Pensioners urged to draw on council-tax support

PUBLISHED: 09:20 29 February 2020 | UPDATED: 09:20 29 February 2020

Picture: Contributed

Picture: Contributed

Archant

Almost 2,000 pensioners are missing out on council-tax support in North Somerset.

Charities have warned that vulnerable households may be missing out on the vital support they are entitled to, as figures for those claiming have dropped by 27 per cent over the past five years.

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

In North Somerset, 5,375 pensioners were claiming support in the three months to December, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government figures show.

This was 1,954 fewer than for the same period in 2015.

The way support is administered was changed in 2013, and Turns2Us - a charity for people in financial hardship - says vulnerable households are struggling to navigate the complex and confusing system.

A North Somerset Council spokesman said: "Pensioners can receive a 100 per cent discount on their council-tax liability under the council-tax reduction scheme, and working age customers can receive up to 75.5 per cent off their council-tax liability.

"Discounts are dependent on income. To help vulnerable customers, we also offer appointments at the town hall and home visits for those who are unable to apply online.

"We also have a dedicated team who support customers struggling with debt. We help manage their debts to put them in the best position possible to pay their council-tax debt."

The Government says it has protected pensioners and emphasised they continued to receive the same level of support.

However, there were 310,000 fewer pensioners claiming support in England last year compared with 2015.

Turns2Us is urging the Government to review the system and consider automatic entitlement for people who are struggling.

Caroline Abrahams from Age UK said it was important anyone entitled to claim the benefit did so.

She added: "Given that there are 2 million pensioners in poverty, it is worrying 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."

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