MPs have called on the government to speed up its efforts to promote data sharing between government departments and local authorities to boost the uptake of council tax benefit.
The Commons Communities and Local Government Committee made the call after its inquiry into council tax benefit, which has the lowest uptake of any means-tested benefit. Only between 62% and 68% of those eligible claim their entitlement.
In its report on the inquiry, the committee cites evidence from Warwick University senior research fellow Sir Michael Orton, who told the MPs that pensioners – a key target group – could be more effectively encouraged to claim their entitlement if the Pension Service could automatically send information on potential claimants to the relevant local authority.
Local councils, which administer the benefit, could then use the information to tell potential claimants how much benefit they could receive.
The New Policy Institute think tank told the MPs that greater data sharing would also help benefit take-up by non-pensioner households.
Ministers should also investigate the feasibility of introducing automatic council tax benefit assessment and billing, the MPs said.
“We recommend that the government accelerate efforts to promote inter-agency data-sharing, particularly between the Pension Service, HMRC and local authorities, as a means of increasing council tax benefit take up,” the report says.