Benefits backlog is a thing of the past

PUBLISHED: 16:48 18 January 2007 | UPDATED: 22:30 28 May 2010

THE Fenland District Council benefits team has pulled out all the stops to clear the backlog of claims and staff are now confident they can turn around claims within one to two days - if all the information requested on the claims form is supplied. The 10

THE Fenland District Council benefits team has pulled out all the stops to clear the backlog of claims and staff are now confident they can turn around claims within one to two days - if all the information requested on the claims form is supplied.

The 10 full-time and six part-time staff in the team focused their efforts on clearing the backlog so they can concentrate on further reducing the average processing time of claims from 35 to 30 days.

Delays occur when claimants fail to provide information necessary for staff to process a claim. Now the council has developed a new and easier-to-use form with a clear checklist of the information and documentation needed to turn the claim around quickly.

The benefits team believes that in the vast majority of cases it can turn claims round within one to two days if it is supplied with the correct documentation.

To help claimants provide the right information in the first instance, staff in the Fenland @ Your Service Shops have been trained to help people complete their forms and provide the right documentation prior to submitting a claim.

In the last two years, the processing time for claims has been reduced dramatically from 72 days to 35 days and, by March this year, this is expected to come down still further to 30 days.

This has been achieved against a backdrop of a 20 per cent increase in the overall number of claimants, rising from 7,500 in December 2005 to the current figure of 8,200.

The team is actively encouraging people to claim what they are entitled to via outreach programmes through the Golden Age Fairs so the numbers of claimants will continue to rise. It is therefore vitally important that claimants make every effort to provide the right information from the start so that time is not wasted sending letters requesting additional information as this clogs up the system.

Councillor Kit Owen, portfolio holder with responsibility for benefits, said: "Staff are to be commended for clearing the claims backlog and for structuring the system to accommodate more claimants while continuing to reduce processing times for claims.

"The training of frontline staff in the Fenland @ Your Service Shops will be a major factor in streamlining the process and making it more responsive.

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