Help us to help you – that’s the message from Leeds City Council to people in Leeds who have yet to make their application for a council tax rebate payment.
All households in Council Tax Band A-D have been entitled to a £150 payment as part of the Government’s response to rising energy bills.
This applies even if you do not pay council tax because of receiving full council tax support (benefit) or are exempt for another reason.
All who pay council tax by direct debit should have automatically received this payment into their bank accounts
Those who do not pay by direct debit (including those who do not pay at all) have been able to claim via an online form since 4th April. But latest figures show that around two-thirds of Leeds’s 120,000 non-direct debit households have not yet applied.
Also, here at Caring Together, we have been helping lots of our members to complete these applications and you can contact us if you haven’t applied yet and need some help.
Later in the year the council does plan to issue vouchers or a credit to council tax bills for those who have not received the rebate but crucially, those who proactively apply before 5pm on June 24 will get their rebate more quickly.
The government has announced further measures to help with the ongoing cost of living crisis, and in particular rising fuel bills
All households will get £400 cut from the fuel bill in October, this is replacing the £200 ‘loan payment’ proposed earlier and it will not have to be repaid. It will be credited to your electricity bill (if you are on a prepayment meter this is likely to be paid in top-up vouchers).
In addition, people over State Pension age (on 26th September 2022) will be paid an extra £300 on top of the existing Winter Fuel Allowance. This should be paid directly into your bank account in November or December
Households in receipt of means tested benefits will receive £650, to be paid in two instalments, one in July and one in the autumn. This will apply to you if you get: Pension Credit, Universal Credit, Income-based Jobseekers Allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit.
A £150 disability cost of living payment will be made in September to those receiving non-means tested disability benefits—Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment, Attendance Allowance, Scottish Disability Benefits, Armed Forces Independence Payment, Constant Attendance Allowance, War Pension Mobility Supplement.
You do not need to claim any of these—they should be paid automatically to you. You will receive all of the payments you qualify for and they do not affect any other benefits and are not taxable. They are all intended as one off measures for this year only.
This is in addition to the £150 paid via Council Tax that many people will have already received. All households in band A-D qualify for this even if you do not pay any council tax because you get full council tax support or are exempt for another reason. If you pay your Council Tax by direct debit this should have already been paid into your bank account. People who don’t pay by direct debit needed to claim this payment online at www.leeds.gov.uk/council-tax/£150-council-tax-rebate. Caring Together have helped many members to claim this but if you still haven’t claimed please get in touch with us if you need assistance to do so.
The household support fund has also been increased, and extended to March 2023. This is money paid to local councils to help them support those most in need, with rising cost of food, energy, and water bills. You may be able to get help from this if you do not qualify for the other measures. You can contact Leeds Welfare Support on 0113 376 0330.
If you are struggling, please ask for help. Caring Together can help our members to look at the options and to access the support that is available so please contact us. Even if you are not a member, we can try and put you in touch with the organisations that can offer help.
An error with the payments means that some people may have had this paid into their bank account twice. If this has happened to you, please make sure you leave the money untouched as the council WILL be recovering it.
LCC have said
“We are aware that a significant number (25,000) of council tax rebate payments have been duplicated, meaning some residents have received the payment twice.
“This is due to a process error where the same payment file was incorrectly processed twice after it was initially rejected by the bank. We are working with our bank to recover the duplicate payments so that the situation can be rectified as soon as possible.
“We would advise residents to check relevant accounts and bear in mind that duplicate payments will be recovered.”
“We would like to apologise for any confusion or inconvenience the duplicate payments may have caused. Our officers have worked hard to ensure residents receive the £150 rebate as quickly as possible, and 120,000 payments have been made correctly.”
Everyone who is responsible for the council tax in a property rated A-D is entitled to the £150 government payment to help with energy bills even if you don’t actually pay any Council Tax because you receive full council tax support (benefit). Unless you pay Council Tax by direct debit you will need to claim this by filling in the form at https://www.leeds.gov.uk/council-tax/%C2%A3150-council-tax-rebate. Caring Together can help members with this if needed.
