Here is some benefits news you might have missed.
Department for Work and Pensions only £70m out in benefit estimate.
Due to what is being described as an administrative error, Lord Warner, on behalf of the government, recently told parliament that there were 900,000 people claiming incapacity benefit because of obesity. The cost was estimated at a massive £71m a week. The Department of Health then issued an apology and a correction. The actual figure is 900 people and the average total weekly amount paid is £70,965 rather than £70,965,000.
DWP to fund take-up schemes.
The government has announced that the DWP will offer funding to local and national organisations and community partners, including the voluntary sector, to improve the take-up of older people’s benefits. Individual local authorities, including town and parish councils in rural areas, and community and voluntary organisations are being invited to apply to the Partnership Fund. Applications to support benefit take-up among traditionally hard-to-reach groups, such as the severely disabled, housebound elderly, and minority ethnic elders including those whose first language is not English, will be particularly welcome. Applications for 2004-5 funding have to be made by 30 June 2004. More details can be obtained from ThePartnershipFund@dwp.gsi.gov.uk or PO Box 44795, London SW1P 2XQ.
DWP fail to pay recently retired pensioners.
In recent months, there has been a build up of retirement pension cases waiting to be sorted out. At the end of last year, for example, there were 16,000 new claims from recently retired people who were divorced or widowed waiting for assessment. There was another 20,000 people waiting for their pension to be recalculated after the death of their spouse. The number waiting is now six times the total it was three years ago.
DWP and Inland Revenue get ready for chaos over child tax credit.
From April 2004 there will a number of changes to how families on benefit receive support for their children. Child tax credit (CTC) will completely replace the child and family-related elements within income support (IS) and income-based jobseekers’ allowance (JSA). This means that a family making a new claim to IS/JSA(income based) on or after 6 April 2004 will receive the appropriate adult elements of these benefits only.
Around 300,000 families who have already claimed CTC during 2003-4 have continued to receive the child and family related elements of IS/JSA(income based) and their tax credit has been counted as income to offset those elements. From 6 April 2004, these families will have their child and family-related elements removed from their benefit, and CTC and child benefit will no longer be taken into account as income.
Most families on IS/JSA have not claimed CTC. These families will be transferred to CTC during 2004-5, and probably not until the autumn. When the Inland Revenue puts their CTC into payment, the child and family-related elements from within their IS/JSA will be removed from their benefit assessment.
Gary Vaux is head of money advice, Hertfordshire Council. He is unable to answer queries by post or telephone. If you have a question to be answered please write to him c/o Community Care.