Apology over benefits crisis

WE'VE got on top of the benefits crisis!That was the confident claim today from borough council bosses still smarting from disastrous problems which accompanied the introduction of a new computer system at Civic Centre.

WE'VE got on top of the benefits crisis!

That was the confident claim today from borough council bosses still smarting from disastrous problems which accompanied the introduction of a new computer system at Civic Centre.

And they apologised to tenants and landlords who have found themselves out of pocket - and even threatened with eviction - since the council switched to the Pericles computer system last summer.

A council statement issued today said that all claims lodged before April had been dealt with apart from a few where applicants had filled in insufficient information.

Applications received since April 1 were now being dealt with - and the council was aiming to process all claims within a month.

The borough accepted there had been serious problems since the introduction of Pericles. The statement said: “Following the transfer of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit work to a new computer system, Ipswich Borough Benefits has experienced severe back-logs of work.

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“Claims have taken months to process and this has caused serious problems for tenants, landlords and letting agents.

“Working with Hyder Business Systems (HBS), who are able to process claims through the Ipswich computer from their Middlesbrough processing centre, over 11,500 assessments were carried out in June as compared to the normal 5,000.”

Benefits Manager John Booty said: "We would like to apologise to our customers who have been affected by the delays in dealing with their claims, and thank landlords and agents for their patience and understanding.

“We do realise how important this service is to the 12,500 households we assist and will continue to monitor processing times to ensure that the service continues to improve".

Pericles, operated by Anite Software, has been installed by many councils across the country.

The Evening Star has contacted several who said they had not experienced serious problems since its introduction although there had been “teething troubles.”

However at Stevenage Borough Council in Hertfordshire - which was quoted as an example of a council which had had problems by Ipswich officials - there was a different story.

An official told the Star: “Some staff here are a bit reluctant to discuss our experiences with Pericles in public!”

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