>> 1 December 2009

The SNP Council Group has highlighted benefits changes which means those previously refused help with council tax or housing benefit may now qualify

From 2 November 2009, Child Benefit is no longer treated as income for the purposes of calculating housing benefit and council tax benefit. This means that some families who missed out on getting help with their rent and council tax on the grounds that their income was too high may now be eligible. Existing claimants will be re-assessed and recent nil awards where child benefit was a factor will be looked at again but past claimants may not be aware of the new changes.

From the same date, people entitled to Pension Credit will have the first £10,000 of their savings ignored. Previously the threshold was £6,000. Almost half a million pensioners in the UK will be up to £8 a week better off following the changes which will mean that about 90% of people with Pension Credit will have all of their savings ignored. These limits now also apply when calculating Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit. The threshold for those permanently resident in care homes remains unchanged at £10,000. Consequently, from 2 November 2009 an individual’s assumed income from their capital is calculated on the basis of £1.00 for each £500 (or part thereof) of capital in excess of £10,000. This means some people will become newly eligible for benefits.

Commenting, an SNP spokeperson said:

"These are important changes and may mean that people who previously missed out on assistance might now qualify.

"we think it is important that people are aware of what they may be entitled to claim but many may not be aware of these changes which came into force just a month ago. We would urge anyone who thinks they may now qualify for help with their council tax or housing benefit to ask at their local council office for more information."

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