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 seek approval for the proposed Policy for 2018/19.
The Committee considered a report which provided an update on the operation of the current Risk Based Verification (RBV) Policy and sought Members’ approval of the Policy for 2018/19.
A copy of the Housing Benefit and Local Council Tax Support Verification Policy 2018/19 was attached as an exempt document at Appendix A to the report.
Points and comments included:
· The Head of Revenues and Benefits advised that there were no changes proposed to the existing Policy.
· The Head of Revenue and Benefits reminded the Committee that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had allowed local authorities to carry out verification using a risk based approach for new benefit claims since 2011. Central Bedfordshire Council had adopted the new Risk Based Verification (RBV) approach with effect from 1 April 2015.
· Members noted how the low, medium and high risk scores for the three years since 2015 differed from those expected. The Council’s RBV software supplier had explained that the variation was normal as the original distribution percentage had been calculated in 2011, when RBV had been introduced nationally and, due to changes in caseload demographics that had taken place with specific reference to the number of in-work claims, there had been an increase in the number of high risk cases.
· An analysis of the outturn from new claims had revealed that whilst the number of high risk cases was higher than the expected average the Council received a proportionately higher number of claims from claimants who did not receive social security benefits. There was a greater chance for such claims to be deemed as higher risk.
· The Head of Revenues and Benefits drew the meeting’s attention to the ‘churn’ over the year in the number of claimants defined as high risk.
· A random sample of the highest risk cases that were still in receipt of Housing Benefit/Local Council Tax Support had been undertaken in May 2017. Ten had been reviewed in detail and eight had been found to have some form of change of circumstance that had not been reported. Most had related to changes related to fluctuations in a claimant’s earnings.
· The DWP had since announced a new initiative known as the Verify Earnings and Pension (VEP) service. The service would enable local authorities to use the earnings and pension information supplied by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to verify new claim assessments, changes in circumstance and reviews of claims.
· An alert service would also be developed by the DWP that would use HMRC payment data to trigger an alert to local authorities when there were certain changes to a claimant’s earnings and pension information during the life of a Housing Benefit claim. The VEP was expected to be introduced for the Council’s claimants in the first quarter of 2018/19.
· The introduction of VEP would create additional work with potentially more claims needing to be amended though it would also negate the need to review many of the high risk claims. A government grant of £90k had been allocated to help resource the additional workload though it was not known how many alerts would occur. The Committee was advised that all local authorities were to be monitored to ensure alerts were processed. Claimants would become more aware that the Council was being advised of changes and it was envisaged that this educational process would encourage them to inform the Council of changes to their circumstances.
· A Member queried how the proportion of online claims could be increased from the 40% received in January 2018. In response, the Head of Revenues and Benefits stated that every household had been notified by flyers of the opportunity to apply online. Some councils no longer accepted paper based claims though he acknowledged that some vulnerable persons still needed to be able to use paper. The Director of Resources added that the Council had achieved the 40% without previously advertising and it was hoped that the use of flyers would result in a substantial increase. The Head of Revenues and Benefits stated that there had been a spike in in the number of online applications over Christmas and the New Year because the Council offices had been closed.
1 that the Housing Benefit and Local Council Tax Support Verification Policy 2018/19, as attached at exempt Appendix A to the report of the Director of Resources, be approved and adopted.
2 that the Annual Review of Risk Based Verification (RBV) Policy for 2019/20, to be submitted to the Audit Committee in 2019, include comparative demographic data on other local authorities.
(Note: Minute AUD/17/56 below also refers).
- 08 Annual Review of Risk Based Verification (RBV) Policy for Housing Benefit and Local Council Tax Support Assessments v1, item 49. PDF 93 KB