Members of DSS and the Appeals Service Project team have recently taken part in a series of conferences run by CIPFA in England by 2m18Zj

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									                                                           Appeals Service
                                                           HB/CTB Project


                                                            Tel: 020 -7 712-2623
                                                            Fax: 020-7 712- 2652
                                                        E mail:TAS-HB-Project-Team@
                                                            MS41.dss.gsi.gov.uk



Communications Bulletin - 3                                        28 February 2001


To:                        Local Authority HB/CTB Appeals Contacts
For distribution to: Relevant HB/CTB Benefits Staff
Timing:                    Immediate




                           There are 124 Days to "A" Day


                                    Introduction
1.    As you are aware, the Appeals Service Enquiry line was launched on 22 January
      2001. Its purpose is to provide a focal point for LA contacts, landlords, welfare
      agencies and Appeals Service staff who have queries or issues relating to
      HB/CTB appeals processing. We have since received a steady flow of
      enquiries and have included the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) in this
      bulletin.

2.   The purpose of this bulletin is to:

         Provide you with a revised list of the Appeals Service Centre and venues at
          which appeals from your claimants will be heard
         Give you an update on project issues
         to answer some FAQs

                                           Venues

3.    We included your venue allocation list with the last bulletin. As you know, the
      allocation of venues has been made of the basis of postcodes. Thank you for
      feedback on the allocation, it is not easy to identify specific geographical
      problems from a postcode map! The list has been revised, where possible, on
      the basis of your comments. As you are aware, we plan to use our existing
      network of venues to hear HB/CTB appeals.




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4.   A revised allocation list is now attached for your information. This is your last
     chance to comment on its contents, please ensure that you check all
     information carefully and let us know of any problems by Wednesday 7th March,
     using the Appeals Service Enquiry Line contact details in Annex A.


                                      Update

5.   New Regulations to introduce the changes to HB/CTB have now been laid and
     will be debated by Parliament in March. HB/CTB Circulars A2/2001 and A3/2001
     give you more information. DSS colleagues are working on the Guidance.

6.   CIPFA/IRRV and LA Association Conferences

     Members of DSS and the Appeals Service Project team have recently taken part
     in a series of conferences run by CIPFA in England, IRRV/CIPFA/COSLA in
     Scotland and the WLGA in Wales. The aim of this programme was to give
     Benefit Managers an overview of the forthcoming changes to help them plan for
     implementation. We hope if you attended you found them helpful. Thank you to
     all those who took part in the Q&A panel sessions. Hopefully you found these
     useful as well, we certainly did!

7.   Training Package on HB/CTB Decision Making and Appeals

     LA trainers can use this package for training LA benefits staff. This has now
     been issued to LA contacts for internal distribution. The training package covers
     both the new appeals system and the changes to decision making being made
     from July.

8.   Training Package Handover Events

     A series of national events, co-ordinated and run by DSS Training Services, are
     taking place between 26 February 2001 and 6 April 2001. A training officer
     from each LA has been invited to attend. A message from the LA User Group
     (which comprises representatives from the LAAs, DSS and AS) was recently
     issued urging LAs to take the opportunity to attend.

     Would LAs please note these events are designed for LA trainers or staff
     responsible for benefits training.

     Staff attending are asked to familiarise themselves with the training material
     before attending the event and to bring the training material with them when they
     attend.




9.   Training Helpline

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      A Training Helpline has been set up and will run until 30 June 2001. This is
      being run by DSS Training Services and provide support to LA training officers.

      Any queries about either the handover events or the content of the training
      material should be referred to the Training Helpline:

            tel: 01772-899476

            e-mail: BDJones@MS22.dss.gsi.gov.uk

10.   Appeals Service "Welcome Aboard" Conferences

      These will be hosted by local Appeals Service Centres and are aimed at LA
      appeals writers and presenting officers. We are busy planning the conferences
      which will run from April until mid-May 2001. Invitations to conferences will be
      issued in early March.

