Waveney improves benefits service

A COUNCIL which is facing a potential �9m financial black hole after overpaying benefits has improved its service with computerised data systems and more trained staff, a new report has revealed.

A COUNCIL which is facing a potential �9m financial black hole after overpaying benefits has improved its service with computerised data systems and more trained staff, a new report has revealed.

Waveney District Council started a full review of its benefits service a year ago after it was revealed that the council was facing an �8.9m bill from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) after it overpaid subsidies between 2004 and 2007.

Now after 12 months of hard work, a new report which will be discussed by the council's housing scrutiny sub-committee on Tuesday shows the improvements that have been made.

The department, which is based at the new Marina customer service building in the town centre, has taken on four more permanent staff to cut the bill for agency workers.


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A new system to scan and record all documentation on a computer has also been put in place after problems switching from a paper filing system to electronic storage meant that evidence supporting the alleged overpayments was lost back in 2004.

A robust staff training scheme has been put in place, with one in 25 benefit assessments now assessed by a team leader to make sure that the correct assessments are being made.

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Paul Corney, the council's head of revenues, benefits and tenant services, said: 'When we were weak procedurally, there were things missing but now we are running a really tight ship.

'Everything is carefully monitored and we've cut out duplication to make things more efficient and to make sure that people have decisions about their payments as quickly as possible.

'As well as more staff, we now have a comprehensive training system in place and 100pc of work by new staff is checked, with that percentage reducing as they continue their work here.'

Mr Corney said that the revenue and benefits team will now work to improve the uptake of payments in the district to make sure that everyone who is entitled to benefits is claiming them. It is estimated that about 22.7pc of people in the district are currently claiming some form of benefit.

The council is still trying to provide evidence to the DWP in a bid to reduce the �8.9m bill and announced at the end of last year that it was unable to set a balanced budget because of the potential overspend for the second year running.

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