustrates some of the issues the Tenant Support Team have when dealing with Housing Benefit applications.
This local authority in question was adamant that no application for Housing Benefit was submitted, despite us presenting the clear evidence to the contrary. The process became drawn out to exhaustion, because of the time taken to respond to our enquiries – and cordial entreats for a resolution. While it’s not the preferred option, a formal complaint is often the only one remaining but there is pragmatic approach to take. We had to propose that we would submit a formal complaint if a resolution was not received by the close of business on such-and-such a date: That did it! Tactics, tactics! The case was resolved. I doubt very much if we will have issues again with this particular council, as we are set to receive the arrears, which amount to a substantial figure – and that result should make them hyper-vigilant when they see future communications from us. We will see! By the way, we also made sure that we sent in a compliment about the Council Officer who took the initiative and did make the effort to resolve the matter.
Luckily, the Tenant Support Team have a wealth of experience of working with and within councils, so we have a grasp of the pressures they are under and work practices. More importantly, it also means that we know how to manage the relationships, and that comes down to one human being talking to another about a complicated issue involving someone, who is vulnerable.
Sadly, there has been a serious decline in timescales when managing HB applications and communications in general, over the last 12 months. Over-pressured front-line officers will invariably only be able to refer the case on – and while a telephone chat is all well and good, (presuming we can get through in a timely fashion and the waiting muzak isn’t too gruelling to endure), we need the vital evidence of the email trail. The practical result for us of course is that income can be seriously delayed. We just have to persevere and make sure that everyone is in the proverbial loop.
In the scheme of things, the Tenant Support team has worked together to change the way we manage the relationships we have with our partners and so much has improved and positively fortifies us for the future. Inevitably, that is all to the benefit of our unique trinity: Reside, our tenants and our partners.