11.   Appeals Service Website

      A new HB/CTB page will be available from early March.


                                      


                         Frequently Asked Questions


Q:    Is the Appeals Service ready for HB/CTB appeals?

      We have put a lot of work into getting ready for the new appeals in the Appeals
      Service. A project team has been in place for some months and changes to the
      IT system are already in place and tested. New procedures for our clerks are
      almost ready to be signed off and the planning and design of training for our
      both our admin staff and the tribunal chairmen is nearly completed. Training will
      be given as near as possible to the go live date.


Q:    What arrangements have been made to train Tribunal Chairmen?

A:    One of our tribunal chairmen Richard Poynter is an acknowledged expert in
      Housing and Council Tax Benefit and co-author of the CPAG handbook on
      these benefits. He is helping to develop the training programme for chairmen.
      Training takes place in June to ensure that there are sufficient numbers of
      tribunal chairmen trained to deal with the take on of HB/CTB from July.




Q:    How will the Appeals Service cope with hearing all these additional cases?

A:    We have secured additional funding for this new work. Forecasts of the volume
      of the new appeals have been fed into our staff complementing model which
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     generates our staffing requirement for next year. This helps to ensure we have
     the right staff in the right place to handle the new work.

     The Appeals Service has conducted a review of accommodation available in
     order to ensure there is sufficient capacity to hold HB/CTB appeals from July.
     This will be kept under review to take account of developments following the
     introduction of HB/CTB. There is a regular programme of recruitment by the
     Lord Chancellor's Department to ensure there are sufficient tribunal panel
     members available to the Appeals Service.


Q:   What has been done to gauge the number of appeals the Appeal Service
     will get?

A:   DSS undertook research into the number of Local Authority Review Boards held
     each year in order to inform preparation for new scheme for HB/CTB appeals.
     The report “Housing Benefit and the Appeals Service” was published in January.
     Further research was done with LAs in October and November as part of the
     DSS Omnibus survey.


Q:   How many HB/CTB appeals are the Appeals Service expecting?

A:   The DSS has forecast that the Appeals Service may expect to receive up to
     15,000 HB/CTB appeals in the first financial year of operation but research will
     continue up to the date of implementation to ensure our planning is as accurate
     as it can be.

     Volumes of cases are difficult to predict given the potential behavioural effects
     which stem from the move to a new appeals system for HB/CTB claimants so
     the first year figures allow for a significant increase in volumes at the start of the
     new arrangements.


Q:   How will the changeover to the new system be managed?

A:   Transitional regulations have not been finalised but it is proposed that no review
     boards should be held after the 2 July and that all existing requests should be
     treated as appeals to tribunals on that day.




Q:   When should LAs stop holding Review Boards?

A:   Review Boards should continue to be held up to 1 July 2001. Any outstanding
     Review Board cases which cannot be heard by 1 July will be heard by an
     Appeals Service tribunal under the existing Regulations. The Appeals Service

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     cannot hear any appeals before 2nd July but will begin to hear cases as soon as
     possible after that.


Q:   Are Appeal Tribunals held during the evenings and on Saturdays in the
     same way that Review Boards are?

A:   No. Tribunals are held Monday-Friday only. Sessions can last up to 3 hours,
     generally from 10.00am until 1.00pm and 2.00pm until 5.00pm.


Q:   HB/CTB appeals will be new to the Appeals Service - how many cases will
     be listed in each session?

A:   To begin with only three cases per session will be listed for an oral hearing. As
     people become more familiar with the new arrangements it will probably be
     possible to increase the number of cases dealt with in a session.


Q:   Will the Appeals Service use Local Authority accommodation for appeals?

A:   Communications Bulletin 2 explained why we are planning to use our existing
     network of venues to hear HB/CTB Appeals


Q:   How will the Appeals Service process appeals which need to be heard
     urgently eg. appellant rents from a private landlord and eviction
     proceedings are pending?

