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Hounslow takes housing benefit online



New service follows move of council tax to digital channel under contract with Liberata

The London Borough of Hounslow has set up an online service to provide housing benefit support for residents who are so far unable to claim universal credit.

It follows the creation of an online service for council tax support last November, and the £9.5 million extension of its contract with Liberata to run revenue and benefits services in May of last year.

Liberata said that local residents have been asking for more digital interactions with the council. While Hounslow is one of the boroughs for which the Department of Work & Pensions has begun to run an online service for claiming universal credit, it does not apply throughout its area, leaving a significant number of residents dependent on housing benefit from the council.

Under the new system, they will be given their own online codes which will be published on their next council tax bill or reminder. This will give them secure access to see the status of their council tax account and any benefit claim in the same way they might if they bank online.

They will be able to notify the council of any changes in circumstances, and those who do not have internet access at home can use computers at public libraries in the borough.

Take-up projection

A spokesperson for Liberata said it expects 35-40% take-up of the online services for council tax and housing benefit within the next 18 months.

Councillor Theo Dennison, Hounslow's cabinet member for finance and citizen engagement, said: “We’ve been very encouraged by the positive response of residents to the online council tax services that launched in November 2015, with over 3,500 residents having used the service to date. We’re confident the addition of these new online services will be equally well received.

“Digital channels offer an efficient way for residents to interact with the council. Furthermore, the time and money saved through enabling citizen self-service means we can use these savings to support other vital frontline services such as support for vulnerable adults and children and those in need of care.”

Image: Barrack Road, Hounslow, by David Hawgood, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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