If you have claimed, or pay by direct debit, and haven’t received payment yet – it is expected to take about 4 weeks to process claims. Payments for direct debit customers are staggered but should all be paid by mid May.
If you pay your council tax by direct debit you don’t need to do anything, the £150 will be paid into your bank account by the end of April.
If you don’t pay by direct debit you will need to fill in a form to claim your rebate. This form will be available from today at leeds.gov.uk/energybillsrebate
You can choose to be paid directly, or to get £150 off this year’s council tax bill.
To complete the form, you will need:
an email address
your council tax account number
one proof of identity, such as passport, driving licence, bank statement or utility bill (this cannot be your council tax bill)
Bank details if you want the money paid into your bank.
If you are eligible but don’t pay any council tax because you get full council tax benefit support you will also need to claim via the form at leeds.gov.uk/energybillsrebate
If you need help to claim this you can get help at any of the councils Community Hubs from today.
You can also contact Caring Together for help to fill in the forms.
If you are not eligible for the rebate – for example if your house is in a higher band but you will be struggling to pay your bills there is some support available from a ‘discretionary fund’ and we should have more details on how you can access this soon.
This week the government announced its plan for living safely with Covid-19. The plan centres on vaccines as the first line of defence against coronavirus and encourages safe behaviours based on public health advice, rather than restrictions enforced by law.
The plan acknowledges that Covid-19 is here to stay and explains that the virus will be managed in future in a similar way to other infectious diseases such as flu. The prevalence of Covid is decreasing and there is great progress being made on treatments. Nonetheless, the lifting of the restrictions designed to keep us all safe may be a source of anxiety for those who feel vulnerable. As we adjust to the new normal, we can support one another by remembering the simple precautions and consideration for others that have become part of everyday life.
In this update we will outline the implications of the new approach for people in Leeds, and the support available for individuals, businesses and communities as we look ahead to the Covid recovery period.
Living with Covid in England
The government’s living with Covid plan is being phased in between now and April and includes some key changes that will impact families and individuals.
Self-isolation is no longer legally enforced if you test positive for Covid-19. Instead you are strongly advised to self-isolate until you test negative on two consecutive days. The rules requiring close contacts to test or isolate, depending on their age and vaccination status, have ceased to apply and contact tracing has stopped.
As a result, provision for people self-isolating has ended, including support payments, nationally funded practical assistance and medicine delivery services. The Covid-19 provisions which expedited the payment of statutory sick pay and employment support allowance will end on 24 March. For help and advice if you are struggling financially visit help with food and household bills on the council website.
Testing provision will be scaled back under the living with Covid plan to focus on the most at-risk groups. Lateral flow tests will no longer be freely available after 31 March. Refreshed guidance will be issued advising people how to maintain safe behaviours and minimise the risk of infection for themselves and others.
In the spring, the vaccination programme will expand to offer an additional booster dose to those most at risk from Covid-19, including over-75s, older care home residents and vulnerable people over the age of 12.
The Covid case rate in Leeds has declined by 26% in the past week, to 348 per 100K. Although the city’s case rate is lower than the rate in England, the trend reflects the national position with infections remaining high despite the gradual fall in numbers.
Public health advice in Leeds is therefore to remain cautious and take whatever action you can to prevent the spread of infection. Please continue to stay at home if you are unwell, let in fresh air when indoors, wash your hands regularly and wear face coverings in crowded indoor spaces.
The Covid vaccination is the best way to protect yourself from infection and serious illness. Whether you need a first, second or booster dose the vaccine offer remains in place across the city. Visit the NHS in Leeds for details of local clinics.
The government’s living with Covid plan addresses future monitoring and management of coronavirus. Leeds City Council’s public health team will continue to work closely with health service colleagues to monitor the local position, contain outbreaks and manage any new variants of concern.
For local information and links to the latest national guidance visit the coronavirus page on the council website.
