Fenland Eye - Swift benefits service

PUBLISHED: 11:57 03 March 2006 | UPDATED: 21:44 28 May 2010

THE Government's Benefit Fraud Inspectorate (BFI) published its report on Fenland Council's Benefits Team this week. A year ago it was taking an average of 74 days to deal with claims for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit. At the time of the inspect

THE Government's Benefit Fraud Inspectorate (BFI) published its report on Fenland Council's Benefits Team this week.A year ago it was taking an average of 74 days to deal with claims for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit. At the time of the inspection last November, this had already improved to 41 days. For the last three months since the inspection, it has averaged just 31 days.Significant improvements have been made to the quality of service offered to customers by Fenland Council's Benefits Team over the past year.The opening of the Council's four Fenland @ your service shops and a call centre, as well as introduction of a new Benefits IT system, has resulted in improved customer access. These changes were implemented using the 'big bang' approach. This caused a short-term backlog of work but this has now been addressed.The BFI reported that the council had strong leadership, with a clear vision and objectives, which were set out in the Corporate Plan and the Best Value Performance Plan. The BFI identified a small number of issues with internal processes within the Benefits Service that the council has already identified. As a result, the service has been restructured to improve efficiency, reduce operating costs, but also to increase capacity to enable a speedier through-put of benefit claims. These factors will ensure that the service further improves over the coming months. Customers will reap the benefits from this - both in terms of speed and quality of service.Councillor Kit Owen, portfolio holder for benefits, said: "This report is good news for the most vulnerable members of our community. It highlights our determination to pay benefits quicker to those who need them the most. Customers are now receiving their benefit six weeks quicker than a year ago."The BFI highlighted a number of further actions we can take to further improve our service and these are already being implemented. It also praised the council for being more accessible to customers through our four Fenland@your service shops and a call centre with a service now available during six days every week. The council has made benefits a high priority and this report underlines this commitment.

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