Following consultation with the public, South Hams District and West Devon Borough Councils will be introducing a new scheme to help those on a low income to pay their Council Tax.

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The Councils have looked carefully at the support scheme and designed something that offers extra assistance to the most vulnerable residents while dealing with the ever changing landscape of welfare reform.

Under the current scheme, some people claiming Universal credit were getting a new bill each month when their circumstances changed.  The Councils understand this makes it really difficult for people, already on low incomes, to properly plan or budget their money.

 The new scheme leads the way, as the first of its kind in Devon, and will assess how much support a person receives based on their net income.  The design means that a change in someone's income won't necessarily create a new assessment and Council Tax bill.  The scheme has been designed not to react to changes unless they are big enough to take residents into a new income band.  Residents will be able to look at a simple table and see what support they are allowed.  It's really simple and easy.

The joy of the new system is that the Councils are fully in control of the scheme and can now do what they can to ease the pressure on residents.  What this actually means, is that the Council will make sure that workers are not put off from doing any extra work when they can, because of the difficulty it has taken in the past to pay their Council Tax.

Hand-in-hand with the new scheme, is the Exceptional Hardship Fund, which is already available for those people who are really struggling to make ends meet.

Now the Councils will work out how much money is coming into the home and will ignore any money from Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payments and War Disablement Benefits.  As usual, they will continue to also ignore any Child Benefit and Child Maintenance Payments.  With all of these changes in mind, most residents would see an increase in their awards, making it much easier for them to live more comfortably.

South Hams District Council's Portfolio Holder for Customer First, Cllr Hilary Bastone said:  "This new and improved scheme will go a long way to supporting vulnerable residents through these challenging financial times.  The major reason we are changing the scheme is to make it easier and less confusing for those residents who are struggling, to be able to claim a discount in their Council Tax." 

South Hams District and West Devon Borough Councils are the first councils in Devon to respond to the changing needs of residents, and to make sure that wherever possible, the most vulnerable are protected and helped.

The way reductions in Council Tax are given to pension-aged people is unchanged, as this is set by central Government. 

The Councils are pleased to announce that the new scheme, in most cases, will see an increase in amounts awarded to those in the greatest need.  

West Devon Borough Council's Lead Member for Health and Wellbeing, Cllr Tony Leech said:  "Cutting all the paperwork and having less bills going out will make it much easier for our customers to manage their budgets.   We will protect our most vulnerable residents even further, by using our Exceptional Hardship Scheme to support those in the most need."

To find out how these changes will affect you, go to .