Applications invited for hospitality and leisure grants
There is still time to apply for financial support if you run a hospitality, leisure or accommodation business which was affected by coronavirus restrictions.
The Omicron hospitality and leisure grant is offered to businesses based in Leeds at premises subject to business rates. Applicants must have been registered as the current rate payer on 30 December 2021.
The grants are worth up to £6,000 depending on the rateable value of your premises. Please apply online by the deadline of Friday 18 March.
Energy bills rebate to reach households via council tax
The government recently announced that in April they will provide a one-off energy bills rebate of £150 for most households in council tax bands A to D. You will not have to repay this money, which is to help you with rising energy costs.
We will administer the payment via the council tax billing system, so if you think you may be eligible you don’t need to do anything for now. We will be in touch with more information shortly once the government has clarified how the system will work.
You may wish to arrange payment by Direct Debit if you don’t already pay your council tax this way. This will help us pay the rebate to you as quickly as possible. Find out more at How to pay your council tax.
Join our outstanding social care team
Are you looking for rewarding work as we move on from Covid-19? Could you make a positive difference to some of the most vulnerable people in Leeds? Our award-winning social care team needs you!
Visit Leeds City Council’s Jobs and careers page to find opportunities for experienced and newly qualified professionals – in social care and many other roles too.
Local theatres stage a recovery with 2-for-1 tickets
The cultural recovery is well underway after successive lockdowns forced the arts sector online during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Leeds theatres are taking part in the Love Your Local Theatre campaign, supported by The National Lottery, which aims to encourage post-Covid recovery in the entertainment industry.
The campaign offers 2-for-1 theatre tickets to National Lottery players. Visit Love Your Local Theatre to find a participating venue near you.
We would like to wish you all a happy New Year, and hope that you enjoyed the festive season while keeping safe in Leeds.
A lot has happened over the festive break, and this week we have an update for you on the current Covid situation in Leeds, the latest guidance from the Government on testing, and advice on keeping you and your loved ones safe as 2022 begins.
The new year is also bringing colder weather, so we have launched a new Winter Wellbeing webpage packed with practical information on how to keep warm, healthy and safe during the winter months.
The situation in Leeds
The number of Covid infections in England has increased significantly during the festive period, and figures from the Office for National Statistics reported that one in 15 people in England currently has Covid. The situation in Leeds is in line with this national picture, with Omicron now by far the most dominant variant in the city.
In line with many areas, the Covid rates for Leeds have increased significantly over the past seven days, and currently stand at 1775.2 per 100,000 people. This is an increase of 56 percent compared to the previous week.
These figures show clearly why it’s still so important that we all keep following the advice which will protect you, your family and friends, and your colleagues. Please remember to:
Get jabbed – two doses and the booster provide the best protection
Have a mask handy in your bag or pocket when you go out, and wear it where it’s mandatory to do so
Grab the app – don’t forget your NHS Covid Pass if you are attending a large venue or event. Go to www.nhs.uk
Get some fresh air flowing if you’re meeting up with people indoors. This is more difficult in the colder weather, but if you can, try to open your windows regularly for 10 minutes
Wash your hands regularly or use hand sanitiser if hand washing facilities are not available, and keep surfaces sanitised and clean, including your workstation as well as your home.
Get jabbed and boost your winter immunity
With Omicron infection rates still rising, by far the best way to protect yourself is to have your Covid vaccinations. In all age groups, people are significantly protected by being boosted. If you haven’t had any of your vaccinations yet, it’s not too late; you can still arrange to have first, second and booster vaccinations.
You can also boost your immunity this winter by having the flu vaccination, which is offered free by the NHS to people who are at risk of becoming seriously ill if they catch the flu. Find out more about how to book your free flu jab at www.nhs.uk/wintervaccinations
Changes to testing for Covid
From Tuesday 11 January, there will be a change to Covid testing for people without symptoms.
