Thousands of dementia carers are missing out on council tax discounts worth hundreds of pounds a year, money guru Martin Lewis revealed this week.
Here’s what you need to know:
If your loved one has dementia you might be paying too much council tax. Money saving expert Martin Lewis gave this stark warning during The Martin Lewis Money Show on ITV1, when he revealed the confusion and complexity surrounding council tax discounts for people with dementia and their families.
‘I’ve done a lot of research on this and front line council staff may not even know about the discount, or if they do they may give you misinformation,’ Lewis explained.
The law states that if your loved one has been diagnosed with a Severe Mental Impairment (known as an SMI) they are exempt from council tax. If they live with someone else (such as a partner or another relative) that person could also be entitled to a 25 per cent discount in their council tax.
‘People with a Severe Mental Impairment can apply for a ‘disregard’ of Council Tax in the same way as a student can,’ Lewis explained. ‘The ‘disregarded person doesn’t pay anything, and if they live with someone else the other person qualifies for a single person reduction in council tax of 25 per cent.
‘This typically work out at around £400 a year, and some councils will allow you to back claim from the time of diagnosis.’
Some people have received backdated refunds of more than £2000, though it’s up to each individual council whether they will make backdated payments. ‘It’s a postcode lottery, it’s up to individual councils whether they backdate it or not, ‘Lewis explained. ‘Personally, I think it should be standardised especially because of the misinformation that’s been given out.’
What to do:
To qualify for an SMI council tax discount, the person you care about needs to:
1-Have a diagnosis of dementia from a medical profession which certifies that they are severely mentally impaired
2-Be eligible for certain benefits such as incapacity benefit, attendance allowance, disability living allowance, amongst others. Note: You don’t actually have to be receiving these benefits, the law says you only need to be eligible, so don’t let anyone try to persuade you otherwise
3-Get a claim form from your local council. Go here for more information. Fill it in and attach any necessary supporting evidence, such as your doctor’s diagnosis.
Think you’ve overpaid?
Write to your local council, explaining why you think you’ve been overcharged. If you’re also applying for a future council tax reduction, attach your letter to the claim form.
What if you’ve moved?
If you can prove you met the criteria for council tax discounts whilst living in a different local authority, you might still be able to get a refund if you’ve overpaid. It’s worth going back to them to find out.
Tip: If you’re struggling to do this on your own, you can get help from the Alzheimer’s Society or Carer’s UK.
Watch: Martin Lewis explain the whole process in the Martin Lewis Money Show available here.
For more information go here.