Tax credits advice is poor

by Andy McCorkell and Kurt Moroz Parents are losing out on childcare tax credits they are entitled to because the council is failing to advise them on their rights. Westminster Council s poor take up record has been criticised by Beverley

by Andy McCorkell and Kurt Moroz

Parents are losing out on childcare tax credits they are entitled to because the council is failing to advise them on their rights.

Westminster Council's poor take up record has been criticised by Beverley Hughes, Minister for Children, Young People and Families, who told Parliament that Westminster has one of the worst performances.

She said new figures confirm that Westminster is 'well below the national average and showed a decrease of almost two per cent last year' while neighbouring Kensington & Chelsea and Camden manage to be above the national average.


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Karen Buck, MP for Regent's Park and Kensington North, said: "When it comes to advising people about their rights and entitlements they don't do enough.

"This is a very unsatisfactory situation, it is in their interests to boost tax credit take up and they simply don't do it.

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"They really do need to raise their game, it just seems like it's not a priority for them at the moment.

"They have got one of the most expensive, flashy communications departments going but they can't let their residents know what they're entitled to.

"Given that Westminster has the country's largest communications teams, why can they not put some effort into increasing the incomes of the poorest people in the borough?

"This matters greatly, because without financial help, families cannot pay for childcare, including holiday and out of school schemes, which in turn become less sustainable. Westminster needs to raise its game."

With tax credits as one of main ways for parents who are not working to get extra money, improvements in child tax credit take up, was just 9.5 per cent compared to 17.5 per cent in London overall.

On April 22, the minister told Parliament: "I am afraid to say that, without doubt, Westminster is one of the poorest local authorities for take-up of child tax credit and the child care element of the working tax credit, and has consistently been so."

Government officers from the Department for Children, Schools and Families will now demand that the council offers a more assertive campaign to improve take up.

Cllr Sarah Richardson, Westminster Council's cabinet member for children's services, said: "We are tackling this issue head on and have developed a robust strategy to reach families who are not currently accessing this support.

"We are about to embark on a �1 million scheme, which will target the most disadvantaged families in the city, many of whom often have English as a second language or poor literacy skills, and require intensive support.

"Through this scheme, we will help parents with the completion of paperwork through one to one surgeries and increase outreach support to raise awareness of what financial support is available.

"We will also be working with schools and childcare providers to help identify isolated families, who we are entitled to benefits they may not be claiming.

"We are also helping to lift families out of poverty through our family recovery programme, which provides help and support to vulnerable families at an early stage.

"The government, however, also has a part to play and must consider simplifying the current child tax credits system, which is currently very complex and may put many parents off."

andrew.mccorkell@archant.co.uk

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