From 1st April 2013 various Council Tax Reduction Schemes are available throughout Wales to help households with council tax costs. The schemes are a replacement for Council Tax Benefit which has been abolished as part of the UK Governments welfare reforms. Funding has also been cut (by at least 10%) for any replacement schemes.
This decision has been challenged by Welsh Ministers, who are concerned by the financial implications of the welfare reforms being introduced and the effect they could have on the most vulnerable people in Wales.
The Welsh Government is developing alternative arrangements to support vulnerable households in Wales to pay their council tax bills; liaising with local government to minimise any impact and ensure that the alternatives are both practical and affordable.
An extra £22m will be supplied for 2013/14 by Welsh Government to help local authorities as they provide support for those who are entitled to it, despite the shortfall in funding transferred from the UK Government.
Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Local Government commented:
“In collaboration with local government, we have introduced schemes to provide vital financial assistance to approximately 330,000 households in Wales. The additional funding we have provided means some of our most vulnerable individuals will be protected from the UK Government’s cut in funding for council tax support.”
The WAG are seeking views on plans to measure how national standards are being achieved. This consultation introduces the standards they would expect for children and young people’s advocacy services. It also sets out a framework by which Advocacy service providers and Commissioners of advocacy services can measure progress.
Start of consultation: 28/02/2013
End of consultation: 22/05/2013
How to respond
Please submit your comments by 22 May 2013, in any of the following ways:
Respond using the online form
Empowering Children and Young People Division
Last week, we posted an update about the U-turn on bedroom tax for foster carers.
However, the government have since announced that the exemption will only apply to a foster carer’s first “spare” bedroom, meaning that those who have two or more bedrooms for fostering will still be affected.
This could deter foster carers from offering homes to sibling groups, leading to brothers and sisters being split up between different foster families.
A £5m discretionary housing fund has been allocated to help remedy the problem but some foster carers are already reporting problems accessing this support.
The effect of the bedroom tax on the stability of sibling placements could be devastating. That’s why we’ll continue to campaign for all foster carers to be exempt from these unfair housing benefit cuts.
Please join our campaign by sharing your views with us, and we will share them with the Minister.
At the beginning of April 2013, new rules will affect the calculation of Housing Benefit for social housing tenants in England, Wales and Scotland (similar rules in Northern Ireland depend on legislation currently under consideration).
Payments will be reduced by 14 per cent where a house is deemed to be “under-occupied” by one room and 24 per cent if under-occupied by two or more rooms. This may affect foster carers particularly, as fostered children are not counted when considering whether a home is fully occupied or not.
Example: A foster carer living in a three-bedroomed house, with no birth children living at home, will see their Housing Benefit cut by 25 per cent, regardless of how many foster children they have.
Local authorities are allocated a budget for Discretionary Housing Payments which they can use to support households which are in difficulties in meeting their rent, but although these budgets have been significantly increased, demand is expected to be extremely high so foster carers need to apply for DHP as soon as their housing benefit is affected.
Pensioners housing benefit claims will not be affected by the new rules.
Children’s Minister Edward Timpson stated in a Parliamentary answer that:
“The discretionary housing payment (DHP) fund, administered by local authorities, will be increased by £5 million a year from April 2013. This will enable authorities to compensate foster carers whose housing benefit is subject to a restriction as a result of the size criteria measure being introduced for working age claimants living in the social rented sector.
The Department for Work and Pension's DHP guidance manual for local authorities is being revised. It will make clear the expectation that this additional funding will be prioritised for foster carers whose housing benefit is reduced as a result of this change because of a bedroom being used by, or kept free for, foster children.
I am meeting the Minister for Welfare Reform early in the new year to discuss what more needs to be done to ensure that local authority chief executives, directors of children's services and local housing authorities are aware that funds are available to assist foster carers, and to encourage them to use this support as effectively as possible to help meet their responsibility as corporate parents to see that vulnerable looked after children have access to loving, stable homes.”
FosterTalk members can seek advice and guidance on this matter by contacting FosterTalk’s member helpline: 0844 800 3880 – option 0
If you are a foster carer and think that this change may adversely affect you then please contact us by the 1st April. FosterTalk will pass all of your responses to the Children’s Minister Edward Timpson who has pledged that he will discuss with the DWP what more can be done to support foster carers on this issue.
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