Support for residents during increase in enquiries
Residents who are in financial difficulty due to COVID-19 are accounting for up to 500 additional benefit and Council Tax Support claims every week as people seek support from Birmingham City Council.
Since the beginning of March enquiries for help with council tax and benefits payments have soared whilst payments through the council’s existing Council Tax Discretionary Hardship fund have more than trebled.
The council has also seen double the number of applications for the Local Welfare Provision, which provides food and essential items for vulnerable people in short term crisis.
Cllr Brigid Jones, Deputy Leader for Birmingham City Council, said: “We know that at this time a lot of people will be feeling under financial pressure as they find themselves in situations they have never been in before. To help them navigate through this process at such a difficult time, we have consolidated all of the information they may need into a dedicated resource area on our website.
“Our staff are working remotely and around the clock to help people in financial need by implementing existing support measures such as Housing Benefit, Local Welfare Provision and Council Tax Support, as well the new support packages outlined by the Government. In the first instance, we would urge people to apply for existing benefits and support and then if they are still struggling, contact us so we can review their situation on an individual case-by-case basis.”
Council Tax Support provides reductions in council tax payments, depending upon the circumstances. In extreme situations, the council also has a Council Tax Discretionary Hardship Fund that can provide further discount to people in exceptional hardship.
Last month, the Government announced a new Council Tax Hardship Fund and allocated £17.4 million funding to Birmingham. This will be used to automatically apply an up to an extra £150 discount on council tax bills to those people of working age who currently receive Council Tax Support. This will automatically be applied to existing claims, with more details due to be published on the council website shortly.
For those still struggling to make council tax payments, council staff will consider varying a 10-month payment plan on a case-by-case basis, so payments are made from June – March, rather than the usual April – January.
As well as the measures being implemented by the council, the council’s dedicated website area also includes links to Government support packages for furloughed employees and self-employed workers.
People are being asked to be patient when contacting the council and where possible, submit enquiries online.
Cllr Jones added: “Our officers are working from bedrooms, kitchen worktops and dining tables to help residents as quickly as they can but due to the volume of enquiries, it may take slightly longer than normal to respond. We know people are in difficult situations and we are working as hard as we can but would ask for patience where possible.”
For more information on the support available to residents, visit www.birmingham.gov.uk and search “Support for Residents.”