Please note that this information is only relevant to people living in the UK.
In this blog, we would like to talk about two useful pieces of benefits information.
- The closure of the ‘Severe Disability Premium’ gateway
- How to pay less or NO council tax under the ‘Severe Mental Impairment’ route
The Severe Disability Premium (SDP)
We have written before about the importance of the SDP in benefits such as income support, housing benefit, and Employment and Support Allowance. The SDP is not a benefit in its own right, but is a premium worth a very valuable £66.95 a week for people who qualify for it. You have to be able to say ‘yes’ to these three questions before the SDP can be paid:
- Do you ‘live alone’ or could you be treated as living alone?
- Do you get any of these benefits: either rate of Attendance Allowance; either rate of the daily living component of PIP; or the middle or high rate of DLA care component?
- Is it true that no-one gets Carer’s Allowance (or the Carer Element of Universal Credit) for looking after you?
If you can say yes to all these questions, then it’s possible that the SDP should be paid within your means tested benefits.
If you’re not sure, then you can call the DWP on 0800 181 4049 and ask.
The SDP and Universal Credit – important update
Up until 27th January 2021, because of the consequences of some important Court decisions, working age people (up to 66) have been prevented from claiming Universal Credit if they were receiving the SDP in any of their means tested benefits.
This ‘SDP gateway’ was put in place to prevent people from claiming Universal Credit, in order to protect them from any potential decrease in their benefit entitlement.
This ‘gateway’ has now been removed. The result is that people getting the SDP can now choose to claim Universal Credit if they want to, as some will be better off. This means leaving their legacy benefits behind for good. Some people may have no choice but to make a claim for Universal Credit, because they have a change of circumstances, such as moving to a new local authority area. In this situation, even though their UC might be lower than their legacy benefits, they may receive an extra ‘element’ in their Universal Credit to compensate them if that is the case.
As always with benefits, there are always some tweaky bits, exceptions and complications. The bottom line though is that for people in this ‘severe’ part of the benefits spectrum, there are changes happening which will have an impact at some point.
Here are some useful resources to give you some further information.
Council Tax Exemption for people who are ‘severely mentally impaired.’
First of all, this is obviously a very old fashioned and negative term, which we would never use if it wasn’t a part of the regulations! However, people who fit the criteria have a lot to gain. Do you know someone who has a severe and ongoing level of cognitive impairment, and who gets a qualifying benefit (such as, but not restricted to, Attendance Allowance or daily living PIP), and who has a supportive doctor who will be prepared to fill in the appropriate form?
If so, then you need to check the requirements for ‘Category U’ council tax exemption on your local authority website. The basic principles are the same nationally, but each local authority will have its own way of doing things.
If the person lives alone, then there could be a 100% council tax exemption.
If the person does not live alone, then the council tax bill for the property may be reduced – for example, if the disabled person lives in a couple, and the exemption applies, then the other partner may get the 25% single person discount as technically they are now viewed as ‘living alone’. For council tax purposes the disabled person is not counted as being in the household.
It’s important to know that these discounts and exemptions are NOT means tested, and can apply even if the person has substantial capital. The discount or exemption can also be backdated.
Here at Renaissance Legal, our Benefits team have been able to secure total council tax exemption for several of our clients, with backdating payments for some people of over £6000.
Definitely something worth considering.
We are able to help you with most areas of benefits advice and advocacy. We offer meetings by phone or Zoom, and we can assist you in your dealings with the Department for Work and Pensions, your local authority, and various other agencies.
Please note that we only offer a chargeable service, and to obtain our help you will need to register as a Renaissance Legal client. Please contact us to discuss your own individual situation.
If you need access to free advice, then you can use this website to find advice services in your local area: www.advicelocal.uk