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Council Tax Benefit

Work and Pensions written question – answered on 22nd February 2005.

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Photo of Edward Davey Edward Davey Shadow Spokesperson (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister)

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

(1) how much council tax benefit remained unclaimed by pensioners in London in each year since 1997, broken down by constituency; and what plans he has to redistribute these sums to the relevant claimants;

(2) what measures are in place to ensure pensioners are made aware of sums available to them through council tax benefit.

Photo of Mr Chris Pond Mr Chris Pond Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Work and Pensions

The information is not available in the format requested.

Estimates of the total amount council tax benefit that went unclaimed in 2002–03, the latest year for which information is available, can be found in the Department's report entitled: Income Related Benefits Estimates of Take-Up in 2002–03"; copies of which are available in the Library.

Council tax benefit already makes a valuable contribution in providing financial security for nearly 5 million households responsible for paying council tax. But encouraging those who are still to claim is very much at the heart of our agenda. This is why we launched a campaign in the lead-up to last year's council tax billing round. And why we are continuing to support local authorities in the lead up to, and during, this year's billing round, to make sure they have procedures in place locally to encourage people to apply.

We have already issued new versions of the posters and flyer with the headline Cut your Council Tax—Find out if you should be paying less" and have arranged for the flyer to go out with the winter fuel payment letters to around 12 million pensioners in around eight million households.

We have contacted over 20,000 organisations that deal with older people, to update them on the continuing campaign to raise awareness of council tax benefit, and have arranged for the flyer to be available via displays in doctors' surgeries. Electronic versions of the flyer are also available for local authorities to download and customise to include in with this year's council tax bills if they do not already have their own local products.

A further round of press advertising, some national but mainly regional, started in January, with a second round of regional advertising due to start in early March, again to coincide with the issue of the council tax bills.

The Pension Service are already doing much to promote council tax benefit take-up, from issuing a housing benefit/council tax benefit claim form to everyone who calls the pension credit application line and wishes to claim, to helping people fill in this form when visiting pensioners to take a claim for pension credit.

The Link-Age Programme (which is building an integrated network of services for older people) is joining up existing service providers to offer a more holistic service to pensioners. Partnerships are being developed between The Pension Service and local authorities and joint teams of staff from both organisations are already operational in over 30 local authority areas, and are being rolled out nationally.

A new £13 million fund—The Partnership Fund—was launched on 25 January 2005, providing up to two years' funding to around 170 organisations across Great Britain to finance local initiatives to improve take-up of older people's benefits, particularly those in hard to reach groups.

The Pension Service have also recently provided local authorities with details of those people in their area claiming pension credit but not claiming housing benefit or council tax benefit, for authorities to use to complement their own take-up activities.

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