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Here you will find details of news stories that have been published on the Turn2us home page and Twitter feed (link opens in a new window).

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7/30/2014 10:44:24 AM

Tax credits renewals deadline extended to 6 August

Gov.uk information about renewing tax credits (link opens in a new window)


 

The deadline for renewing tax credits - Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit - has been extended to 10.00 pm on Wednesday 6 August.

Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) industrial action

The extension has been announced because the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) - which includes many civil servants - is taking industrial action on 30 and 31 July and 1 August.

In recognition of the disruption that tax credit claimants will experience at this already busy time, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will give customers extra time to  renew their tax credits. 

Renewing tax credits - phone, post or online

If you try to call the Tax Credits Helpline on PCS strike days, you are likely to experience lengthy delays.

If possible, use the other methods available to renew your tax credits.

These include:

  • Online tax credits renewals (link opens in a new window)
  • Postal tax credit renewals
  • Intelligent Telephony Automation (ITA) service: This uses speech recognition technology to capture customers' tax credit renewals. To access this, ring the tax credits helpline number - 0345 300 3900 - and saying 'Renewals' when prompted.

Have you received your tax credits renewals pack?

You can't renew until you get your tax credits renewal pack. If you haven't received it, contact the Tax Credit Helpline on 0345 300 3900 (text phone: 0345 300 3909).

Please note: If you claimed tax credits after 6 April, your renewal pack is usually sent the following year.

More information on renewing tax credits 2014 (link opens in a new window)

Could you be eligible for tax credits?

Tax credits - Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit - are payments made by the Government to eligible people with children or on low incomes.

You can use the Turn2us Benefits Calculator to find out if you are eligible.

Read the Turn2us Child Tax Credit information

Read the Turn2us Working Tax Credit information

Source: HM Revenue and Customs news article: Extra time for tax credits renewals (link opens in a new window) 

Date of publication: 30 July 2014

7/30/2014 9:53:54 AM

Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill: Call for evidence

Find out more about the Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill: Call for written evidence (link opens in a new window)


The Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee is seeking views on the Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill.

The Bill was introduced on 10 June and aims to put the interim Scottish Welfare Fund (SWF) arrangements on a statutory footing.

Interim Scottish Welfare Fund (SWF)

The objectives of the interim SWF are:

  • to provide a safety net in an emergency when there is an immediate threat to health and safety, through the provision of a non-repayable grant (Crisis Grant)

and

  • enable people to live independently, or to continue to live independently, preventing the need for institutional care, through the provision of a non-repayable grant (Community Care Grant).

This includes providing assistance to families facing exceptional pressures. For example where there has been a breakdown in family relationships, perhaps involving domestic violence, which is resulting in a move.

Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill: call for written evidence

The Welfare Reform Committee is inviting individuals and organisations to contact them with their views on the bill, particularly focusing on whether the Bill fully achieves the Scottish Government’s aim of providing assistance for short term need and community care.

The closing date for submissions is 28 August 2014

Find out more about the Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill: Call for written evidence (link opens in a new window)

Read the Turn2us Local Welfare Provision: Scotland information

Source: Disability Rights UK news article about the Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill (link opens in a new window)

Also in the news

International students

Legal aid

Tax-free childcare

Welfare-to-Work programmes and charities

Date of publication: 30 July 2014

7/29/2014 9:23:29 AM

Are you in debt like Anna and Owen from 'Coronation Street'? Find free advice

Turn2us Debt information


The popular TV soap, 'Coronation Street' is currently running a storyline about debt involving the characters Anna and Owen.

If, like this fictional family, you are struggling with debt, help is available from a number of sources.

Read the Turn2us Debt information section to find out more.

You can also use the Money Advice Service Debt Advice locator which can help you find local sources of free debt advice.

Turn2us resources for people on low incomes

If you are struggling to make ends meet, help may be available to you through benefits and grants, depending on your needs, circumstances and background.

Turn2us Benefits Calculator and Grants Search

Use our Benefits Calculator to check your entitlement to benefits and our Grants Search database to see if you are eligible for help from a charitable fund, based on your personal background, circumstances and needs.

