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Bradford told to review over 500 benefit appeals by LGO

Bradford Council has been told to review more than 500 benefit applications after the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGO) found delays in the authority’s process.

The Ombudsman unearthed the problem after an investigation into a single complaint sent to Bradford Metropolitan District Council over how long it was taking for a woman’s housing benefit appeal to get to the First Tier Tribunal.

During this investigation, the council then told the LGO that 519 housing benefit appeals were waiting to be passed to the tribunal, with some dating back to as far as February 2015.

“Tribunals have to deal with cases fairly and justly, and councils have a duty to help them do this,” said LGO Michael King. “So it is not acceptable that Bradford Council held up the process and withheld peoples’ appeal rights. In situations like this, it is vital that learning from a single complaint is used to improve the public service for others.

“I am pleased Bradford Council has accepted my recommendations to put things right for the woman and the many other people affected. I will be making regular checks on the council’s progress to ensure the backlog of appeals is cleared in a timely manner.”

The woman in question applied for both housing benefit and council tax reduction, but when Bradford refused she appealed both decisions.

As the council did not refer her case to appeal the decision for housing benefit to a First Tier Tribunal, the LGO stated that her right to appeal was taken away.

Bradford has agreed to apologise to the woman and will pay her £100 for her time and trouble.

The council will also review all outstanding appeals and its procedures and report back to the Ombudsman showing that it is making improvements in this area. Remaining appeals will be referred to the tribunal by April 2018 to review processes and ensure that appeals are processed within two months from now on.

A Bradford Council spokesman told PSE: “We accept the findings of this report and are taking steps to address this.

“The backlog of cases has built up as a result of us focussing our resources  on dealing with new claims to ensure people who need some support get paid in the first instance. It is important to stress that where people apply for benefits they do receive a decision promptly. This backlog relates to appeals where people are unhappy with our decision.

“We are confident that everyone waiting who has appealed is receiving the level of benefit they are entitled to," they continued.

“However it is important that the appeals process works in a timely fashion so that our decisions can be scrutinised independently.

“We accept the number of  cases waiting to be heard by a tribunal  is not acceptable and we are following  the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s recommendation to resolve this situation.”

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