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CIA - Council Tax Benefit Localisation

Community Impact Assessment

Full Assessment

Service- Revenues and Benefits

Title of Policy, Function or Service: Council Tax Support Scheme - Consultation

Type of Policy, Function or Service: New/proposed

Lead Officer: Zoe Kent

Step 1 - Identify Aims

What are the aims of your policy, service or function?

From 1 April 2013 every Council has to introduce its own localised Council Tax Support scheme to replace the nationally designed Council Tax Benefit scheme. Between 11-14% of current funding is being removed by the Government. Councils have the discretion to design their own local scheme and decide who to financially support. There are some nationally prescribed elements to the scheme including the full protection of pensioners (i.e. we cannot reduce the benefit currently paid to pensioners as a direct result of developing our own scheme) Our approach has been to develop a scheme that is fair to all which also takes into account the reality of the funding cut. Wherever possible we are looking to protect the vulnerable and those who are least able to afford to pay more Council Tax.

Who is going to benefit from this policy, service or function and how?

All current and future recipients of Council Tax Benefit / Council Tax support are affected by the changes. In addition, as we are considering changes to the Council Tax discounts/exemptions relating to second homes and empty properties then all current and future recipients of these discounts/exemptions will also be affected.

What outcomes do you want to achieve?

To ensure that all groups of the community who will be claiming Council Tax Support are treated fairly. Many claimants will be paying towards Council Tax for the first time. The scheme needs to balance between the groups that may have higher expenditure because of their needs who however may receive higher benefits because of those needs and those who are seen to not have any extra needs i.e. disability or children who may not have extra expenditure but will be living on a lower income.

What could prevent people from getting the most out of your service, policy or function?

Claimants would not get the most out of the Council Tax Support scheme if the basic income of all groups is not considered before taking into account extra income awarded to vulnerable groups.

How will you tell people about it?

When the scheme has been agreed by Members an advertising campaign will be launched and all current Council Tax Benefit customers will be contacted.

Step 2 - Collect and Use Evidence

What Existing Data Do You Have?

Data from the Academy software system including the modelling tool which can be used to analysis the amount of claimants and the groups they fall into and how they will be affected by the scheme.

Data from the recent Council Tax Support Scheme consultation, carried out from 30 July 2012 - 7 October 2012.

Breakdown of all working age claimants:

Group No of passported claims (IS, JSA(IB), ESA(IR) No of Non-Passported claims (standard income) Total

Severe disability

340

71

411

Disability

616

326

942

Disabled child premium

280

135

415

Lone parent child under 5

887

236

1,123

Child under 5

405

303

708

Family Premium 5 or more children

19

1

20

Family Premium 4 children

28

21

49

Family Premium 3 children

118

93

211

Family Premium 2 children

305

250

555

Family Premium 1 child

486

404

890

Family Premium

112

91

203

Working

5

313

318

Other

1,674

248

1,922

Total

5,275

2,492

7,767

Using your existing data what does it tell you?

Our analysis data tells us that 68% of our council Tax benefit claimants are on a means test benefit for example Income-based Job Seekers Allowance, Income Support or Employment and Income-related Support Allowance. 32% are either on a contribution based benefit, or living on a low income (normally working).

75% of claimants fall in to a vulnerable group. The 22% of the total working age claimants who fall into the other category of passported claimants will be living on an income which could be as low as £56.20 per week for single under 25s who are on Job Seekers allowance.

If all vulnerable groups are protected it may put the amount payable by the 'non-vulnerable' customers towards Council Tax up to a much higher percentage.

Do you need to plug any gaps?

No, the consultation achieved an excellent response rate, with good or adequate representation from all sections of the community likely to be affected.

We will still need to ensure that all customers who will be entitled to claim Council Tax Support are aware of how they are affected by the scheme.

How can you do this?

An advertising campaign will take place to ensure all current claimants are aware of the scheme. The Revenues and Benefits section will also work with the voluntary sector to ensure claimants receive appropriate advice and help where necessary.

