New housing benefit applicants in Calderdale are having to wait more than three weeks for their claims to be processed, new figures have revealed.
Between April 2017 and March 2018, new claimants waited on average 25 days before their application was completed, according to data from the Department for Work and Pensions.
That's above the British average of 22 days, which includes weekends.
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This waiting time can be worrying for applicants, and the charity Turn2Us said they can be threatened with eviction and face homelessness.
Councils are legally required to respond within two weeks, or as soon as is practical.
According to the figures, the local authority processed 1,517 new cases over the 12 month period.
In total there were 12,562 housing benefit claimants in Calderdale in February 2018, which is the latest publicly available data.
During the previous year applicants had less time to wait with an average delay of 19 days.
Residents are eligible for housing benefit if they rent, are on a low income or other benefits, and if their savings are below £16,000.
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The amount applicants receive differs depending on whether they rent from the council, or privately, their income and whether they rent from registered social landlords.
Calderdale was quicker at dealing with current claimants who had changed their living circumstances.
Those applications took on average 11 days to complete.
Coun Susan Press, Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Neighbourhood Services, said: “If an applicant provides all of the required information / evidence from the outset, we will assess their claim straight away. We aim to respond to applications for help with rent within seven days of receiving all the information needed from the applicant, compared to the national requirement of 14 days. In line with Housing Benefit legislation, applicants have up to a month to provide the information needed, and we send reminders if necessary.
“Since Universal Credit went live, the only people who can make a new claim for Housing Benefit are pensioners, working age people living in supported housing and working age families with three or more children. These groups often have more information / evidence to gather, leading to a longer average processing time.
“We don’t want to see anyone evicted from their home, and our Benefits and Housing services work closely together to avoid this. There have been no complaints or cases of homelessness caused by our Housing Benefit processing times during 2017/18.”