A standard procedure for council tax support for people with a severe mental impairment (SMI) has been launched by the Welsh government and MoneySavingExpert.com.
People with SMI will now be treated consistently throughout Wales so they receive the same support and discounts no matter where they live. They will also be able to claim back council tax discounts, to the point when they were diagnosed.
The Welsh government, MoneySavingExpert.com and the country’s local authorities have developed a single, simple and easy-to-use form, which is now available in all councils and advice centres across Wales.
Discounts were introduced across England, Scotland and Wales in 1992 but are not promoted and policies are not consistent between areas.
Martin Lewis, MoneySavingExpert.com founder, has been campaigning on the issue. He said a mystery shopping exercise found 69 out of 100 councils across the UK provided the wrong information about the discounts and five authorities said the discount did not exit.
Lewis said there was an ‘abominable lack of communication’ from councils.
He said: ‘Many of the most vulnerable within our society, those who are living with a ‘severe mental impairment’, have been eligible for a council tax discount for years, but sadly, across Britain have rarely been told it – meaning they’ve missed out on money that could’ve transformed their quality of life.
‘Most councils haven’t helped spread the word, and disgracefully have often hindered people claiming by giving out misinformation. Some staff in our cold-calling exercise even told people the discount doesn’t exist, meaning there are huge differences in take-up across the country. That simply isn’t right.
‘Wales will be a beacon of light on this, bringing justice and real, significant change that will help some of society’s most needy. My hope is that the rest of Britain comes out of the dark soon too, and we will continue to work on pushing that.’
Finance Minister Rebecca Evans added: ‘This is a great example of collaborative working and supports the Welsh government’s commitment to make council tax fairer.
‘We will continue to work closely with local authorities and the Welsh Local Government Association to encourage consistency in approaches to administering discounts and exemptions for everyone who is eligible.’