"My time as a council benefits officer would be better spent explaining the convoluted welfare system to those receiving housing benefit." [Image: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian.]

“My time as a council benefits officer would be better spent explaining the convoluted welfare system to those receiving housing benefit.” [Image: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian.]

This is what happens when you have a system in which too few rented dwellings are available, and to people who must rely on benefits to pay for them.

If the ‘fair rent’ system wasn’t limited to tenancies that began before the Rent Act 1977 was abolished, and if more council houses were available, and if working people were paid an actual living wage, rather than the Conservative government’s fake, matters might be very different indeed.

Hmm. I hear Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn is interested in re-starting the council house-building programme…

I work in the benefits department for a local council, providing advice and support on housing benefit and council tax.

My time, and public money, would be better spent helping benefit claimants navigate the convoluted welfare system rather than pandering to private landlords.

Over the past 10 years, the amount of money paid in housing benefit to private landlords like Mr X has nearly doubled. A national shortage of affordable housing has allowed people like him to line their pockets with housing benefit payments, and take up benefits officers’ valuable time. My department has even had to resort to providing a designated officer to deal with one particularly notorious landlord.

But, difficult landlords aside, what we really need is a better way to explain, in simple terms, the information we benefits officers require in order to calculate your benefits.

Many claimants don’t understand the difference between their local benefits services, run by the council, and the Department of Work and Pensions. Claimants tell the DWP about a change in circumstance and assume that’s all they need to do to ensure their benefits will be calculated correctly. But in fact, they need to tell us, too.

Mr X doesn’t understand the benefits system either.

Source: I want to help you get the right benefits, but your landlord is taking up all my time | Public Leaders Network | The Guardian


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