Wales become first to standardise council tax discounts for mentally impaired people

People suffering with severe mental impairments in Britain face missing out on financial help with council tax because of their postcode, according to a charity.

Council tax discounts and rebates for people who are Severely Mentally Impaired (SMI), including sufferers of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and stroke victims, are available in England, Scotland and Wales, but the application process has traditionally varied between councils.

The Welsh Government has now become the first to standardise information it gives about the discounts and to offer a single application form across Wales.

But campaigners argue tens of thousands of people entitled to financial support in England and Scotland could be missing out on about £400 a year due to the different approaches taken by local authorities and council staff giving out incorrect information.

Sally Copley, Director of Policy, Campaigns and Partnerships at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “This will be welcome news to the 45,000 people living with dementia in Wales, but what about the people in England and Scotland?

“It’s criminal that people with dementia aren’t getting the financial help they are entitled to.

“No person with dementia should be losing out because of their postcode.”

Campaign website MoneySavingExpert was behind the calls to change the system in Wales, which will also see people being able to backdate their rebate to the date they were diagnosed, and are now calling for similar changes across Britain.

Martin Lewis (pictured), the website’s founder, said: “Many of the most vulnerable within our society, those who are living with a ‘severe mental impairment’, have been eligible for a council tax discount for years, but sadly, across Britain they have rarely been about told it, meaning they’ve missed out on money that could’ve transformed their quality of life.

“Most councils haven’t helped spread the word, and disgracefully have often hindered people claiming by giving out misinformation. Some staff in our cold-calling exercise even said the discount doesn’t exist, meaning there are huge differences in take-up across the country. That simply isn’t right.”

England’s Local Government Association said: “There is a mandatory council tax exemption for people who are diagnosed with severe mental impairment and local authorities should support those who meet the eligibility criteria.”

Cosla, the Scottish local government body, said: “Scottish councils seek to ensure that those entitled are aware of this discount. Where best practice can help then this is actively being shared to ensure that there is consistency across councils.”

Welsh Government finance minister Rebecca Evans said: “I am pleased the Welsh Government is leading the way with this new approach, helping some of the most vulnerable people access the discounts and support they are entitled to, and I’m very grateful to MoneySavingExpert and Martin Lewis for bringing this issue to our attention and working with us to address it.

“We will continue to work closely with local authorities and the WLGA (Welsh Local Government Association) to encourage consistency in approaches to administering discounts and exemptions for everyone who is eligible.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Kirsty O’Connor / PA Wire.