Reforms to the support provided for housing costs – including the bedroom tax and the household Benefit Cap – are causing financial hardship to vulnerable people who were not the intended targets of the reforms and are unlikely to be able to change their circumstances in response, say the Work and Pensions Committee in a report published 2 April.{jcomments on}

The Bedroom Tax is having a particular impact on people with disabilities who have adapted homes or need a room to hold medical equipment or to accommodate a carer.

The Committee recommends that anybody living in a home that has been significantly adapted for them should be exempt from the subsidy.

The Report further urges the Government to exempt all households that contain a person in receipt of higher level disability benefits (DLA or PIP) from the Bedroom Tax.

Dame Anne Begg MP, Committee Chair, said:
"The Government has reformed the housing cost support system with the aim of reducing benefit expenditure and incentivising people to enter work.

"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.

"Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs), which local authorities can award to people facing hardship in paying their rent, are not a solution for many claimants.

"They are temporary, not permanent, and whether or not a claimant is awarded DHP is heavily dependent on where they live because different local authorities apply different eligibility rules.

"Using housing stock more efficiently and reducing overcrowding are understandable goals.

"But 60-70% of households in England affected by the [bedroom tax] contain somebody with a disability and many of these people will not be able to move home easily due to their disability.

"So they have to remain in their homes with no option but to have their Housing Benefit reduced."

The Benefit Cap is also having an adverse impact on disabled people and their carers.

This is particularly the case where the carer lives with the disabled person, for example a parent or adult child, but is not considered part of the same household for benefit purposes.

The report states that the Government should exempt all recipients of Carers Allowance in this situation from the Benefit Cap.

Dame Anne said:

"The Government has stated that the Benefit Cap is not intended to push carers into work. But this may well be its effect unless recipients of Carers Allowance are exempted from the Cap.

"[In addition] …homeless people placed in temporary accommodation have no choice over where they are housed and few options for reducing their housing costs. It seems particularly unjust, therefore, for them to be affected by the Benefit Cap."

Local authority discretion in granting DHPs is resulting in access to funding depending heavily on where a claimant lives.

Some local authorities are taking income from disability benefits into account in the means tests they apply for determining eligibility for DHPs.

The Government should issue clear guidance to local authorities that disability benefits should be disregarded in any means tests for DHPs.

People with long term problems such as disabilities, who are unlikely to be able to move house or find work as a response to the reforms might need longer term DHP awards.

The Government should issue new guidance to local authorities making explicit that it supports long-term DHP awards for specific categories of claimants.

Dame Anne said:
"Access to DHPs should depend on need, not somebody’s postcode.”

Read the full report on the Parliament website


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