New housing benefit applicants in Derbyshire are having to wait more than three weeks for their claims to be processed, new figures have revealed.
Between April 2017 and March 2018, some new claimants waited up to 24 days before their application was completed, according to data from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
That’s above the British average of 22 days, which includes weekends.
This waiting time can be worrying for applicants, and the charity Turn2Us said they can be threatened with eviction and face homelessness.
Councils are legally required to respond within two weeks, or as soon as is practical.
The charity Turn2Us, which helps people with financial hardship gain access to welfare benefits, has warned that delays in processing benefits can have a serious impact on the applicants’ lives.
Pritie Billimoria, head of communications, said: “Housing benefit is not a luxury people can afford to wait for.
“It is not good enough that the average wait is almost twice as long as the legal requirement and with the minimum wait for Universal Credit at 35 days, people are simply being dragged into a waiting game that they cannot afford.
“At best, these delays and long waiting times are leaving people on the brink of losing the roof over their head and at worst are pushing people into homelessness.”
A DwP spokeswoman said: “We spend around £23 billion a year on housing benefit - more than any other OECD country as a proportion of GDP.
“We work directly with each local authority to monitor housing benefit performance and this includes the speed of processing which has remained stable over a number of years.”
The Government has rolled out Universal Credit which aims to replace legacy benefits such as housing benefit, Jobseeker’s Allowance and child tax credits. However some claimants still receive the old housing benefit payments, who are referred to in this data set.
The spokeswoman added: “We will continue to work closely with local authorities as Universal Credit rolls out.”