From Monday the 14th any application for Housing Benefit (or Council Tax Reduction) in Sandwell must be made over the internet on our new online application form. Paper application forms are being withdrawn.
The new arrangements offer some real advantages from the landlord’s point of view.
• The form includes a benefit calculator which clearly tells tenants how much benefit they are entitled to. If the amount of benefit that can be paid doesn’t cover the full rent charged – it highlights how much the tenant will have to contribute out of other resources towards the rent.
• Tenants will get an email receipt for the form which they can show, (or forward to landlords) as evidence that the claim has been completed. If the tenant doesn’t provide an email address, they can print off the last page which confirms that the form has been completed. So, if needed, it will a simple matter for tenants to prove that they have made a claim.
• The form is intelligent and tailors the questions it asks to each person’s answers. For example – if you tell it that you have children living with you, it will then ask you about Child Benefit and Child Tax Credits; but if you tell it that you don’t – it wont ask those questions. This allows it to tell the tenant what information he or she will need to provide. This cuts out delays that occur when the benefit office has to write out to the tenant for information.
Overall, the form is quicker and clearer than the old paper version and the organisations that have helped us with testing are all really pleased with it. I’ve been out and about giving demos to landlords in the last two weeks and all the feedback that I’ve had has been very positive. We think that it will really speed up claim turnaround times and that most tenants will find it easier to complete than the paper version. It works on mobile platforms as well as computers, including (if you don’t mind a small screen) phones. I’ve used it on my own phone – a bog-standard android and it worked perfectly. Any tenant who doesn’t have internet access can contact us and either get help to complete the form – or be directed to the various locations in the borough where they can access the internet for free.