Benefits boost for low income families

About 1,000 low-income families and pensioners in North Norfolk will be better off, thanks to changes to the national benefits system that come into effect on 2 November.

ABOUT 1,000 low-income families and pensioners in north Norfolk will be better off, thanks to changes to the national benefits system that came into effect last week.

Families will now not have their child benefit counted as 'income' when their council tax and/or housing benefit is calculated, meaning a benefit claimant with one child will get as much as �17 per week extra, and bigger families even more.

At the same time, pensioners claiming council tax and housing benefit could get up to �6.80 extra a week, because they can now have up to �10,000 in savings, up from �6,000, before they start seeing a reduction in benefits.

The upper limit for savings and capital is unchanged at �16,000, meaning pensioners with more than that are not eligible for benefits to help meet the cost of their council tax and rent.

In both cases, some people who were not eligible for housing and council tax benefit may find that, because of these changes, they now are.

Also, pensioners' capital may have been hit by the recession and now be worth less than the �16,000 upper limit, meaning they could be eligible too.

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North Norfolk District Council's benefits team has been checking existing claimants' details to apply these changes, so they do not have to do anything to get the extra money. It has also been contacting people who have applied for benefits in recent months but did not qualify, where the council thinks they might now be eligible.

These customers will be told about the changes, and how they affect them, by letter.

Others, though, should look at their finances and see if they are not claiming money they are entitled to. Anyone who thinks they might qualify for financial help towards their rent or council tax can check on Or they can call NNDC's benefits team on 01263 516349 or visit the council's offices in Cromer or Fakenham.

Councillor Peter Moore, the council's cabinet member for resources, said: 'These measures are designed to combat child poverty on the one hand, and on the other to support pensioners, who won't now be so discouraged from having savings.

'The recession is hitting everyone hard. I urge anyone who thinks they might qualify for benefits to check. We wouldn't want anyone to miss out on what they are entitled to, because everyone needs all the help they can get in these difficult times.'