Headlines: March 9th, 2004

A campaign has begun to boost awareness of the work done by local councils to persuade pensioners and people on low incomes to collect unclaimed council tax benefit payments. The Local Government Association fears thousands of people are missing out on help that could see them gain a full refund on council tax bills they are receiving at the moment.It has joined forces with the Department for Work and Pensions to launch a nationwide campaign to urge older people and others to pick up financial help – totalling up a billion pounds – which, it says, is lying unclaimed.

The LGA says latest figures show that up to 1.7 million older people, including more than half of home-owning pensioners, are failing to claim the help they should get. Some of them are entitled to a 100 per cent refund. Over all it is estimated that one in three of the 2.3 million people who are eligible for council tax benefit, fail to claim it. That means low-income families below pension age are missing out on an average reduction of 468 pounds in their council tax bills.

The campaign is designed to support councils’ awareness-raising work with posters, leaflets and adverts in local newspapers carrying the slogan ‘Cut your council tax’. Councils will also receive a best practice guide including the latest research on how to tackle barriers which prevent people claiming. The campaign will highlight changes to the rules for council tax benefit which have made more pensioners eligible for help. Flyers have been sent to all councils in England, Scotland and Wales as well as 20,000 organisations that come into contact with older people. Publicity material will also be on display in post offices and doctors’ surgeries.