I am very concerned at situation over lack of information given by the council about housing benefit problems with people being left in the dark as to what was happening and have contacted the council about refunding bank charges. The council has said that a BACS banking problem has meant that payments that should have gone into people’s bank account on Monday will be delayed until at least Thursday.
Residents in my ward have told me that they were either unable to get through on the city helpdesk number or had extreme difficulty and were getting a message saying that the council was experiencing a high number of calls.
Information seems to have come very late and been very difficult to get hold of. People have also complained to me that the council could have used Twitter and Facebook to explain what was going on and when they could expect an explanation and payment. But despite a short statement on their website late on Monday afternoon – they did not used Facebook or Twitter until very late on Monday afternoon – which connects with people better these days than a website.
I am also concerned that people may occur additional bank charges if the money was not in their account when their rent was due. I have emailed the Head of Revenue and Benefits at the council asking that they refund anyone who gets such charges as result of the council’s mistake. The council must learn the lessons from this which has potentially hit the most vulnerable and disabled in the city.
One resident posted on their Facebook page: “Surely, it is not beyond the intelligence of Portsmouth City Council to inform those of us who have the temerity to being either low paid or disabled and in receipt of housing Benefit, that when they have a glitch in payments to actually write some brief details on their website/Facebook/Twitter as to an ETA on how long it will take? And not just leave a ‘high number of calls’ answering machine on, directing us to email (which will probably take a week to reply to) – for that matter, just leave a different message on the answer phone that there is a glitch. The anxiety one already has to deal with as a result of clinically chronic non-responsive depression is bad, this does little to help. — feeling frustrated.”