Basildon council is one of the first local authorities in Essex to offer an online claims process for housing benefits and council tax benefit through their website, www.basildon.gov.uk/benefits.
The council already offers a paperless claims process over the telephone during office hours. The new online form can be accessed through the website 24 hours a day.
Vulnerable residents will be able to make a claim when it suits them, making the service even more accessible to those who need it most during challenging financial times.
The online process uses technology to check for errors in the claim, highlight missing information and ensures claimants only complete the relevant sections. This makes the claim process quicker and easier.
Claims are still processed and checked to the highest standards to prevent cheats abusing a system designed to be another lifeline for those in genuine financial crisis.
Councillor Phil Turner, cabinet member for resources, welcomes the innovation.
He said: “At a time when people need it more than ever, we’re providing a user friendly claims process for honest, hard working residents, while ensuring the service isn’t abused by fraudsters who mistakenly think they can slip through the net.”
Once a claimant has submitted their form through the website, they will be contacted by the benefits team to arrange for a visiting officer to collect vital supporting documents from their home.
The council also continues to offer a telephone and face-to-face service for advice and making a claim for housing or council tax benefits.
The council’s existing caseload of over 17,000 benefits claimants can also use the online forms to notify the council of any changes in their circumstances that may affect their benefit entitlement. This is vital to ensure the correct benefit is being paid.