Liberal Democrats Promise Bonus For Carers

nickcleggClose to one million carers are being promised an annual bonus in proposals set out by the Liberal Democrat party. The party’s leader and deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said their manifesto for the next general election will include a promise to increase Carer’s Allowance for each claimant.

It will go up by £125 every year reaching £250 by 2020. The extra money will be paid to carers who have been receiving state support for 12 months. This extends to 85% of claimants.

Nick Clegg praised the ‘superhuman’ work being done by what he called a ‘hidden army’ of carers in the United Kingdom. The leader said:

[quote]Carers are Britain’s unsung heroes – up and down the country behind closed doors, you’ll find a hidden army of carers doing amazing things every day. It is estimated that six in ten of us will at some point in our lives find ourselves caring for someone else – an elderly relative, a sick child, a friend who needs our support. Obviously this makes a massive difference to the people being cared for – but Carers UK calculated that it saves us a whopping £119 billion every year – more than the entire NHS budget[/quote]

However, Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats have given no indication of how £130 million will be raised in order to support this scheme. Some have feared that it will lead to cuts elsewhere in the welfare budget.

The Liberal Democrats do not have a good record of following through on their word either. Their main campaign pledge to not raise student fees was broken when they joined a coalition with the Conservative party in the last general election. It sparked outrage from those in higher education. The Lib Dems later lost all but one of their MEPs in the European election sinking them to fifth place behind the Green Party with 6.9% of the vote.

Nick Clegg continued:

[quote]These are people who deserve our support even in these straitened times, which is why the Liberal Democrat manifesto will include a Carer’s Bonus to give them a little extra help. It is completely up to the carers themselves how they spend it – it is a no strings attached bonus from a party that is grateful for the superhuman work they do.[/quote]

He suggested that the money could be spent not only on those who need care, but treats for the carers themselves who might need a break.

HMRC Sends Renewal Warning To 1.5 Million People

taxcreditsClose to 1.5 million people living in the United Kingdom and receive tax credits have less than one month to renew their claims. If they do not, the claimants risk having their payments ceased according to warnings by Her Majesty’s Revenue And Customs.

The British tax authority is giving UK residents the opportunity to renew their tax credits online for the first time ever. It must, however, be completed ahead of the deadline on July 31st.

To do so, they are being told to visit the government’s Renew Tax Credits page on their official website. It can also be done via a free HMRC mobile app that is new and available to download from the Apple and Google app stores.

Those who do not wish to renew their tax credits by these new online methods are still able to do it via traditional methods. They can write to Her Majesty’s Revenue And Customs by post or call the helpline for tax credits.

At the start of July, 135,000 people had submitted the renewals for their tax credits over the internet. Her Majesty’s Revenue And Customs revealed that the satisfaction with the government’s website was 96%.

The warning reminder comes after 650,000 people failed to renew their tax credits before last year’s deadline. This is also the major reason Her Majesty’s Revenue And Customs has implemented its new online system — people now have no excuse for missing it.

The director general of benefits and credits at Her Majesty’s Revenue And Customs, Nick Lodge, said:

[quote]Loads of people have already renewed their tax credits claim online, and have found it quick and easy to do. We have now made it even better and are encouraging everyone to renew online if they can, at a time that suits them. The most important thing is to renew before the 31st July deadline, so as not to risk losing your money.[/quote]

Her Majesty’s Revenue And Customs distributed its tax credit renewal pack to 5.8 million people at the beginning of April. It asked those who use tax credits to check how accurate the information about the claim is. It also demanded that people provide any new information about their circumstances including working hours, childcare costs and annual pay.

Most of the people who received these packs will not have to make any amendments and their claims will automatically be renewed. This occurs if there has been no change for a long period of time. 1.5 million are set to make changes though.

Young Unemployed Must Train Or Lose Benefits, Says Ed Miliband

jobseekers-allowanceYoung people who are looking for work could lose their benefits unless they agree to training courses under a Labour government according to its leader Ed Miliband.

The Labour leader who will be opposing David Cameron in the next general election announced his plans during a speech at the Institute For Public Policy Research. It is part of a series of measures aimed at making work pay; a fight back against criticisms that the Labour Party is too lenient on welfare.

His plans include disallowing 18 to 21 year olds entitlement to adult benefits if they have no qualifications. Instead, they will get a youth allowance if they accept vocational training equivalent to an AS level. Under the current Job Seekers Allowance system, you cannot be in training and claiming for benefits at the same time.

The youth allowance is currently planned to be £57, which is the same that is currently afforded to people who are under 25 on Job Seekers Allowance. It will, however, be means tested so that those with a family earning more than £42,000 per year will not be entitled.

In his speech, Ed Miliband also states his intentions to raise the Job Seekers Allowance from £72 to £100 a week for those who had been in work for five years before being made unemployed.

