Council tax exemptions - sneaky change

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Sunny Clouds

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Council tax exemptions - sneaky change

  • on: 13 Feb 2013 11:14PM
I just received a form from the council tax office asking me to confirm my entitlement to an exemption from council tax on the basis of severe mental impairment.

They have removed the entitlement from people on ESA.  If you're on IB or IS, you're still ok, but if you've been migrated to ESA, you lose your discount.

But this was done with no public announcement and the letter doesn't even have a nice little paragraph saying something like "unfortunately due to cutbacks, we've had to  make some changes, so you  may no longer be eligible for a discount", it just omits ESA from the list, together with JSA for a partner of someone with SMI.

This is the sort of change the public isn't seeing, the stuff that just lands on people's doorsteps and leaves people bereft. 

Of course, it's beyond them to include any details of who to contact for emotional support if they've just pulled the rug out from under you.

I've written to my councillor.  I doubt if it will achieve much, but it made me feel better.

I'm not affected personally, because I'm on DLA, but once I lose DLA, I will be and in the meantime, given that everyone getting this letter is severely mentally impaired, and whilst I get it on the basis of relatively stable bipolar disorder, many get it on the basis of severe learning difficulties, brain injuries or dementia, to name just three possible reasons, there are some very vulnerable people out there getting this. 

(My apologies if anyone doesn't like the word vulnerable, but I think that in this context it accurately describes the situation for a significant chunk of people with severe mental impairment in terms of the impact of something like this.)

(I'm an obsessive problem-solver, so feel free to ignore any suggestions or solutions I offer, even if they sound terribly insistent.)

devine63

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Absolutely right about vulnerable, Sunny!

Deb

Sunny Clouds

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I've been scouring the net but I can't find a single national set of criteria for exemption.  The gov.uk site redirects to local councils.  That suggests that in England at least there is a requirement for local councils to give an exemption to people with SMI on certain benefits but no national criteria for what those benefits must be.  If anyone knows otherwise, I'd be interested.
(I'm an obsessive problem-solver, so feel free to ignore any suggestions or solutions I offer, even if they sound terribly insistent.)

Sunny Clouds

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I've looked at a variety of websites relating to mental impairment and the only one I can find with anything remotely helpful is the Alzheimer's Society, which says "Anyone with a severe mental impairment, including dementia, who is living on their own and is receiving an appropriate disability benefit (such as attendance allowance, or the higher or middle care components of disability living allowance) is exempt from paying any council tax."

I wonder whether the relevant national legislation uses that phrase, "is receiving an appropriate disability benefit"?
(I'm an obsessive problem-solver, so feel free to ignore any suggestions or solutions I offer, even if they sound terribly insistent.)

Sunny Clouds

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I've just looked in my CPAG benefits handbook and it cross-refers to their handbook on council tax/housing benefit.  Anyone got a copy or any other source of the legislation on this?
(I'm an obsessive problem-solver, so feel free to ignore any suggestions or solutions I offer, even if they sound terribly insistent.)

Defying Gravity

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Disability rights UK has ESA listed: http://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/f43.htm

Is it possible your council has left it off by accident?

Sunny Clouds

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I think from what I can see looking around that either the legislation says something like 'any relevant disability benefit' or that there's a separate provision in each bit of legislation relating to a disability/incapacity benefit.  The former seems more likely.

I believe from what I've read in my copy of the CPAG welfare handbook that the specifics are in their book on council tax and benefits (I can't remember the title) and I think from the link you've put that it's also in DRUK's handbook.  However, I don't have either.
(I'm an obsessive problem-solver, so feel free to ignore any suggestions or solutions I offer, even if they sound terribly insistent.)

Pentesalie

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Since each Council is in effect free to make their own arrangements as to who they're going to help, instead of it being organised by Central Government, my Council has dropped all help towards disabled people, they're only keeping help for pensioners. The rest of us, anyone of working age though not working, irrespective of disability, has to start by paying 5% this year, 10% next year and 15% the year after.

Sunny Clouds

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That just applies to council tax benefit, not to exemptions from the obligation to pay council tax.  The list of people who are exempt is the same throughout England and includes all sorts of people from nuns to full-time students.  It's the precise definition of the exemption in respect of people exempt on the basis of severe mental impairment I'm questioning.

In saying this, I am in no way ignoring how disgusting the changes in relation to council tax benefit are.  Far from it.  Taken with other changes such as bedroom tax/reduction in LHA (depending on whether you rent from the council or privately) they will, I believe, in some cases lead to death from hypothermia or starvation.

I claimed the SMI exemption years ago then tried to change to getting CTB instead but although the coucil tax part of the council said it was ok to stop claiming the exemption, the council tax benefit bit of the council said I could only claim CTB if I could prove I was no longer entitled to the exemption.  My GP refused to sign the form to say I was no longer SMI.  Surreal.  It took me a long time to understand that intelligence comes in different forms and in many ways my intelligence is very impaired, and to acknowledge he was right about my impaired social functioning. 
(I'm an obsessive problem-solver, so feel free to ignore any suggestions or solutions I offer, even if they sound terribly insistent.)

Otter

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thanks for the heads up
some friends with Downs have had people on their doorstep with long questionaires, luckily they are in sheltered accom and the warden went offical on the caller and they cleared off. Council have apologised saying an employee was being over zealous

Monic1511

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Hi Guys

This is strange as Im in a Scottish Local Authority and you get an SMI if you are on ESA - I think its an error that the councils have made if they are still saying IB only and not ESA - after all ESA has replaced IB.   I'd be asking the councillor how an extinct benefit can be a qualifying benefit  >doh<

 >hugs<

Monic

Sunny Clouds

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Email duly sent to a local councillor pointing out the mess the council tax department's info seems to be in.

The thing is that even if they amend it for next time, how many people migrated from IB to ESA will simply not query it and start paying council tax?  It can be an awful lot of money even if it's just the difference between the new nasty levels of CTB and the full tax.
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One Girl and her Big Dog

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You could contact the manager of council tax department for clarification.  Involve the councillor if the answer is not to your liking.  1G

Sunny Clouds

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Too late, I have already emailed my councillor.  I've cut and pasted the relevant lists.
(I'm an obsessive problem-solver, so feel free to ignore any suggestions or solutions I offer, even if they sound terribly insistent.)