Skip to main content

Pensions: Council Tax Benefit

Volume 487: debated on Wednesday 11 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what recent steps his Department has taken to (a) increase the take-up of council tax benefit and (b) simplify the procedure for pensioners to claim. (253764)

Council tax benefit makes an important contribution to the financial security of around 2.6 million pensioner households. We therefore want to ensure that, they get the money they are entitled to.

We are making good progress. When pension credit was introduced in October 2003, we invested almost £0.5 billion a year in increasing the amounts on which housing benefit and council tax benefit are based. This meant that around 2 million pensioner households became either entitled to council tax benefit for the first time or qualified for more help.

People on the guarantee credit or guarantee plus savings credit of pension credit (with or without the savings credit) can get maximum council tax benefit. They are treated as having no income or capital. People with savings credit only may still be entitled to some council tax benefit.

All pension credit customers who are identified as having council tax liability are encouraged to claim council tax benefit when they make their initial claim for pension credit.

Since December 2005, people applying for pension credit have been able to access housing benefit and council tax benefit at the same time via one phone call to the Pension, Disability and Carers Service—one phone call, one number, three benefits. Pension, Disability and Carers Service staff completed a short claim form on the customer’s behalf, and sent it to them for signing and returning it to the local authority for processing.

From October 2008, we dispensed with the claim form. Pension, Disability and Carers Service now pass the information direct to the local authority. Previously around 40 per cent. of pre-populated council tax benefit claim forms sent to customers for checking and forwarding to the local authority were never sent to the local authority.

Our longer term aim is to make support for council tax liability as accessible as possible and we will continue to examine ways of achieving this.