If you have no symptoms but test positive using a lateral flow test, then you won’t need to arrange for a PCR test as well. However, you will still need to self-isolate and report your test result at www.gov.uk
This new arrangement will help to improve access to PCR tests for people with symptoms and for healthcare, transport and other key workers. It will be reviewed when the Covid infection rate in England falls below one percent.
Changes to guidance on isolation
Over the festive period, the Government also changed the guidance around the need to self-isolate if you have symptoms or have tested positive. You can stop self-isolating after 7 days if you do a Lateral Flow Test on days 6 and 7 of your self-isolation period and:
both tests are negative
you did both tests at least 24 hours apart
you do not have a high temperature
If you do a rapid Lateral Flow Test on day 6 and test positive, wait 24 hours before you do the next test.
Testing is still vital to bringing down the number of infections and protecting ourselves and others, so please continue to test regularly, especially if you have symptoms, or are planning to meet up with others at a public venue or in their homes.
If you live with or have been in contact with someone who has Covid, you don’t have to isolate if you are not experiencing any symptoms and if any of the following apply to you:
You’re fully vaccinated
You’re under 18 years and 6 months old
You’re taking part in or have taken part in an approved Covid vaccine trial
You can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons.
However, even if you don’t have symptoms, you’re advised to do daily Lateral Flow Tests for 7 days.
Businesses in Leeds are being encouraged to apply for fresh funding support from two recently launched schemes to help them deal with the continuing financial challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The schemes are set to deliver additional help as the local business community weighs up the impact of recently-imposed restrictions designed to slow the spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.
The first scheme is aimed at Leeds-based businesses in the hospitality, leisure and accommodation sector, with one-off grants on offer worth up to £6,000. The application deadline is Monday 28 February.
The second scheme is aimed at Leeds-based businesses and charities from any sector, with discretionary grants ranging from £1,000 to £15,000 on offer to help cover fixed overheads such as service charges and commercial vehicle leasing costs. The application deadline is Monday 31 January. Find out more at https://www.leeds.gov.uk/coronavirus/grants-for-businesses
Keep warm and well this winter
The colder weather is already with us, but are you well prepared? The good news is that there are some simple steps we can all take to stay well this winter. We have launched a new webpage where you can find out information on how to protect yourself and family and friends this winter, at www.leeds.gov.uk/winterwellbeing
Boost your immunity! Make sure you have your Covid-19 and flu jab if eligible
Keep warm. Heat your home to at least 18 degrees, wear layers of clothing and seek help if you’re struggling with fuel bills
Stay healthy and fit, be aware of slips and trips. Keep active to build your strength and balance and seek help if you’re worried about a fall
Make sure you have regular hot food, drinks and snacks
Reach out, you are not alone! Connect to your local community, see friends or family, take up a new hobby or activity. If you are struggling with your mental health, there are organisations in Leeds which offer confidential support, including telephone support lines and Mental Health Hubs for young adults. Mental health advice for young people can be found at MindMate – Emotional wellbeing and mental health and there is more about mental health support services more generally at Mental health services (leeds.gov.uk)
During the colder weather, many of us spend more time indoors, but having the heating on for longer and paying higher fuel bills can be a worry for many people. If you’re worried about paying your utility bills, or have other money issues, you can find helpful advice on our Money Information Centre webpage, at Welcome to the Money Information Centre (leeds.gov.uk)
In the longer term, it might be worth thinking about how you can make your home more fuel efficient.
People using the NHS App to create an NHS Covid Pass are being warned about fraudsters. Scammers are contacting people over email, text and telephone, asking for money and banking details to ‘buy’ an NHS Covid Pass.
The NHS Covid Pass is free, and the NHS will never ask for payment or your personal financial details. Find out more about the NHS Covid Pass at www.nhs.uk/NHSCovidPass
Warm Home Discount would give you £140 towards your winter fuel bills. It is paid in the form of a credit on your electricity bill from your supplier (if you get both gas and electricity from the same supplier you may be able to ask for it to be transferred to your gas account).
To get it your supplier must be part of the scheme – all the larger companies have to take part but it is voluntary for smaller firms although many of them do take part.