Are You Using Your Partners, Stakeholders and Councillors effectively?

We set up a Council Tax Support group consisting of Lead officers, senior managers and Members to look into setting up the scheme. We have worked together with stakeholders and we have worked closely with all Kent authorities including the major preceptors.

Step 3 - Assess the Impact

Who are the users of the policy, function or service?

Residents of Swale who are currently claiming Council Tax Benefit who will move on to Council Tax Support in April 2013 and new claimants form April 2013.

Is the take up representative of the community?

Yes

Who else could or should be users?

Anyone on a low income who may be entitled to help towards their Council Tax.

How does the service impact on different groups?

Race or Ethnicity

The scheme should not have an effect on residents due to their race or ethnicity

Sex

The scheme should not have an effect on residents due to their sex.

Disability

311 respondents out of 668 responses (47%) to the CTS consultation stated that they have a disability or a long term health condition which affects their day-to-day life. In response to the consultation questions disabled respondents' views on the consultation did not vary significantly to those of the wider population.

Although claimants who are disabled may have higher living expenses due to their disability, for example higher heating and travelling costs, they normally receive extra income to pay towards these expenses such as Disability Living Allowance and care and/or mobility paid at the rate to meet the level of their disability. If they are in receipt of Housing Benefit and do not receive full (passported) benefit they will receive extra premiums to cover their disability which means they should receive a higher amount of Housing Benefit.

The Council Tax Support scheme will be likely to give the same premiums to disabled claimants which will mean that the applicable amount setting the level of income that they need to live on will include a premium to allow for their disability. In part, this is a recognition of the fact that these claimants may be unable to work to increase income to pay towards the cost of Council Tax.

The consequences of not awarding a special exemption to disabled claimants may include:

However, all these considerations are also true for other groups of claimants.

Sexual Orientation

The scheme should not have an effect on residents due to their sexual orientation.

Age

Claimants who are under 25 receive lower amounts of benefits if single or couples with no children. This means they have lower amounts of income to live on.

The consequences are, claimants who are under 25 may find they have not got enough income to pay towards their other general living expenses. This may lead to them not having enough money towards heating and food costs. The Borough may find this leads to an increase in crime in the area. However, the consultation response did not indicate widespread support for any special exemptions for younger claimants.

Religion or belief

The scheme should not have an effect on residents due to their religion or belief

Gender Reassignment

The scheme should not have an effect on residents due to gender reassignment

Marriage and Civil Partnerships

The scheme should not have an effect on residents because they are married or in a civil partnership.

Pregnancy and Maternity

Claimants who are pregnant need a healthier diet, the money for this could be used towards Council Tax. Pregnancy may also make it harder for claimants to find employment

Other Socially Excluded Groups or Communities

Carers - The consequences of this scheme could mean that carers may feel that they need to give up caring to earn extra income. As with other claimants, they may also have to use income that would normally be used for other expenses towards their Council Tax.

Are some people benefitting more than others? If so, why?

No, by designing a scheme which reduces Council Tax Support by the same percentage for all claimants (except pensioners who are protected) it means that no person should benefit more than another. The same percentage will be deducted at the end of the Council Tax Support calculation on every claim.

Who have you consulted with?

The consultation was carried out on the website to give all interested parties a chance to respond. In addition, 4000 paper copies of the web form were mailed to a representative sample (51%) of the current working-age claimant database. This resulted in a total of 668 responses, representing 15% of those sampled and 8.6% of claimants overall. We have also consulted with voluntary groups, external and internal partners, landlords, major preceptors and parish councils. The consultation was advertised in local papers, and road shows were held in Faversham, Sheerness and Sittingbourne. Meetings were held with local voluntary groups, partners and landlords.

Do you need to consult further?

No

Step 4 - Ensure Fairness

Are any groups affected in a different way to others as a result of the policy, function or service?

