Agenda item

Risk Based Verification Policy (RBV)

[Report of the Director for Customers, Transformation and Resources. To be introduced by the Cabinet Member for  Corporate and Civic Services]


To approve the RBV Policy as a means by which the Council will process claims for Housing benefit and Council Tax reduction.


The Cabinet Member for Corporate and Civic services introduced the report which set out the requirement for an annual review of the RBV policy. Given the impact of Covid-19, the Government had issued advice and a decision from Cabinet was being sought on whether or not to adopt that advice.


It was noted that the Risk Verification System used a software that determined the level of checks that needed to be carried out when a resident makes a claim for Council tax benefit reduction or housing benefit. It was noted that since November 2019, the use of the software had reduced the number of letters asking applicants for more information for claims .This had been the source of complaint for residents over the years as it caused delays and now having the software increased the speed of the process for considering benefit claims.


The Cabinet Member emphasised that the automated system did not have a role in deciding whether a claim was awarded or not and this decision was made by an officer. It was also noted that since the introduction of the system, no claimant had been asked for further information and many were being asked for less.


In light of the Covid 19, the DWP had suspended the need to review the policy by local authorities and the decision being considered was whether or not to adopt that advice.


Following questions from Cllr Mitchell, the following information was provided:


  • With regards to a review of the policy, this was introduced in November 2019, and the advice from the government was that the Council should not be carrying out a review at this time.  This review would likely take place in the middle of next year.


  • It was reiterated that the software had provided significant improvements over the course of the year in the processing of claims. There was no impact on the assessment of claims, even the high-risk claims, from this software and the Council were externally and internally audited on an annual basis.


  • The audit results were considered at Corporate Committee on an annual basis. These were assessed in year, in terms of error rates, in relation to the distribution of housing benefit, overpayments and the software had made a significant improvement to these rates.


  • Assurance was provided that the software does not discriminate claimants from protected characteristic groups. It considered the types of claims and where there is a change of circumstances and allowed for a simple claim form to be completed without the need to provide the same level of information as making a new claim.


  • With regards to low, medium, and high types of claims, it was noted that low risk applicants will often be those in receipt of tax welfare benefits and where the Council can access the DWP system. The applicant does not need to provide verification and their claims can be processed quite quickly.


  • Medium and high-risk categories related to the complexity of the information provided and were often concerned with household income composition and individual income to be assessed.


  • There was monthly performance analysis of the changes to circumstances claims to allow any changes to be considered such as overpayments that could occur or to understand if there are anomalies and allow further background information to be checked. There were also quality checks completed on cases to provide additional assurance.


  • Part of the equalities comments were assessed to be confidential information by Legal services and added to the exempt part of the report and further details would be provided in the exempt part of the meeting. It was agreed that the Head of Legal would provide a broader response to the query from Cllr Mitchell after the meeting.



Further to considering the exempt information at item 26,





As set out in the Part B exempt report


As set out in the Part B exempt report


Reasons for decision


To continue to help reduce fraud and error in the processing of Benefit claims.


As set out in the Part B exempt report


Alternative options considered


For the reasons contained in the report, no other option was considered.


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