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Pensioners in Aylesbury may missing out on council tax help

Charities think it is after a change of system.

Published by Scarlett Bawden-Gaul at 1:13pm 5th March 2020. 4-minute read.

Pensioners in Aylesbury may missing out on council tax help

Some Aylesbury pensioners could be missing out on help with council tax. 

In Aylesbury Vale pensioners may be missing out on support for council tax. 

The worry comes from charities as the number of elderly people support across England continues to decrease. 

In Aylesbury Vale, 3153 pensioners were claiming support in the three months to December, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government figures show. 

That was a 14% drop compared to the same period in 2015, meaning 519 fewer people were receiving the help.

Low-income households and pensioners in England can apply for a discount or exemption on their council tax under the Council Tax Reduction Scheme.

The scheme replaced the nationally-administered Council Tax Benefit in 2013, giving individual local authorities the power to decide who is eligible for support and what discounts to offer.

But Turn2us, a charity which helps people in financial hardship, says vulnerable households are struggling to navigate an increasingly complex and confusing system.

Campaigns manager Varuk Kanish said:

“Not since the poll tax have so many low-income households had to pay local taxes.

“The localisation of Council Tax Support schemes has increased the complexity of an already confusing system, resulting in more people missing out.

“We urge the Government to review this system and consider automatic entitlement for people who are struggling.”

He added that a move towards online services – driven in part by budget pressures – may be impacting older people.

The Government says it has protected pensioners, and that they continue to receive the same level of support as under the previous system.

However, there were 310,000 fewer pensioners claiming support in England last year than in 2015 – a 17% drop.

Out of 317 local authorities, only one did not see a fall in pensioner claimants.

Caroline Abrahams from Age UK said it is important that anyone entitled to claim the benefit does so, as it can make a huge difference.

She said:

“Given that there are 2 million pensioners in poverty, it is worrying that the numbers claiming council tax support have fallen.

"For those already struggling to meet essential costs, the prospect of this year’s council tax bills arriving soon will be one extra thing to worry about."

Cllr Howard Mordue, AVDC Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources, said:

"As a council we want to provide assistance where we can, to those on lower incomes. Included with the Council Tax bills that will be sent out mid-March, there will be a detailed letter about how people can contact us to discuss our Council Tax Reduction scheme.

"There are several reasons why the number of older people applying for Council tax reduction have fallen, including the fact that care home residents and those diagnosed with severe mental health issues, e.g. dementia, can qualify for an exemption from Council Tax and therefore do not have to make a claim for Council Tax Reduction. 

“Our Severe Mental Impairment, including dementia, discounts and exemptions have increased by 67% since 2015 and while this doesn’t equate to the number of pensioners who have stopped claiming Council Tax Reduction, it does mean that we’re identifying customers who qualify for an SMI discount or exemption sooner.

"While AVDC has been at the vanguard of digitisation, we recognise that some people need alternatives and we are able to assist, by telephone or with face to face appointments in our Customer Services Centre, where we can also help complete the necessary paperwork.

"I would encourage anyone concerned about paying their Council Tax bill, to contact us to see if we might be able to help. If you are aware of an older relative or someone who might need support, encourage them to contact us, or a local charity such as Age UK."

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