Another benefit change was also briefly discussed. One I hadn't been aware was happening.
As of April 2013 Council Tax Benefit will no longer exist in its present from. It was suggested by the facilitator at the forum that the news of this change has been lost in all the information and outcry about the planned housing benefit changes. I leave you to make your own mind up about whether this was done deliberately by the government. I did wonder just how it was I hadn't heard of this.
Council Tax Benefit is centrally controlled at the moment. You apply to your local council but the rules and money come from a central pot. It's not strictly speaking a disability benefit. A lot of disabled people do receive it but it's available to anyone who is on a low enough income. A high proportion if the people who receive it are in work and for some it is what allows them to remain in work or to take work in the first place. Currently it's possible to receive all or part of your council tax paid via benefit (claimants don't receive this money it goes straight to the council) and also in some circumstances to receive a separate discount for which you don't need to be on benefit.
So in my own case
My council tax bill is discounted by 25% because I live alone (this is called the single adult reduction and any household where only one person over 18 lives is entitled to it. Claimed via contacting the council)
My flat is a band b property however because I'm a wheelchair user the council tax due is reduced by 1 band meaning I'm liable for band a prices. For people who live in band a it's reduced by a set percentage. (this is available to anyone who needs extra space for wheelchair use or an additional room due to medical needs. Again claimed from the council)
And as I am deemed to have a low income I receive Council Tax Benefit which in my case pays the remainder in full.
If I was working I may have received some benefit and had to pay the rest. It really is on a case by case basis. I know of people who receive perhaps only £15 a month council tax benefit and pay the rest and people who receive all but £5 a month of their council tax in benefit and pay that £5
From April 2013 however there will be no set rules for the provision of council tax support. Instead it will be provided locally with each area deciding how best to use it. The pot of money to be available for this is to be 10% less than the current bill for council tax benefit and this money will not be ring fenced.
This will almost definitely create a postcode lottery in what support is available. My suspicion is that areas which are already poor at providing services such as social care are likely to also use little of the available money for council tax support. Yet another hit for disabled people and for many others who may well not carry the scrounger stereotype we crips must fight.
The government would probably argue that if people have enough income to be only receiving a small sum of council tax benefit each month - say the £15 I used above - they can afford to pay that too.
It's easy to say that when you have a high paying job, secure accommodation, good health and family who support you like most of the government do. £15 is maybe a starter in a restaurant. They miss it but it wouldn't be a big deal and come next week they probably wouldn't remember it.
It's not so easy when you're on a low income. The £15 you've just lost could mean you can't pay for your prescriptions or you can't eat for a few days or the carer who comes once a week to change your bed must be stopped. Not easy to manage without and not something you can say "oh well" and forget about.
Edited (by Lisa) to add: We've had quite a lot of Tweets related to this post. As not everyone follows us on Twitter so will have seen them RTed; I thought I should post some of the more crucial ones here to add them to the debate. The limits on what html can be used in comments means you can't embed tweets below the line.
@wheresbenefit Didn't realise you hadn't spotted it. There's more too. The 10% cut isn't allowed to be taken from pensioner households, so..— Itsmotherswork (@itsmotherswork) May 6, 2012
@wheresbenefit ...all the cut in the total pot must come from working-age households (regardless of need), which effectively means a...— Itsmotherswork (@itsmotherswork) May 6, 2012
@wheresbenefit ...higher than 10% cut in the available funding for those households.:-(— Itsmotherswork (@itsmotherswork) May 6, 2012
@wheresbenefit Some LA's like my own say they have no plans to alter CTB eligib, others say pensioners protected every1 else *shrugs* :(— BendyGirl (@BendyGirl) May 7, 2012