Turn2us information pages

The Turn2us Information and Resources section contains resources on benefits, grants and managing money, including useful links sheets and a Find an Adviser tool to help you find national and local sources of further help. 

Also in the news

Council tax

EU migrants and benefits

Young workers

Date of publication: 29 July 2014

7/28/2014 9:32:39 AM

Participate in the Scope Extra Costs Commission Inquiry

 

Information about the Scope Extra Costs Commission (link opens in a new window)


 

Today marks the launch of the Extra Costs Commission by Scope, a leading UK disability charity. This is a year-long independent inquiry exploring the extra costs that people with disabilities and families with disabled children face in England and Wales.

Disability-related costs

Disabled people and their families should be able to learn, work and get involved in the community without extra costs. Instead, they must spend £550 a month on average on disability-related costs to live independent lives.

These may include:

  • Paying more for transport to work
  • The cost of an electric wheelchair
  • Higher energy costs
  • More expensive insurance.

Share your experiences of extra costs - adults and children with disabilities

If you have disabilities or you are a parent of a disabled child, the Commission would like to hear:

  • Your experiences of extra costs
  • How these extra costs affect your life and financial situation.

Evidence from researchers, policy makers, local authorities and other experts working with people with disabilities

The Commission is also seeking formal evidence from researchers, policy makers, local authorities, businesses, consumer rights experts, disability organisations and advice agencies and other experts.

They welcome evidence in response to two main questions:

1. Rebalancing markets

Disabled people rely on private sector companies for many products and services. We’ve made huge progress in opening up opportunities for disabled people over recent years. Advances in technology have brought big improvements in independence and participation. But all too often, these come at a high – sometimes prohibitively high – cost.

Political parties and the commercial sector are starting to recognise disabled people’s spending power, but businesses, investors and governments have taken few steps to harness the so-called ‘Purple Pound’.

The Commission invites:

  • Evidence about how the market is working for disabled people
  • Information about the quality, choice, price and availability of products and services
  • Suggestions for how markets could better drive down extra costs.

2. Changing infrastructure

Inaccessible housing, town-planning, transport, energy and services can make life cost more. For example there is a strong correlation between suitability of housing and disability-related spending.

The Commission wants:

  • To know how this affects disabled people.
  •  Suggestions on changes that could be made to improve access, meet needs and drive down extra costs.

Call to action

The Extra Costs Commission means a real opportunity to drive down the extra costs disabled people and their families face. Your evidence and experiences will make a difference. Please get involved.

Participate in the Scope Extra Costs Commission (link opens in a new window)

Source: Scope blog by Ellie Brawn: Independent Extra Costs Commission launched today (link opens in a new window)

Turn2us resources for people with disabilities and their families

If you are struggling to make ends meet, help may be available to you through benefits and grants, depending on your needs, circumstances and background.

Turn2us Benefits Calculator and Grants Search

Use our Benefits Calculator to check your entitlement to benefits and our Grants Search database to see if you are eligible for help from a charitable fund, based on your personal background, circumstances and needs.

Turn2us information pages

The Turn2us Information and Resources section contains resources on benefits, grants and managing money, including useful links sheets and a Find an Adviser tool to help you find national and local sources of further help. There is also an Illness, Injury and Disability information section and a Turn2us Carers information section.

Date of publication: 28 July 2014

7/25/2014 9:46:14 AM

Don't forget to renew your tax credits before 31 July

Gov.uk website information on renewing tax credits (link opens in a new window)


 

Are you claiming Working Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit? Have you renewed them yet? Or are you one of more than 865,000 claimants who have still not yet renewed their tax credits. You have until Thursday 31 July to do so, or your payments might stop.

Last year more than 650,000 people failed to renew on time.

Renewing tax credits - phone, post or online

In addition to phone or post, this year HMRC are offering some claimants the opportunity to renew their tax credits online.

You can't renew until you get your tax credits renewal pack. If you haven't received it, contact the Tax Credit Helpline on 0345 300 3900 (text phone: 0345 300 3909). Please note: If you claimed tax credits after 6 April, your renewal pack is usually sent the following year.

