Thousands of low-income tenants have been plunged into "heat or eat" hardship as a result of the bedroom tax, a government-commissioned analysis of the policy's impact reveals.
The study, published by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), finds that 60% of the 523,000 tenants affected have been unable to meet housing benefit shortfalls of between £14 and £22 a week in full.
The report finds that hard-pressed tenants are cutting back on food and energy, or running up debts with friends or high-credit lenders to try to meet rent payments.
Although one in five claimants has registered an interest in downsizing, shortages of smaller properties mean just 4.5% of tenants had been able to move to a smaller home.
Four-fifths of claimants told researchers they were finding it "very" or "fairly" difficult to meet the shortfalls, and many said they would continue to spend less on household essentials over the next 12 months.
One social landlord told researchers: "Our customers (tenants) are in severe hardship through this reduction in housing benefit and many are needing vouchers for food banks after making rent payments.
"Customers are distraught and telling us they cannot cope and we are dealing with regular threats of suicide."
Tenants told researchers that financial pressure caused by the bedroom tax mean that they struggled to afford school uniforms, or family swimming trips. They had cut down on going out, or having grandchildren round for a meal.
Read the full story in The Guardian
The interim report “Evaluation of Removal of the Spare Room Subsidy” which was published by the DWP covers the first six months of the bedroom tax after its introduction in April 2013.
Joe Halewood, housing consultant and ‘Bedroom Tax’ commentator, says in his blog, says “the DWP interim report is as vague and woolly as you would expect on this point (and every other point) and frankly the report is 163 pages of turgid indecisive nonsense and anyone expecting some revelatory insights will be seriously disappointed”.