Council tax data error affects borough carers

Borough carers could be entitled to the discount on their council tax bill
Borough carers could be entitled to the discount on their council tax bill

Carers in Wigan could have been missing out on council tax relief for four years due to out-of-date information.

A charity contacted Wigan Council to say information on its website about the discount was incorrect.

Former mayor and Wigan’s Conservative leader Coun Michael Winstanley also spoke to a constituent who was told they did not qualify but then found out they did.

Legislation introduced in April 2013 meant live-in carers could get a council tax discount in certain circumstances.

This includes the person they are caring for being entitled to an attendance allowance or the higher or middle rate care component of disability living allowance.

Coun Winstanley said: “Up until very recently it would appear that the information the council had been providing to claimants was that they didn’t qualify if they weren’t on the middle rate of the care component of the disability living allowance. I have seen a letter of the correspondence and I also understand that this information was also on the council website until May 2017.

“My constituent has now had the correct amount of discount applied but it means that there was a back-dated claim.”

Coun Winstanley is keen to highlight the discount for carers so they can check if they are eligible.

He said: “As a local authority we have a duty to ensure that the legislation is applied fairly. It’s important that people get what they are entitled to.”

He has raised the issue with the council’s audit and standards committee and written to the internal audit department to ask them to look into it.

His questions included why the incorrect information was given out for so long, how many people were entitled to backdated claims and the cost of the issue.

Coun Winstanley said: “My main concern is that we do not know how big this problem is. It may affect very few people or it may affect a lot.

“I just want to make sure that if anyone has had their claim rejected but they are entitled to this relief, then they should contact the council.”

It is understood that only two applications have been made to the council since May, one of which was awarded and the other did not qualify.

Lesley O’Halloran, the council’s assistant director for customer services, said: “We were notified by a charity earlier this year that the information we had on our web pages in relation to the care worker discount/disregard from council tax was out of date.

“In 2013 the qualifying criteria was amended by central government so that a person could qualify if they were providing care for someone who was receiving any level of attendance allowance, instead of just the higher rate, and both higher and middle rate disability living allowance instead of just the higher rate. We ensured our web pages were amended quickly to reflect the up-to-date information.

“We fully understand Coun Winstanley’s concern that a customer may have been put off applying if they relied on the out-of-date information that had been on our web pages. We would welcome applications from anyone who has met the qualifying criteria from 2013, or for any period since then, and has not yet applied and I can confirm any resulting award can indeed be back-dated.”

The discount is not available to a partner or parent of the person being cared for.