What you need to know about benefits

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4. Council tax support scheme changes

Last summer we ran a public consultation on eight changes that we were considering making to our working age Council Tax Support (CTS) scheme. Following the consultation, Members considered the responses and, at a meeting of the Full Council in December, made the decision to only implement the changes set out below.

A report on the consultation findings can be found here.

Changes to the scheme from 1 April 2017

Minimum Income Floor (MIF) for self-employed claimants

This will assume an income from businesses that have been operating for more than 12 months equivalent to working 35 hours at National Living Wage or National Minimum Wage. This change will be applied to affected working age claims from 1st April 2017. We will write to you before then to tell you how you will be affected and explain the options available to you.

Reduce backdating to one month

Normally entitlement to CTS starts from the Monday after the day a claim is made. If you have good cause for not making a claim earlier we can currently backdate your award for 6 months. This change will reduce this period to one month, in line with the rules for Housing Benefit and other welfare benefits.

Limit absences outside Great Britain to 4 weeks

Currently you can be away from home for up to 13 weeks and still be entitled to CTS wherever you are in the world. The new rules will reduce this to 4 weeks where you are absent outside Great Britain. This is in line with changes made to the nationally set pensioner CTS scheme and in other welfare benefits.

Remove the Work Related Activity Component for new Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAC)

From April 2017 ESA will no longer be paying claimants in the WRAG any extra benefit. We therefore will not be allowing an extra amount in the calculation of their CTS to balance the extra income.

Universal Credit Carers Element

We have added Universal Credit Carers Element to the incomes that will disqualify a claimant from the Severe Disability Premium if someone receives the money for looking after them. As more people are moving from their current benefits to receiving them within Universal Credit, we needed to update our scheme rules to keep up with these changes.

Additional earnings disregard for Universal Credit claimants

Under the Universal Credit rules there is a single earnings disregard, with no additional amount for working more hours. Our scheme rules have been amended to reflect the different way these customers are treated under the new benefit rules.

Most of these changes, apart from the MIF, will not affect people straight away. However if you are concerned that you may be affected please get in touch with us.

Changes which were consulted on but will not be implemented

Removal of the family premium

This would have aligned rules in the working age CTS scheme with those in the nationally set pensioner scheme and in other welfare benefits. Instead the family premium will continue to be awarded on new claims as currently.

Limiting payment of the dependants allowance to 2 children

This would have meant that the extra allowance made for dependent children would not have increased for third or subsequent children. This change is being introduced for Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit as well as Housing Benefit and other welfare benefits from April 2017.

If you are affected

If you are concerned about how any of these changes will affect your ability to pay your Council Tax bill please get in touch. There are things we can offer that may help.

Help with budgeting and managing your money including arranging an instalment plan which works for you and a benefit check, to make sure you are getting all of the help you are entitled to.

We can also look at whether the Exceptional Hardship Fund can give you additional financial help. As part of the application process we will want to know about all of your income and expenditure. You will also have to tell us what steps you are taking to increase your self-employed income and if anything is stopping you from working 35 hours per week.

Please contact our Customer Services team at the Civic Centre or on 01392 265440 for further advice and assistance.