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Homes under threat from the bedroom tax

18 June 2013

families hit by the bedroom tax

On the Austerity Uncovered tour, we’re hearing a lot about how people’s lives are being thrown into chaos by the recently introduced Bedroom Tax.

Tenants in the social rented sector (essentially, Council or Housing Association) now face an extra restriction on the amount of Housing Benefit they can get. If they are deemed to have a ‘spare’ bedroom their Housing Benefit will be cut by 14%, 25% if they are deemed to have two spare rooms. Many vulnerable groups such as lone parents and disabled people are being hit by this.

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 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.

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.

Local papers have been full of stories about people who are losing out on this, such as a mother whose son is temporarily away serving in Afghanistan, a couple who will lose all the adjustments they made to their home to cope with arthritis, and have to move to an un-adapted home, or the 4,700 people in Hull who are now chasing only 73 smaller properties, to avoid the cut.

On the tour, we’ve heard first hand many people’s stories about the bedroom tax – it seems almost everyone knows somebody who has been affected. One woman had saved for years to decorate the kitchen and bathroom in the house she’d had for 15 years, and now faces losing all her care and investment in her home. Parents in separated families were no longer able to keep bedrooms to let the kids stay over, and it had become a particular barrier to one family now trying to get back together after separating. A disabled man was unable to find a smaller property on the ground floor, to enable him to access it. For many people it seems that this cut feels like the last straw, coming on top of all the other cuts and hardships they’ve had to endure.

What’s your story?

Have you got a story about how you or your friends or family have been affected by the Bedroom Tax? We want to hear from you. Please add a message via this site – We’ll be collating them for a public report that we’ll be presenting to government.

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