Find out how to renew your tax credits (link opens in a new window)

Comment from Direct General of Benefits and Credits at HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)

Nick Lodge, Director General of Benefits and Credits, HMRC, said:  "Time is running out for people to renew their tax credits, or they risk losing their money.

"The majority of people can renew online this year, which is quick, easy and can be done at a time of day to suit them.
However they choose to renew, the most important thing is to do it before 31 July.

"HMRC asks all claimants to check the accuracy of the information in their renewals pack, and to tell the department about any changes to their circumstances that they haven’t already reported, such as to working hours, childcare costs or pay."

Source: HM Revenue and Customs press release: Nearly 1 million tax credits claimants to lose benefit if they don't take action (link opens in a new window)

Could you be eligible for tax credits?

Tax credits - Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit - are payments made by the Government to eligible people with children or on low incomes.

You can use the Turn2us Benefits Calculator to find out if you are eligible.

Read the Turn2us Child Tax Credit information

Read the Turn2us Working Tax Credit information

Also in the news

Council Tax

Debt

Date: 25 July 2014

7/24/2014 9:36:00 AM

Take-up of means-tested benefits would make major contribution to poverty reduction

Turn2us Benefits Calculator


 

Improving take-up of means-tested benefits by those in and out of work would make a major contribution to poverty reduction. The increased income associated with greater take-up could also contribute to improvements in other outcomes, such as health, family well-being and employment participation and retention.

The most significant factor associated with non-take up appears to be the level and accuracy of knowledge about an entitlement and its eligibility rules, linked with the perceived cash value of the benefit when compared to the effort involved in claiming and maintaining entitlement.

These are some of the main findings in a new report, 'Take-up of benefits and poverty: an evidence and policy review', published this week by the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion.

Other findings about benefits take-up rates

  • Measures to improve the take-up of means-tested entitlements need to be central to anti-poverty strategies.
  • Take-up rates can be improved by increasing the level of knowledge about entitlements and the eligibility rules as well as by reducing stigma and the complexity of claiming. Local initiatives are most effective.
  • Universal Credit is expected to increase benefit take-up, especially among the poorest households, but it seems likely that continuing welfare reforms will have negative effects.

Value of welfare benefits advice being made available

The findings point to the value of welfare benefits advice being made available through local, trusted, and more accessible settings, including Children’s Centres, community and voluntary centres, health care locations and, to some extent, through welfare to work providers.

Welfare-to-work providers and employers have an important role to play in promoting in-work benefit take-up which could contribute to employment retention and in-work poverty reduction.

There is a need for continuing research and experimentation to stimulate continuous improvement in service delivery and a better understanding of ‘what works’ in promoting take-up.

Sources: 'The take-up of benefits and poverty: an evidence and policy review' report (link opens in a new window) and Rightsnet website news article (link opens in a new window)

Turn2us resources

The Turn2us Benefits Calculator can help you check your entitlement to benefits and Turn2us Information and Resources section contains resources on benefits and benefits changes.

The Turn2us website also has a Find an Adviser tool  and Useful links pages to help you find national and local sources of further help. 

Date of publication: 24 July 2014

7/23/2014 9:18:06 AM

Carers would struggle without Carer's Allowance

Turn2us Carer's Allowance information section


 

Without Carer's Allowance, some carers say they would have to cut back on food, fuel or transport costs or even cut back on their caring responsibilities or give up caring altogether to seek paid work.

This is one of the main findings of Department for Work and Pensions research into the experiences of people who are entitled to Carer's Allowance - the main benefit available to help people caring for someone who is ill, older or has disability.

Aims of the Carer's Allowance study

The research, carried out by the University of York's Social Policy Research Unit,  looked at carers, their use of Carer's Allowance, budgeting issues and how they can be better supported to return to work.

The main aims were to gain a better understanding of:

  • How Carer's Allowance is viewed in terms of the household budget, and whether this varies by type of household
  • How recipients use Carer's Allowance and what would be the impact of non-receipt
  • How the use of Carer's Allowance varies depending on who is being cared for and where
  • What led to the decision to claim Carer's Allowance
  • Whether receipt of Carer's Allowance had different impacts at different times of the caring 'career'
  • What impact caring had on labour market participation.