A:   We can expedite cases and will consider any requests for "fast tracking".
     Urgent cases can be "slotted" onto sessions at short notice. Where necessary,
     extra sessions can be arranged. This can be within the 14-day statutory notice
     of hearing period but only with the agreement of all parties. We will however
     need to see evidence to justify the case taking priority over other appeals. For
     example, we may ask to see copies of eviction papers. Further information will
     be contained within guidance.


Q:   Will the Appeals Service pay travel and subsistence costs for Presenting
     Officers to attend hearings?

A:   No. These costs should be funded from Local Authority budgets.




Q:   Who are Appeals Service Welcome Aboard Conferences aimed at?

A:   Welcome Aboard Conferences are for Local Authority staff who will be involved
     in writing appeals submissions or acting as presenting officers at tribunals.
     Local Authorities who contract out benefit delivery can nominate contractors to
     attend as part of their delegate allocation.

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Q:   Will Local Authorities have to pay to attend Welcome Aboard
     Conferences?

A:   The overall cost of the conferences will be funded by the Project but authorities
     will be responsible for funding the travel and subsistence costs of their staff who
     attend the conferences.


Q:   Will Local Authorities have to send presenting officers to tribunals?

A:   Either the appellant or the LA can elect to have an oral or paper hearing. If there
     is only a paper hearing, no presenting officer will attend. If the appellant asks for
     an oral hearing, tribunal chairmen do encourage presenting officers to attend,
     believing that this helps to ensure all the facts of the case can be correctly
     established at the hearing and that the correct decision can be reached.


Q:   Do LAs have to send original documents to tribunals and what does this
     mean for LAs who use document image processing systems and do not
     retain original documents?

A:   Tribunals will want to see the best available evidence in each case that comes
     before them. If original documents are not available it should still be clear as
     possible from the copies whether the original was seen, when it was copied and
     by whom. For decision notices issued by the LA it should be clear when they
     were sent and what the exact wording used was.


Q:   Can LAs send submissions electronically to the Appeals Service?

A:   At the present time LAs must send paper submissions to AS (and must of
     course copy these submissions to the appellant and their representative, if they
     have one). One of our problems is the diversity of systems used in authorities
     and the confidential nature of the information contained in submissions. We are
     however constantly seeking to make increased use of information technology
     and we intend to pilot electronic submissions from LAs in the very near future.




                                                                                Annex A


            HB/CTB Appeals Project Team: Contact Details
             Appeals Service
              th
             4 Floor
             Whittington House
             19-30 Alfred Place
             London
             WC1E 7LW

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                  Enquiry Line - Gayle Clayworth


                              020-7712- 2623

                  e-mail:      TAS-HB-Project-Team@MS41.dss.gsi.gov.uk

                  all faxes:    020-7712-2652



Project Manager                   Mike Watson      020-7712-2644
                                  e-mail: m.watson@MS41.dss.gsi.gov.uk

LA Guidance                       Teresa Cox        020-7712-2657
                                  e-mail: t.cox@MS41.dss.gsi.gov.uk

Communications Products           Janet McCartney 020-7712-2603
                                  e-mail: j.mccartney@MS41.dss.gsi.gov.uk

IT & Resource Manager             Gary Grainger      020-7712-2630
                                  e-mail: g.grainger@MS41.dss.gsi.gov.uk

LA Guidance                       Ann Ramsey        020-7712-2647
                                  e-mail: a.ramsey@MS41.dss.gsi.gov.uk

Project Support                   Ruth Adamson      020-7712-2646
                                  e-mail: r.adamson@MS41.dss.gsi.gov.uk



Other Useful Numbers

DSS Contact Point for             tel: 0113 2327785
Enquiries about Regulations       e-mail A.Ramsey@MS01.dss.gsi.gov.uk

DSS Training Helpline             tel: 01772-234119
                                  e-mail: BD.Jones@MS22.dss.gsi.gov.uk




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