Bradford council has agreed to review more than 500 benefit applications after the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman found delays in its appeals process.
The scale of the problem was uncovered following an investigation into a single complaint that City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council delayed sending a woman’s housing benefit appeal to the First Tier Tribunal.
During the Ombudsman’s investigation the council said it had 519 housing benefit appeals waiting to be passed to the tribunal, dating back to February 2015.
Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, Michael King said:
“Tribunals have to deal with cases fairly and justly, and councils have a duty to help them do this. 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 applied to Bradford council for both housing benefit and council tax reduction. When the council refused her application, she appealed both decisions.
The council told her she could appeal the council tax reduction to the Valuation Tribunal herself; the Ombudsman did not find the council at fault for doing this.
The council refused her housing benefit appeal but then, as the law requires it to do, did not refer her case to the First Tier Tribunal. The council said her appeal was waiting to be considered but it was prioritising older cases. This left the woman without her right of appeal. She complained to the Ombudsman.
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s role is to remedy injustice and share learning from investigations to improve local public, and adult social care, services.
In this case, the council has agreed to apologise to the woman and pay her £100 to acknowledge her time and trouble.
It will review all its outstanding appeals and its procedures to ensure it complies with tribunal rules. It will report back to the Ombudsman showing how it has changed its procedures and confirming how many of the outstanding appeals have been progressed.
It has also agreed to pass the remaining backlog of appeals to the tribunal by April 2018 and review its processes to ensure, from then, it processes all appeals within two months.
Article date: 27 September 2017