Cyber attack has delayed payments to people self-isolating, report reveals

Hackney Town Hall

Payments to people self-isolating during the pandemic have been delayed as a result of the serious cyber attack on Hackney Council last October, according to a new report that offers more detail on the extent of the damage.

The documents show a local authority still in the dark across a number of areas and forced to estimate the amount of council tax it has collected, the level of its tenants’ rent arrears, and its performance on housing repairs.

The Citizen last month covered the continuing problems with benefits payments.

The new report, to be presented to the Town Hall’s audit committee this week, reads: “The lack of access to key systems has affected the council’s ability to process new benefits applications and changes of circumstances, and has delayed processing of discretionary housing payments that were in process at the time of the attack.

“It has also caused additional manual work for processing Test & Trace self-isolation payments – with some delays where applicants have been asked to provide the council with evidence to support their claims.

“The council has worked with the Department for Work and Pensions to restore sharing of data, which means that some processes (such as eligibility checks for self- isolation payments) can now be carried out more quickly. Further work is in progress to speed up this data-sharing.”

The council has said it is prioritising “the most urgent cases”, with both its benefits department and housing strategy services still working to talk to landlords to offer reassurance on payments, ahead of rent increases due in the coming months.

The impact of the hack also makes it hard for the council to assess key metrics in other areas. For instance, the most recent data available for the number of households living in temporary accommodation shows there were 3,319 in the second quarter of 2020/21, up from 3,133 in 2018/19.

The report adds on this: “Data is stored on the unavailable Universal Housing system and since April 2018 on the Jigsaw system, which is available. Manual records are kept of those moving in and out since the cyber attack but without rent accounts it has proved difficult to reconcile the figures accurately until the data is returned.”

Figures for the percentage of this year’s council tax and total rent arrears collected have had to be given as estimates.

The tracking of completed housing repairs for tenants on first visit is also affected, with the council unable to send out surveys to measure satisfaction in the third quarter of 2020/21.