The County’s MP and MSP have expressed their concern after it emerged that hundreds of East Lothian families with children could be missing out on hundreds of pounds a year because they do not know they are entitled to council tax or housing benefit.
As many as 36,000 households on low incomes in Scotland could be better off by up to £3640 a year if they were to fill in forms to claim housing and council tax benefits.
Local MP Fiona O’Donnell said
“Many people might think it’s not worth the bother claiming if they’re only entitled to a small amount but even a small amount every week could make a big difference to household budgets that are being squeezed as never before in the current economic climate.
“Some people may not be aware of changes made to the calculation of entitlement in 2009. Since then, child benefit has not been included as income for the purposes of calculating entitlement to housing or council tax benefit – it is possible that many families on the borderline for eligibility are unaware of this change and that they might now be entitled to some level of benefit.”
CHILDREN 1ST, who compiled the figures from UK Government statistics, calculate that the the average weekly loss from unclaimed Housing Benefit alone is over £50 per week.
County MSP Iain Gray said:
“£50 a week is a substantial sum, particularly to people on low incomes. Local authorities have a statutory responsibility to promote take-up of Council Tax Benefit and so I would like to see East Lothian Council doing more to ensure that local people get the benefits which are rightfully theirs. Not only would improved take-up rates put more money in local pockets, it would also benefit our local economy by boosting the spending power of hard-pressed families in our county.”
Local families who would like free and impartial advice can contact ParentLine Scotland on 08000 28 22 33 for guidance. Local council offices stock the relevant forms, which you can get help from the local CAB or advice service to fill in.
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