Housing benefit checks net £38k in three months

St Annes Town Hall
St Annes Town Hall
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Housing Benefit claimants are being reminded to tell the town hall if their circumstances change after improved checks saved £36,400 of tax-payers’ cash in just three months.

The money was saved between April and June after Fylde Council adopted a Whitehall-backed fraud-reduction initiative that involves checking if claimants’ circumstances have changed.

Claimants have a duty to tell us when their circumstances change as their entitlement may increase or reduce

The level of benefits depends on factors such as income which can be affected when people switch jobs or even acquire a new partner.

Coun Karen Buckley, the council’s deputy leader and chairman of Fylde’s finance and democracy committee, said: “Claimants have a duty to tell us when their circumstances change as their entitlement may increase or reduce.

“Part of this project has involved processing claimants’ forms more quickly so we can avoid unnecessary overpayments and underpayments.

“Other aspects, however, have involved checking that data provided to us matches with that provided by the claimant to other agencies.

“People shouldn’t be tempted to keep changes in circumstances to themselves as we will find out and take the money back off the. Some do it on purpose but others just forget to tell us.

“They can avoid embarrassment by telling us of changes promptly.”

Part of the approach has simply involved ringing claimants up more regularly than before to check that circumstances haven’t changed – with some claimants gaining and others losing.

Overpayments are clawed back from future payments, but apparently dishonest claims will be referred for investigation.