Policy Council Tax Discretionary Discount and Exceptional Hardship Fund policy

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5. Exceptional Hardship Fund (EHF) awards

3.7.1 Every Council Taxpayer who has made a claim for Council Tax Support and who has a shortfall is entitled to make a claim for help from EHF. It is normally a short-term emergency fund, whilst the Council Taxpayer seeks alternative solutions.

3.7.2 The main features of the Fund are that:

  • EHF awards are discretionary
  • Council Taxpayers do not have a statutory right to an award
  • EHF awards are not a payment of Council Tax Support
  • Council Tax Support application must have been made in order to consider an award for EHF.
  • EDDC may decide that a backdated EHF award is appropriate; which could then settle Council Tax arrears. This would be the only circumstance where the EHF could be used to facilitate payment of Council Tax arrears.
  • EHF awards cannot be made to settle arrears of Council Tax unless due to an award of backdated EHF as set out above.

3.7.3 EHF cannot be awarded for the following circumstances:

  • Where full Council Tax liability is being met by Council Tax Reduction.
  • For any other reason, other than to reduce Council Tax liability.
  • Where EDDC considers that there are unnecessary expenses/debts etc and that the Council Taxpayer has not taken reasonable steps to reduce these.
  • To reduce any Council Tax Support recoverable overpayment.
  • To cover previous years Council Tax arrears.
  • A shortfall caused by a Department for Work and Pensions sanction or suspension has been applied because the Council Taxpayer has turned down work/interview/training opportunities.

3.7.4 It should be noted that an Exceptional Hardship Policy is intended to help in cases of extreme financial hardship and not support a lifestyle or lifestyle choice. Whilst the definition ‘Exceptional Hardship’ is not exactly defined by this policy, it is accepted that changes to the level of support generally will cause financial hardship and any payment made will be at the total discretion of the Council. Exceptional Hardship should be considered as ‘hardship beyond that which would normally be suffered’

The Revenues and Benefits Service will determine whether or not to make an EHF award, and how much any award might be.

When making this decision the Revenues and Benefits Service will consider the following before making an award:

  • The shortfall between Council Tax Reduction and Council Tax liability.
  • The steps taken by the Council Taxpayer to reduce their Council Tax liability.
  • Changing payment methods, reprofiling Council Tax instalments or setting alternative payment arrangements in order to make them affordable.
  • Ensure that all appropriate discounts, exemptions and reductions are granted.
  • Steps taken by the Council Taxpayer to establish whether they are entitled to other welfare benefits.
  • Steps taken by the Council Taxpayer in considering and identifying where possible the most economical tariffs for supply of utilities.
  • If a Discretionary Housing Payment has already been awarded to meet a shortfall in rent.
  • The personal circumstances, age and medical circumstances (including ill health and disabilities) of the Council Taxpayer, their partner and any dependants and any other occupants of the Council Taxpayer’s home.
  • The difficulty experienced by the Council Taxpayer, which prohibits them from being able to meet their Council Tax liability, and the likely length of time this difficulty will exist.
  • Whether the applicant has been adversely affected by changes made to the Council Tax Reduction Scheme.
  • The income and expenditure of the Council Taxpayer, their partner and any dependants or other occupants of the Council Taxpayer’s home.
  • How deemed reasonable expenditure exceeds income.
  • All income may be taken into account, including those which are disregarded when awarding Council Tax Reduction
  • In the case of a self-employed applicant (or their partner), whether they are in gainful employment. This can be defined as that they are carrying on their activity as their main employment, the earnings from it are genuinely self-employed earnings, and it is organised, developed, regular and carried on in expectation of profit.
  • In the case of self-employed applicants cases where the minimum income floor applies each case will be looked at individually. Factors which we will consider will include:
    • The reason the application for EHF being made, and why the customer is unable to work 35 hours per week
    • Whether the customer is vulnerable
    • Whether the customer has caring responsibilities, disabilities or other factors to consider.
  • Any savings or capital that might be held by the Council Taxpayer or their partner.
  • Other debts outstanding for the Council Taxpayer and their partner.
  • Whether the Council Taxpayer has already accessed or is engaging for assistance with budgeting and financial/debt management advice. An EHF award may not be made until the Council Taxpayer has accepted assistance either from EDDC or third party, such as the Citizens Advice or similar organisations, to enable them to manage their finances more effectively, including the termination of non essential expenditure.
  • The exceptional nature of the Council Taxpayer and/or their family’s circumstances that impact on finances.
  • The length of time they have lived in the property.

The list is not exhaustive and other relevant factors and special circumstances will be considered.

3.7.5 An application for a further EHF award can be made and there will be a review of the application and what actions have been taken since the last award.

3.7.6 An EHF award may be less than the difference between the Council Tax liability and the amount of Council Tax Reduction paid.