You could be missing out on significant council tax discounts

Many people living with someone with dementia are missing out on a 25% council tax discount worth an average of £400 a year. To highlight this issue we’ve been working with Money Saving Expert on their campaign to raise awareness of the discount, which they could be eligible to if they or their partner has dementia.

People are either unaware of the existence of the discount or are losing out thanks to poor and confusing information being provided by their local authority. In some cases, where people may be able to claim retrospectively – though this isn’t universal – they could be missing out on £1,000s. If you or your partner have dementia you may find that you are struggling to pay your Council Tax, but there’s financial support available, so it’s important to find out what you’re entitled to.

In England, Scotland and Wales someone who has been medically certified as having a  permanent severe mental impairment such as dementia ,  and who is entitled to a disability benefit e.g. Attendance allowance, personal independence payment or disability living allowance, could be entitled to a Council Tax reduction or exemption.  This could result in a reduction of 25% where two people are living in a property and one person diagnosed with dementia meets the disregard criteria, or an exemption if the person with dementia is living alone.

Degenerative Cognitive Impairment exemption

The term Severely Mentally Impaired (SMI) is defined in the Council Tax Bill as a severe impairment  of intelligence and social functioning which appears to be permanent. Many people diagnosed with dementia, and their families, find the term SMI derogatory. Dementia UK wants to see it renamed the Degenerative Cognitive Impairment exemption, to reflect the reality of degenerative cognitive conditions such as dementia and Parkinson’s.

We believe that everyone with a diagnosis of dementia should be given the best, most up-to-date information about what support there is available to them. This includes information about financial help, benefits, tax discounts and exemptions.

For full details of this discount, contact your local council. Your council may automatically grant a discount, but you can also apply for one.

How do I claim for a reduction or reclaim if I’ve overpaid in the past?

The process for making a claim varies by area, so you’ll need to check your local authority’s procedure, but here are the basics. Either the family carer or the person with dementia can make the claim.

  • You’ll need a doctor’s diagnosis. In some cases you’ll need to attach a written diagnosis to your claim – in others you just give your doctor’s details and they’ll be contacted for confirmation.
  • Get a claim form to apply for a reduction.. You’ll need to contact your local authority for a claim form to register for a council tax discount (find contact details via the Government’s ‘Apply for Council Tax Reduction’ service). Fill this in – you may be asked to attach some supporting evidence, such as the doctor’s diagnosis or evidence of receipt of relevant benefits.
  • If the person with dementia doesn’t claim a benefit, you may need a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). If the person you’re living with qualifies for a benefit but for whatever reason doesn’t claim it (they should), then in some cases councils will ask you to get a letter of confirmation from the DWP saying you’re eligible.
  • Apply for a backdated discount separately. If you’re making a retrospective claim, you’ll need to write to your local authority explaining the circumstances – you’ll need to do this separately even if you’re claiming for a reduction going forward as well, though you can attach your letter to the claim form.
  • You don’t need to explain why you didn’t apply for a reduction earlier, but you will need to prove the criteria for a discount applied at the relevant time in the past.
  • In Northern Ireland it works differently. There’s a rates system instead of council tax, meaning that every property is valued individually. See full info on the NIdirect

For more support and advice, you can contact our helpline  on 0800 888 6678 or email helpline@dementiauk.org

We also have information sheets on our website, which give answers to the questions heard by our Admiral Nurses working on the Dementia Helpline and out in the field.