Ed Miliband said:

[quote]How many times have I heard people say: ‘for years and years, I paid in and then when the time came and I needed help I got nothing out?’ Rewarding contribution was a key principle of the Beveridge Report. And it is a key intuition of the British people. But it is a principle that has been forgotten by governments of both parties.[/quote]

Conservative MPs have hit back against the party’s plans claiming it will just lead to an even greater amount of spending and borrowing at the expense of taxpayers. Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, said that it’s an expensive commitment.

Britain’s largest trade union and Labour’s biggest financial backer, Unite, has praised the plans. They have, however, criticised the use of threats in Ed Miliband’s speech calling in “Tory rhetoric”.

Steve Turner, the assistant general secretary, said:

[quote]Our young people did not cause the economic crash and shouldn’t be made to pay for it. Any idea that they want a life on benefits is risible when all they want is a decent job and a future.[/quote]

Overpaid Tax Credits Cause Debt Problem

taxcreditsIn the last three years, the number of people in Wales who are having debt problems from overpaid tax credits has sharply risen. This is according to new figures gathered by Citizen’s Advice.

The charity said there are more than 1300 people living in Wales who got in touch with Citizen’s Advice about tax credits between 2013 and 2014. It was a result of errors at HM Revenue And Customers due to people’s incomes rising unexpectedly. However, the government department has stated that there has been a reduction in over payments since 2012.

The BBC spoke to a nurse from Pembrokeshire, Wales who was told by HM Revenue And Customers  that she owed £10,000 dating back to 2009. Amanda Worth, who lives with her husband and teenage son, said she had no idea she was in debt with Inland Revenue and suddenly started receiving enormous bills on a daily basis.

She said:

[quote]We received 10 letters in one day which indicated we had an over payment for each year dating back five years for amounts between £2,000, £3,000 and £400 – totaling £10,000. They asked us to pay them back within a month. It was shocking, absolutely shocking. I didn’t know what to do. All of a sudden you’re in debt. I tried to contact them but it was a bank holiday. When we tried to contact them on the Tuesday, it took over an hour and a half to get the right telephone number to actually speak to somebody instead of something automated telling you what you want.[/quote]

Citizen’s Advice figures suggest that there were just over 900 Welsh people who came to them with issues about similar debts related to tax credit over payment in 2010 and 2011. This has gone up by a staggering 45% over the last 12 months to 1329 people. In England, this is an even higher 52% from 12,000 to 18,300.

Sian Williams, who is the project manager at Flintshire Citizen’s Advice, said:

[quote]People find it very stressful. They can be quite anxious; we’ve had people in tears. It’s quite scary to receive a demand from HMRC. A lot of people may just believe that they have to pay it back and it must be their fault. But actually people should get advice and sometimes it could be challenged.[/quote]

HM Revenue And Customs offered some advice to those who may find themselves in this situation.

[quote]If an over payment occurs as a result of HMRC’s error, claimants do not need to repay the overpaid money. An over payment only needs to be repaid if a claimant has failed to meet their responsibilities in telling HMRC of any changes of circumstance.[/quote]

Single Parents Penalised By New Child Maintenance Regulations

Single parents are expected to be penalised by the new child maintenance rules that came into play at the end of last month, child-maintenance-contactexperts claim.

The new rules mean that parents applying to use the Child Maintenance Service will be charged a £20 application fee,  as well potential extra fees for the collection of payments. The changes are predicted to have a negative effect on single-parent and perhaps low-income families who are most likely to need the Child Maintenance Service’s support.

Stephen Lawson, head of litigation at FDR Law, said:

[quote]”In the real world, we know ‘paying parents’ for a wide variety of reasons sometimes fail to pay their regulay payments to support their children. Many struggle financially after the breakup of a relationship and these new rules will make supporting their children that much harder.

Former partners will also suffer. They will receive less maintenance support and will now be penalised for a situation that is outside their control.”[/quote]

As well as the initial £20 application fee to use the Child Maintenance Service, paying parents will be charged a 20% admin fee for every payment they make via the Collect and Pay service. The receiving parent will also have a 4% deduction made on every Child Maintenance payment they receive.

This means that for every £100 assessed, the paying parent (who does not have the main day-to-day responsibility of the child) will actually have to pay £120. The receiving parent, meanwhile, that takes care of the child, will only receive £96 after the admin fee of £24 has been deducted.

Over the next few years, the Child Support Agency will be gradually replaced with the Child Maintenance Service, and all cases will be transferred accordingly. Parents will have a month to change to the new Direct Pay system, which deducts no extra fees for the paying and receiving of Child Maintenance, and pay any money they owe.

However, if they choose to stick with the Collect and Pay system, the new fees will be added to every maintenance payment handled.

Stephen Lawson advises that parents can avoid admin charges by making private agreements and by paying every instalment on time. Family charity Gingerbread also has an online tool to help families understand the new system and how this could affect them,

Lawson added:

[quote]These rules are designed to make people take responsibility for their own finances. But instead the very parents who need extra help will be let down by a system designed to support them.[/quote]