The Bedroom Tax
It’s good that the politicians have picked up on the Bedroom Tax. In April – less than two months away – tenants in the social rented sector (essentially, Council or Housing Association) will face an extra restriction on the amount of Housing Benefit they can get. If they are deemed to have a ‘spare’ bedroom their HB will be cut by 14%, 25% if they are deemed to have two spare rooms, pensioners are excluded from this cut but other vulnerable groups are not and lone parents and disabled people will be very hard hit.
The government’s own Equality Impact Assessment, published last summer, calculated that 660,000 households will be affected, 31% of all working age HB claimants living in the social rented sector; on average, they will lose £14 a week (one hundred thousand will lose more than £20 a week). Joe Halewood has pointed out that these figures may be an under-estimate; he also notes that the average household has 2.4 people, so a good working figure for the number of people who will lose out is 1.6 million. The government’s figures show that most of those who lose out will be people without children living with them, but 150,000 will be lone parents – 21% of working age lone parents in socially rented housing will lose out.
The other big group of vulnerable people who are disproportionately likely to to lose out will be disabled people (using the Disability Discrimination Act definition of disability): disabled people make up 56% of all working age social rented sector tenants but 63% of those who will lose out. 420,000 disabled people will have their HB cut. There will be some protection for disabled people: an extra bedroom for a disabled adult who needs a non-resident overnight carer will not attract the bedroom tax, but people with impairments that stop couples or children from sharing a room or who need an extra room for equipment may be affected. Many of the people affected will have gone to immense trouble to get rooms (or the whole property) adapted, often spending thousands of their own savings. There is an increase in the Discretionary Housing Fund to mitigate this, but it is limited to one year, is limited to £30 million and is also expected to help foster carers who face this cut. Read this excellent post on the We Are Spartacus website for more information about how disabled people will be especially hard hit by this cut.
It is good that politicians have taken up this issue. It has forced the government onto the defensive and local news websites are beginning to report examples of the sort of people who will be hit by this cut:
- The couple who may lose the bedroom that has become a ‘shrine’ to their son who died of cancer;
- The couple who will lose the adjustments that help them cope with arthritis;
- The mother who will lose HB because her son is serving in the army in Afghanistan;
- The couple who can’t find a smaller property to move into (and the 4,700 families in Hull who will be chasing 73 smaller properties);
- The woman who can’t take in a lodger because the bedrooms are simply too small for her daughters to share;
- The carer who can’t share the special mattress for his wife’s spina bifida and so has to sleep in a separate room.
If you’re angry about this there are some things you can do. If you’re on Facebook, there’s a Facebook group. You can ask your MP to read We Are Spartacus’ Parliamentary briefing and there’s a Scrap Spare Bedroom Tax page on the Labour Party’s Campaign Engine Room site. I’ll add to this post as I learn about other initiatives.