Annual Review of Risk Based Verification (RBV) Policy for Housing Benefit and Local Council Tax Support Assessments
To consider an update on the operation of the current Risk Based Verification (RBV) Policy and the proposed RBV Policy for 2016/17.
The Committee considered a report which provided an update on the operation of the current Risk Based Verification (RBV) Policy and sought the Committee’s approval of a new Policy for the coming year. A copy of the proposed Housing Benefit and Local Council Tax Support Verification Policy 2016/17 was attached as an exempt document at Appendix A to the report.
The Head of Revenues and Benefits introduced the report, drawing Members’ attention in particular to the effectiveness of RBV since its introduction in April 2015. The meeting noted that the actual risk scores awarded to the three categories of claim (high, medium and low) for the period 1 April 2015 to 29 February 2016 had fallen outside those forecast. The Council’s RBV software supplier had stated that the variation in risk scores was quite normal as the original distribution percentage had been calculated in 2011 when RBV was introduced nationally. However, due to changes in demographics over the last four years, and specifically the increase in the number of in-work claims, there had been an increase in the number of high risk cases. This had led to the difference between the estimated and the actual risk scores and skewed results.
In reply to Members’ questions regarding the approach taken towards claimant errors the Head of Revenues and Benefits explained that an individual claimant’s personal circumstances were fully considered during the assessment process before implementing any response to an error. The Chief Finance Officer added that the Council would not take action against a claimant who had made a genuine error when submitting their claim. The Head of Revenues and Benefits stated that if an error was discovered and a claimant had been overpaid then he or she would be sent an invoice for the amount. Alternatively, if that person was still in receipt of a benefit then a sum would be deducted from their benefit before payment was made.
The Head of Revenues and Benefits referred to the trial undertaken to increase error detection and outlined how this would be extended so that a full review of all category 1 high risk cases was undertaken during 2016/17. The Committee noted that additional staff, employed on a temporary six month basis and funded by a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) grant, would be employed to carry out the review.
Turning next to performance the Head of Revenues and Benefits reported that an improvement in process times for new claims had not been forthcoming, mainly because staff were taking longer than anticipated to familiarise themselves with the new on-line claim forms and RBV software coupled with the relatively low number of claims made on-line. This situation was expected to improve in 2016/17 once the new processes were established and following the introduction of an on-line ‘change in circumstance’ form in May.
(Note: Minute AUD/1554 below also refers).
that the proposed Housing Benefit and Local Council Tax Support (Risk Based) Verification Policy 2016/17, as attached at exempt Appendix A to the report of the Chief Finance Officer, be approved and adopted.