Other key findings from the Carer's Allowance research

  • Carer's Allowance is a vitally important part of household income and supports both everyday expenditure and the additional costs incurred. The majority of carers do not see Carer's Allowance as separate from any other source of household income.
  • The benefit has a high symbolic value. It gives people status as a carer and reduces the stigma in terms of people who had to rely on social security benefits.
  • The relationship between caring and the labour market is varied and often complex. A small number of carers who had seen a reduction in their caring responsibilities were relatively close to the labour market. Many carers, however, were unable to contemplate paid work without significant packages of substitute care being put in place. Some, who were involved in high levels of caring activity, had no intention of seeking paid work while the person they were supporting was alive. 
  • A large group of carers who would like to have paid work again, but could not see how that would be possible in the near future. Finding paid work that fits around caring responsibilities, and that can be flexible when unanticipated needs present themselves is essential, particularly for carers of disabled children.

Options for change in relation to Carer's Allowance

The research explored a number of potential options for change in relation to Carer's Allowance.

These included provision of a lump sum payment or providing further services for the person supported or the Carer's Allowance claimant.

Carers were also asked how they would redesign the system. There was no common message from carers on rolling up Carer's Allowance into another source of income and a one-off lump-sum payment gained very little support. Slightly more popular was the idea of a lump-sum followed by smaller, regular payments. A quarter of carers were largely happy with the system and could not think of any ways to change it.

Read the Turn2us Carer's Allowance information section

Source: Rightsnet news article on the Department for Work and Pensions carers research (link opens in a new window) and Department for Work and Pensions research on the experiences of people entitled to Carer's Allowance (link opens in a new window) 

Turn2us resources for carers

If you are struggling to make ends meet, help may be available to you through benefits and grants, depending on your needs, circumstances and background.

Turn2us Benefits Calculator and Grants Search

Use our Benefits Calculator to check your entitlement to benefits and our Grants Search database to see if you are eligible for help from a charitable fund, based on your personal background, circumstances and needs.

Turn2us information pages

The Turn2us Information and Resources section contains resources on benefits, grants and managing money, including useful links sheets and a Find an Adviser tool to help you find national and local sources of further help. This includes a Turn2us Carers information section and an Illness, Injury and Disability information section

Also in the news

Benefits

Deprivation and life expectancy

Fuel poverty

Personal Independence Payment

Date of publication: 23 July 2014

7/22/2014 9:43:10 AM

New dates for Turn2us intermediary workshops

Information about Turn2us' regional workshops


 

Are you working with people in financial need? Would you like to know more about Turn2us tools and services?

Why not attend one of Turn2us' regional intermediary workshops to learn more about how you can use our resources to support your clients.

New dates for September and October have recently been added to our programme.

Find out more about Turn2us' regional intermediary workshops

Read more about Turn2us' resources for intermediaries

Also in the news

Families

Migrants

Pay day loans

Students

Date of publication: 22 July 2014

7/21/2014 11:56:49 AM

London’s poorest families are struggling to pay council tax bills

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) press release about the report 'A New Poll Tax?'


 

London’s poorest families are struggling to pay Council Tax bills from their limited benefit income following cuts to council tax support, according to new figures published in a joint report by two leading London anti-poverty charities, the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) and Zacchaeus 2K (Z2K).

‘A New Poll Tax?’ finds that nearly four in 10 Londoners affected by the replacement of Council Tax Benefit by local schemes have been unable to meet these payments and have received a court summons.

The report also reveals how these changes mean overstretched London boroughs have been saddled with falling collection rates and rising collection costs.

First comprehensive study of the impact on Londoners of the abolition of Council Tax Benefit

'A New Poll Tax?' of the impact on Londoners of the abolition of Council Tax Benefit and the accompanying 10 per cent funding cut to the replacement schemes. The report evaluates the first year in operation of the new council tax reduction schemes since the changes in April 2013.

