Important changes in how Sunderland City Council operates its Council Tax Support Scheme - and how families will be affected - could come into effect next year.
The scheme helps people on low incomes cut the cost of the amount they pay in council tax.
There is no proposal to change the protection for pensioners, who will still be eligible for up to 100% reduction; or the requirement for working age people to pay a minimum 8.5% contribution.
But there are six changes proposed, including removing the Family Premium for new claimants, and people are being invited to have their say,
The six proposed changes, most of which will only affect new working-age claimants, are:
- Automatically notifying Universal Credit claimants that they can submit a council tax support application.
Chiefs say this will make it easier for the claimant to apply and will ensure entitlements are backdated to the date the council receives Universal Credit notification.
- Reducing backdated claims from six months to one month.
- Reducing the allowable temporary absence period from Great Britain from a maximum of 13 to four weeks.
Exceptions apply to certain groups, for example people in the Armed Forces, but it will affect people taking extended holidays.
- Assessing self-employed claimants (after a period of 12 months) as having income equivalent to the Minimum Income Floor.
The Minimum Income Floor is based on the national minimum wage for their age group and the number of hours they are expected to be available for work.
The hours they are expected to be available for work will be assessed on individual circumstances.
- Removing the Family Premium for new working age claimants from April 2018.
The Family Premium reflects the extra financial needs of a working age claimant with dependent children.
This change will not affect existing claimants unless they have a break in their entitlement and then make a new claim.
- Limiting the number of dependent children to two.
There will be no personal allowance for any third or later child for claims made after 1 April 2018 unless special circumstances apply, for example if the child was born as part of a multiple birth or the claimant receives tax credits for three or more children.
Cabinet Secretary Councillor Mel Speding, said: “This is all about making minor technical and administrative changes to allow us to align the scheme to Housing Benefit and Universal Credit rules at the same time making the local council tax support scheme more efficient to administer and easier for people to understand.
“I’d encourage people to complete a simple survey to have their say in the consultation which is running until November 19.”
People can give their views by completing a simple survey, https://goo.gl/zYwY8Q.
The survey closes on November 19 and all completed surveys must be received by this date.
Consultation responses will help shape the finalised proposals that will be considered for approval in January and will be applied from 1 April 2018.
Support with completing the survey online is available at any of the council’s customer service centres.
Alternatively anyone who would like a paper copy of the survey can contact 0191 561 1614 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Paper copies of the surveys should be returned to any council Customer Service Centre or posted to: Council Tax Support Scheme Consultation, Policy Partnerships and Communications, Freepost Plus RTHL-TJHS-TXGA, Sunderland City Council, Civic Centre, Burdon Road, Sunderland, SR2 7DN.