Housing Benefit and the Appeals Service

The review system, also known as appeals, allows Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit claimants to challenge the determinations made by local authorities. There are two stages to the review process: the first stage, known as an ‘internal review’, is conducted by local authority officers; the second stage, known as a ‘further review’, consists of a hearing conducted by a ‘Review Board’ which comprises local authority councillors. Throughout this report, the terms ‘appeals’ or ‘appeals cases’ refers to requests for an internal review or further review. To bring the review system into line with arrangements for decision making and appeals in child support and social security, it is intended that the second stage of the review process will transfer from local authority Review Boards to the Appeals Service (Section 1.2). The Centre for Research in Social Policy was commissioned by the Department of Social Security to conduct a study of current Housing Benefit/Council Tax Benefit appeals activity in local authorities (Section 1.3). The aim of the research was to inform the transfer of the second stage of the review process from local authorities to the Appeals Service. The research involved nine local authority case studies. There were three elements to the research design: depth interviews with Housing Benefit managers and appeals officers (or equivalent); recording of details from cases which went to a Review Board hearing during the period April 1999 to March 2000; and collection of data on the volume of appeals activity. The fieldwork took place in August 2000. The nine local authorities were selected to provide a range of local authority types, locations and experience of appeals activity.