Claimants of pension age will not be affected by the new scheme, but this has been mandated by central government and is not in the control of SBC. Apart from this, the Swale scheme will seek to ensure that the funding shortfall is made up from contributions from all claimant groups evenly and fairly. As outlined in Step 5 below, SBC is making every effort to ensure that the amount of council tax liability newly payable by low-income working-age residents is minimised.

If this benefits a particular group is it clear why that needs to be the case?

As all claimants of working age are having the same reduction from their Council Tax Support, no group should be gain a benefit over another.

Does your policy, function or service either directly or indirectly discriminate?

No

Does your policy, function or service either discriminate by association or perception?

No

Is there a possible impact on community relations?

No this should not have an impact on community relations

If yes, how are you going to change this?

Step 5 - Finalise Your Decision

What changes or benefits have been made as a result of your consultation?

Many consultation respondents said that they understood that they would have to pay something towards their Council Tax. They requested that the lower the Borough could keep the amount they would have to pay the more likely it would be that they would be able to meet the payments.

The Borough is recommending that the extra grant payment from DCLG is taken and the scheme is set at 8.5%. This would mean that claimants receiving full Council Tax Benefit will (based on 2012/13 Council Tax Charges) lose the following amounts from their Benefit:

Band A B C D E F G H

No SPD

£80.14

£1.54 pw

£93.50

£1.80 pw

£106.86

£2.06

pw

£120.22

£2.31

pw

£146.93

£2.83

pw

£173.65

£3.34

pw

£200.36

£3.85

pw

£240.44

£4.62

pw

SPD (1 adult)

£60.11

£1.16

pw

£70.13

£1.35

pw

£80.15

£1.54

pw

£90.16

£1.73 pw

£110.20

£2.12 pw

£130.24 £2.50 pw

£150.27 £2.89 pw

£180.33 £3.47 pw

What outcome have you reached?

The Council Tax Support scheme was taken to Full Council on 9th January 2013. Full Council accepted the proposal to accept the Department for Communities and Local Government's grant and as in the conditions of the grant all working age Council Tax Support claimants will have their Council Tax Support reduced by 8.5%.

Can you explain how the decision was reached?

The Council Tax Support scheme was reached after collaboration between, Revenues and Benefits officer, Finance officers, Chief Executives and Council Leaders from across Kent had worked to design a scheme which would be broadly similar across Kent. The Swale Borough Council, Council Tax Scheme has been taken to Scrutiny, Cabinet both before during and after the consultation too place. The decision was finally agreed by Full Council.

If you are in a position to introduce the policy, project or service but still have information to collect or actions to complete to ensure all equality groups have been covered please list with timescales.

All information has now been collected and actions completed.

How is your decision making process is recorded?

Cabinet, Scrutiny and Full Council reports and minutes.

Have you involved your councillors and senior officers if needed?

Yes

If yes please give further details

A Council Tax Support group was set up which comprised of councillors and senior officers. Senior officer across Kent also met to design the scheme which was taken to the Kent Chief's group and Kent Forum (Kent leaders).

Have you involved stakeholders in needed?

Yes

If yes please give further details

Meetings were held with stakeholders during the consultation period.

Example - Contact Centre CIA

Step 6 - Communicate What Has Happened

Do the users know?

Yes

Have you told partners?

Yes

Have you addressed any consultation responses in a positive way?

Yes

If yes please give further details

To mitigate the effects of the scheme extra staff have been taken on to help claimants with payment arrangements and general advice. All Council Tax Support claimants have been sent a letter giving details of the scheme.

Step 7 - Monitor and Review Your Decision

How are you going to monitor this policy, function or service? Provide details of how often and who will be responsible?

The Council Tax Support scheme will be monitored on a monthly basis, it will be reviewed annually.

Does the service policy or function do what you intended?

Yes

Has anything changed?

No

If yes please give further details

If yes, how have you revised the policy, function or service?

Step 8 - CIA Group Approval

CIA Approval

The Community Impact Assessment Group has approved this CIA

Name of Lead Officer: Zoe Kent

Date: 06.03.2013

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