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'We got a £7,500 council tax refund as carers thanks to MSE's tips' – here's how to check if you qualify for money off your bill

Carers should check if they can get £1,000s off their council tax bills under the 'live-in carer' or 'severe mental impairment' (SMI) discounts, as one dad providing full-time support for his daughter has shared how he got a £7,500 refund and 50% reduction on future bills after reading our tips – and is now encouraging others to claim.

MoneySavingExpert has been campaigning to raise awareness of the SMI discount for years – and our reminder comes during this year's Carers Week. You can read more about how the live-in carer and severe mental impairment discounts work in our Council tax discounts guide, which also includes information about other types of reductions that are available.

If you're a carer, you should also check if you're due Carer's allowance or Carer's credit and that you're not missing out on benefits you may be entitled to.

'I just couldn't believe it. Now I want to tell everybody about it'

John Peel, 58, from Wallingford in Oxfordshire, and his wife, Nicola, provide more than 35 hours of care a week for their adult daughter Kate, 26, who lives with a form of autism (the family are pictured above and below).

After reading about the 'live-in carer' council tax discount – which can reduce a bill by 25% – on (MSE), John decided to apply last year.

Not only was his application successful, but the council also informed him that his daughter qualified for the 'severe mental impairment' discount. This was equivalent to another 25% off, meaning the family's council tax bill was reduced by 50% overall – something that will save them £1,000 a year.

In addition, the family were awarded a £7,500 refund from South Oxfordshire District Council dating back to 2015 when Kate turned 18, something John said had come at a time "when we really needed it".

John told us: "It was brilliant when we got the news. It was one of those things you just can't believe. I wanted to tell everybody else that I knew." 

'If you're entitled to a discount, go and get it' 

There are many reasons why you could qualify for a discount or reduction off your council tax bill, including because you're a student, on a low income or benefits, living alone (or just with under-18s) and other reasons. Discounts are worth from between 25% off all the way up to the whole bill being wiped. You can read about these – including eligibility criteria and how to apply – in our Council tax discounts guide.

While it took six months between first applying and the money eventually being refunded – including toing and froing between the council and their GP for documentation – John is now encouraging anybody who thinks they might qualify for either or both of the discounts to apply. 

"I have been actively promoting this opportunity to other parents of disabled adults in our area," said John. "I can understand why some people might feel put off by the bureaucracy [that comes with applying]. They're inundated with looking after the kids and don't have the bandwidth or energy, for example.

"But my message is if you're entitled to a discount, go and get it. Don't be put off. It takes time, but it's worth it. Thanks [to MSE] for the advice and keep up the good work." 

How to check if you qualify for the 'live-in carer' council tax discount

To get this discount, you need to look after someone with a disability who ISN'T your partner, spouse or child under 18, for an average of at least 35 hours a week (looking after a mother, father, brother, sister, niece, nephew, uncle, aunt or friend does count).

The person cared for must also meet EITHER of the following two criteria:

1. They receive one of these benefits:

  • Attendance allowance. 
  • Middle or higher rate of the care component of disability living allowance.
  • Standard or enhanced rate of the daily living component of personal independence payment.

2. They're entitled to an increase in: 
  • Constant attendance allowance.
  • Disablement pension. 

The carer does not need to be receiving carer's allowance to qualify for the discount. And as John and Nicola showed, more than one person in a household can qualify as a live-in carer, so long as each fits the qualifying criteria.

How to check if you're eligible for the 'severe mental impairment' council tax discount

By law, someone on qualifying benefits who has been medically certified (an official form is normally needed) as having a permanent condition that affects their intelligence and social functioning – such as dementia (including Alzheimer's), severe learning difficulties, or being a stroke sufferer (other conditions may also apply) – can get a council tax discount in England, Scotland and Wales. 

Those eligible for the SMI discount can claim:

  • A 100% exemption. If they have a severe mental impairment and live alone (or only with others who have a severe mental impairment).
  • A 50% discount. If they have a severe mental impairment and live with other people who also qualify for a council tax discount (such as live-in carers).
  • A 25% discount. If they have a severe mental impairment and live with one other adult who doesn't qualify for a council tax discount. 

Full details on exactly how this discount works – such as what evidence you'll need and how to apply – can be found in our Severe mental impairment council tax discount guide.

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