New claims for Housing Benefit went online from February 2014 and Council cuts mean that there will be less support available face to face and over the phone. In fact, Liberata estimated that about 40% of phone calls to its call centre were avoidable, i.e. they are calling because ‘I don’t understand the information you’ve sent me’. This led to us addressing two issues around Housing Benefit as our first Campaign & Research initiative – claiming Housing Benefit online and Making sense of Housing Benefit award letters.
Claiming Housing Benefit online
We looked at the local issues that affect our clients by carrying out a survey of the difficulties clients are experiencing claiming Housing Benefit and/or Council Tax Support online. These issues were then raised with North Somerset Council and Liberata and have been addressed. There is now ongoing liaison work between Advice North Somerset, North Somerset Council and Liberata as a result of this work.
Making sense of Housing Benefit award letters
Many people find the Housing Benefit award letters very confusing and not comprehensible. The Council isn’t able to alter the information on these letters as it is required by law, but wanted to find ways to improve people’s understanding of the letters.
We undertook a some research by finding three of the best one-page guides produced by other Councils to explain Housing Benefit award letters and asked respondents to comment on the layout and content. We also asked them to give feedback on a prototype audio guide produced to explain the terms in the Housing Benefit award letters for claimants and people who help them. This research has led to North Somerset Council producing their own one-page guide which is now widely available. The Council decided not to proceed with the audio guide at this stage. Go to Our Blog Article.