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Ombudsman rules on delay in council passing a housing benefit appeal to the Tribunal

10 November 2017, by Desmond Rutledge

Desmond Rutledge

The claimant applied for Housing Benefit. This was refused on the basis that her self-employment “was not effective” such that she did not have a right to reside for benefit purposes.

She appealed on 23 December 2016.

The council did not do as the law requires it to do, in that it 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 in February 2017.

The Ombudsman found that the process of passing the appeal to the tribunal should not usually take longer than 4 weeks and so there had been fault by the council causing injustice. They directed the council to apologise to the claimant; refer her appeal and to pay the client £100 compensation.

There were over 500 other appeals waiting to be referred by the council and the Ombudsman agreed with the council that they would all be referred by April 2018 and that they would review their procedures for dealing with appeals.

Note: The Ombudsman issued a special report on this topic in February 2004 but this is no longer available on its website as the legislation the report refers to has been amended. Under the current rules, where the council receives an appeal they can reconsider the decision before passing it to the Tribunal. If the decision remains unchanged they must pass the matter to the Tribunal “as soon as reasonably practicable”. (Rule 24(1A) of the Tribunal Procedure (First-Tier Tribunal) (Social Entitlement Chamber) Rules 2008, SI 2685).

See here: a copy of the Report by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman: Investigation into a complaint against City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council (Reference number: 16 016 533) 11 August 2017