There are number of major changes being introduced to the welfare and benefits system in 2013.
This page will update you with the latest news.
The Jobcentre in Ashton-under-Lyne is the first to accept new claims for Universal Credit. This is part of the Government’s roll out of Universal Credit in pathfinder areas. Wigan, Warrington and Oldham Jobcentres will first trial the new “Claimant Commitment” and will take claims for Universal Credit from the beginning of July. The new Claimant Commitment means increased conditionality put on claimants as a condition of receipt of Universal Credit.
If you live in one of the pathfinder areas and are affected by the trials, please get in touch with Equity’s Tax & Welfare Rights Organisers to report back to us on your experience. Equity has been in dialogue with the Department for Work and Pensions for a number of years to protect Equity members’ welfare rights when Universal Credit is introduced and under the reformed welfare system. We are monitoring the situation as it develops very carefully and we need your help to do so.
Any feedback about your experience of claiming Universal Credit or of the new Claimant Commitment would be really helpful to us in our ongoing dialogue with the DWP. Any information provided will be held by Equity in strict confidence and will enable us to raise issues that arise anonymously with the DWP and monitor the affect of the changes as they happen.
Council Tax Benefit abolished
Council Tax Benefit was abolished from April 2013 and replace by localised Council Tax Reduction Schemes. Provision of financial support for help with Council Tax liability will vary across England. Both Scotland and Wales are retaining the same levels of financial support that applied under the old Council Tax Benefit scheme.
The abolition of Council Tax Benefit in England and the introduction of localised reduction schemes means that whether or not you qualify for any financial assistance to help you meet your Council Tax liability will depend on where you live. Local authorities Council Tax Reduction Schemes will vary dramatically from area to area with the wealthier Councils being more likely to retain the levels of support that were available under Council Tax Benefit. Different local authorities have made policy decisions on which groups of people to financially assist, either fully or partially, with their Council Tax liability. In Stoke on Trent it is estimated that under the new scheme 15,000 people will have to pay Council Tax for the first time.
It is highly unlikely that Equity members who were previously entitled to full or partial Council Tax Benefit will be considered to be part of the ‘deserving poor’ who should be protected under the various new schemes from having to pay Council Tax. An initial glance suggests that those who are most likely to qualify for full or high levels of financial help under the new localised schemes will include pensioners, those with severe disabilities and families with young children.
The move to localised provision of financial help with Council Tax is a consequence of the Government’s Universal Credit agenda. It is estimated that the new localised Council Tax Reduction Schemes will lead to a 10% cut in the protection available for vulnerable people.
For information about the financial support that is available to help with your Council Tax liability you should contact your local authority. Details will be published on local authority’s websites.