The report reveals the changes have caused widespread hardship for individuals and families already struggling on low wages or reliant on benefits and made it more complicated for councils to collect council tax payments – many resorting to the use of private bailiffs to make collection on their behalf.

Key findings

  • Low income Londoners are facing higher council tax bills: At least 313,519 Londoners were expected to pay more council tax under their local Council Tax Reduction Scheme (CTS) in 2013/14 than they would have under the old Council Tax Benefit. On average they were charged £151 more per annum – the equivalent of two weeks Jobseekers Allowance. These claimants are now liable for over £91.5 million in Council Tax annually.
  • 39% of affected Londoners have been sent a court summons for non-payment. 118,027 people who are paying more Council Tax under the new CTS schemes have been issued with a court summons because they have fallen behind on payments.
  • Court costs have added £10m to the amount owed by Londoners: In 2013/14 almost 93,000 CTS claimants were charged over £10 million in court costs.
  • Nearly 16,000 cases have been referred to bailiffs. 15,944 cases were referred to bailiffs in 2013/14.
  • Local authorities are facing lower collection rates. The collection rate for Council Tax owed by CTS claimants with an increased liability in 2013/14 was on average 81 per cent, compared to average collection rates of 97.4 per cent in 2012/13.

Call to action

In response to these findings, Z2K and CPAG are calling on the Government to scrap this policy and return to a national, fully funded system of Council Tax Benefit. It concludes that requiring individuals and families living on very low incomes to pay council tax will inevitably impoverish many – according to the IFS, child poverty is projected to rise by nearly one million by 2020 due largely to changes to tax and benefits.

In the meantime, the report urges the Government to restore 100 per cent subsidy for local Council Tax Support schemes in 2015/16 and for London boroughs to protect their poorest residents, following the example of the seven London boroughs who have continued to pay full subsidy to their poorest residents.

Child Poverty Action Group's Chief Executive's comment

Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said:

“This research shows the direct impact that changes to council tax funding are having on the poorest families. Families tell us that it is simply not possible for them to make these make payments from household budgets already stretched to breaking point.

“Problems are being exacerbated for residents by councils increasing the debt owed by adding additional charges to a bill they are already struggling to pay.

“We call on Central Government and local authorities to stop taxing households that are too poor to pay.”

Zacchaeus 2K's Chief Executive's, Joanna Kennedy comment

“Although the responsibility for this policy clearly lies with the coalition Government this report demonstrates that many London local authorities have adopted policies that are pushing thousands of low income Londoners further into poverty.

“Any policy that results in nearly 40 per cent of those affected being sent a court summons clearly isn’t working.”

“While it is vital that the Government restores the funding cut in the meantime local authorities have an opportunity to do more for their residents.”

Read the Child Poverty Action Group/Z2K 'A New Poll Tax?' report

Read the Turn2us Council Tax support information

Source: Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) press release about the report 'A New Poll Tax?'

Turn2us resources

If you are struggling to make ends meet, help may be available to you through benefits and grants, depending on your needs, circumstances and background.

Turn2us Benefits Calculator and Grants Search

Use our Benefits Calculator to check your entitlement to benefits and our Grants Search database to see if you are eligible for help from a charitable fund, based on your personal background, circumstances and needs.

Turn2us information pages

The Turn2us Information and Resources section contains resources on benefits, grants and managing money, including useful links sheets and a Find an Adviser tool to help you find national and local sources of further help. 

Date of publication: 21 July 2014

7/17/2014 9:29:51 AM

Universal Credit roll out continues

Turn2us Universal Credit information


 

The roll out of Universal Credit continues this week. Five more job centres in North West England - Southport, Crosby, Bootle, Bolton and Farnworth - are now taking applications for Universal Credit for single people.

Universal Credit claims for couples

In addition, for the first time, five job centres - Hammersmith, Bath, Rugby, Harrogate and Inverness - are processing new claims for couples.

Other sites in the north west of England and Wales will also make this change from this summer.

Read the Turn2us Universal Credit information

Source: Department for Work and Pensions press release about Universal Credit

Also in the news

Child Benefit

Free school meals

Poverty

Scotland

Date of publication: 17 July 2014

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