Council offers real help right now

Merton Council will next week (2 November) be offering up more financial help for its most vulnerable families and pensioners when it implements changes to current benefits services.

From Monday 2 November 2009, the council can offer more real help for its most hard-pressed residents. Due to adjustments introduced by central government, the rules around Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit have changed meaning more assistance is available for the most vulnerable where maximum assistance with rent and council tax is not already paid. The changes also mean more people could now be eligible for benefits. Changes will be made automatically and so residents already claiming and eligible will see the difference immediately.

For families also claiming child benefit this will now be ignored when assessing eligibility for housing or council tax benefits. For families with one child this could mean an increase in housing benefit of up to £12 per week and up to £4 per week in council tax benefit. For families with more than one child it could be even more.

For pensioners, changes mean that savings up to £10,000 will now be ignored when calculating these benefits. This could mean up to an extra £4.80 in housing benefit and £1.60 in council tax benefit per week.

Merton Council will be re-calculating all existing claims to reflect these changes. All those getting the extra benefit will be informed in writing over the next few weeks but the changes will come into place with immediate effect from Monday 2 November. The council’s benefits team will also be automatically re-calculating the details of anyone who has claimed housing or council tax benefit in the last 13 weeks to see if they would now qualify for these benefits.

Residents who haven’t yet claimed either housing or council tax benefit but think they may be eligible could be surprised at the level of income you can have and still qualify for these benefits.

You could be working, have relatively high savings and an occupational pension and still get help.

If you are already receiving child benefit or a state pension but not getting help with housing or council tax it could be worth your while to find out more.

Councillor Samantha George, Merton Council deputy leader said:

“In these difficult times Merton wants to ensure the needs of its most vulnerable residents are put first and they are getting as much assistance as possible. We would therefore encourage residents who are struggling financially or think they may be eligible for extra help to come and find out more about this change to the benefits system.”

To find out more residents can go to our web pages at http://www.merton.gov.uk/benefits for more information and to use the online benefits calculator to find out what benefits you could be entitled to. Residents can also contact us on 020 8274 4903, email justask@merton.gov.uk or pop into the Civic Centre and speak to our staff at Merton Link.

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