In April 2013, the ‘bedroom tax’ policy took effect. Effectively this meant that social housing tenants considered to be under-occupying their home, would see their Housing Benefit slashed depending on the number of rooms considered to be ‘spare’.{jcomments on}

This has forced some tenants into rent arrears as they also face cuts to their benefits and having to contribute towards Council Tax out of very low benefit income for the first time. Many tenants report that smaller properties are not available for them to move to.

The DWP announced their aims in the document “Equality impact assessment for introducing restrictions to Housing Benefit for working age customers living in the social rented sector who are occupying a larger property than their household size requires.” (June 2012) which explained that:

“This measure is being introduced in order to:

  • contain growing Housing Benefit expenditure;
  • encourage greater mobility within the social rented sector;
  • make better use of available social housing stock; and
  • improve work-incentives for working age claimants.”

But, as we approach the first birthday of this controversial, almost universally unpopular policy; what do the experts say? We also ask: are we any closer to seeing it repealed?

Here we list some extracts showing opinion, the latest news stories, recent cases and links to enlightening blogs:

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive, Citizens Advice says:

"Many sick and disabled people have bedrooms which have been adapted to help them to cope with their condition.

"Moving disabled people out of their houses is not only a potential risk to their health, but can cost the individuals affected and councils significant amounts of money if they need to start from scratch in a new home."

Dame Anne Begg, Chair of The Work and Pensions Committee argues that it’s a policy that hits the vulnerable the hardest and that the Councils’ Discretionary Hardship payments are not sufficient. She states:

“But vulnerable groups, who were not the intended targets of the reforms and are not able to respond by moving house or finding a job, are suffering as a result”

The labour party says the policy is not working and they will scrap it.

The Liberal Democrat President, Tim Farron, states "The bedroom tax causes huge social problems and distorts the market – we as a party cannot support this."

Research- involving 331 social housing providers across England, Scotland and Wales with Freedom of Information requests submitted to council and surveys of housing associations - found just under 6 per cent of tenants whose benefit was cut had moved house.

Esther McVey, however, gave a different view when she was interviewed about the 'Spare room subsidy' policy on 28th March 2014

For the most up to date news on bedroom tax challenges and how to fight it yourself, read Joe Halewood’s and Giles Peaker’s commentaries.

Most importantly, let us not forget those who are affected by the policy and here they tell their stories too:

A view, we may not often consider if that of people who need their room to store vital equipment. Robin Christopherson, Head of Digital Inclusion, AbilityNet says:

The bedroom tax is taxing the blind.

“For those lucky enough to have a spare room in which to set up their equipment they, in effect, have their office which replaces what others would do at the kitchen table such as reading the mail on a morning or jotting down a shopping list, or on the sofa with a laptop perched on your knee.”

It is impossible to justify the policy when we see the effect it has had on the Rutherfords. Warren is 13, and has a rare genetic disorder which requires 24 hour care by at least two people at all times. His grandparents, who both suffer from disabilities themselves, struggle to look after him alone and need the help of two paid carers who can stay overnight at least twice a week. The family live in a 3-bedroom bungalow that has been specially adapted to meet Warren’s needs. Their extra room is used to store equipment and for a carer to sleep in overnight and means that Warren can live at home. This case is being fought by way of Judicial Review and will be heard on 14th May 2014.

Other Judicial Reviews, on different grounds have not been successful and although Tribunals are appearing to adopt a common sense approach, change is needed.

This blog is written by a carer who gave up work to look after his wife. He lives in adapted social housing:

“Some days it feels as if the bedroom tax is shaking and close to being put out of its misery, but for many people affected, one year on, there’s still no light at the end of the tunnel beyond a promise from the Labour party to repeal it. And that simply isn’t good enough.”



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