There are 2 ways you might qualify for this:
Core Group: If on the qualifying date (this year 4th July 2021) you were getting Guarantee Pension Credit and your, or your partner’s name was on the electricity bill, you will be eligible in the core group. You shouldn’t need to claim – the DWP should write to you with the details and you should get the discount on your bill sometime between November 2021 and March 2022. If you are in this group and DWP have not written to you by December contact the Warm Home Discount Scheme helpline on 0800 731 0214 to check.
Broader Group: Most suppliers who are part of the scheme will also give this discount to customers who are on a low income and/or get some means tested benefits. The exact qualifying criteria varies from different suppliers and you do have to appy for this so if you think this applies to you, contact your supplier directly to find out if you can get it.
Most suppliers have a limited fund for this so apply as soon as you can.
What if your energy supplier fails? If you are in the Core Group and your supplier fails, you should still be paid automatically to your new energy account, If you are in the Broader Group then you would need to re-apply to your new supplier as soon as your new account is set up.
Nearly a million households are entitled to, but not receiving pension credit and in Leeds alone there are thought to be over 10,000 households missing out on this.
Pension Credit is extra money for people over state retirement age to top up their income.
The basic amounts to qualify are weekly income less than £177.10 for a single person and £270.30 for a couple but you may still be able to get it if your income is higher depending on your circumstances – for example there is an extra amount if you have a disability, if you care for someone, or if you have certain housing costs. And if you reached pension age before April 2016 you may be also be able to claim savings credit.
There is NO savings limit for pension credit although savings over £10,000 will reduce the amount you can get.
You can claim if you are still working if your income is low enough for you to qualify. It’s tax free and you don’t have to have paid NI contributions.
What counts as income includes:
earnings from employment and self-employment
most social security benefits, for example Carer’s Allowance
If you’re entitled to a personal or workplace pension and you have not claimed it yet, the amount you’d expect to get still counts as income.
Not all benefits are counted as income. For example, the following are not counted:
Pension Credit is worth claiming even if you only qualify for a very small amount, as it can entitle you to lots of other things including: full housing benefit, reduced council tax, warm home discount, cold weather payments, free tv licence if you are over 75, help with NHS dental treatment, glasses and transport costs for hospital appointments.
November will be Will Aid Month. During this month participating solicitors donate their time and skills to draw up a basic Will for clients without charging their usual fee. Instead, they invite their clients to make a voluntary donation to Will Aid. Donations support the vital work of the nine Will Aid charities to help people in need in the UK and around the world.
The suggested donation is £100 for a single will or £180 for a pair of mirror wills (less than the usual fees charged) but you are free to donate as much or as little as you choose.
There are a number of solicitors locally taking part and many are offering online or telephone appointments as well as face to face.
Ofgem recently announced an increase in the energy price cap from 1st October 2021.
The price cap puts a limit on how much companies can charge per kilowatt hour of gas and electricity. The increase in October is 12% and it means the ‘average’ household cost for both fuels would rise to £1,277 a year or £1,309 a year for a prepayment meter. NOTE: this is an average cost – you could be paying more or less depending on how much you use.
The price cap only applies to you if you’re on a default or prepayment tariff:
You’re likely to be on one of these tariffs if you haven’t switched energy suppliers before or you’ve automatically rolled on to the standard variable rate after a fixed rate tariff came to an end.
If this applies to you you may be able to switch to a cheaper tariff and save a considerable amount on your bills.
You could ask your existing supplier if there is a cheaper tariff for you – this is the easiest option and you may be able to save money without switching supplier.
However, may be able to save more by switching to another supplier. There are a number of comparison sites who can look at your energy costs and show you cheaper options, for example http://www.uswitch.com/ or http://www.moneysupermarket.com/ (these are both ofgem accredited but others are available).
If you want some help looking at options to save on energy bills, we might be able to assist you, call Valerie on 0748 3333 115 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: before switching supplier there may be other things than just price to consider – for example if you get warm home discount you may need to check whether switching will affect this.