Bedroom tax 'may force 30,000 from homes'
Thousands of households could be forced from their homes by the much-maligned “bedroom tax” next month, with 30,000 people affected in the South West alone – two-thirds of them disabled.
Low-income households in social housing will lose around £584 if they have a spare room, says the National Housing Federation under Government plans to make the country’s housing stock work harder. Those with two or more spare rooms will pay £1,043 a year.
The scheme has come under fire from many quarters, with grandparents concerned about their family not being able to visit for weekends, to the disabled who rely on carers staying at times.
But it was defended on Monday by Michael Gove, who said the move was “timely and necessary action” to deal with “out of control” welfare bills.
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He claimed that while in power Labour spent money on a “series of vanity projects” and “no effective” welfare reform occurred.
Today’s figures from the NHF also claim that 18,900 of those affected in the region are disabled. Efforts by the Government to help disabled people were dismissed by the NHF, which said that shared equally, this would equate to £1.71 a week against a £14 loss in housing benefit.
In the South West, Bristol is the worst off, says the NHF, with 3,753 people affected, 2,364 of whom have a disability. It is followed by Wiltshire, where 3,052 people will be affected, paying the highest penalty in the region, of £654 for one room and £1,167 for two or more.
The change will affect 1,340 people in Swindon, 1,063 in South Gloucestershire, 1,061 in Somerset, 933 in B&NES and 806 in North Somerset.
The bedroom tax affects all working-age housing benefit claimants who are deemed to have one or more bedrooms in their council or housing association home.
Catherine Brabner, South West lead manager for the National Housing Federation says: “The Government’s bedroom tax is flawed and will unfairly penalise thousands of people in the South West who have lived in their homes for years, raised families and contributed to their communities.
“The ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach takes no account of disabled people’s adapted homes, of foster parents who need rooms to take children in, or of parents sharing custody who will lose the room for their child at weekends.
“In most areas, there just aren’t enough smaller affordable homes for these families to move into to avoid the tax. Many people will find themselves having to move into more expensive privately rented properties – adding to the overall housing benefit bill.”
Ten disabled people from around the country and their families will learn later this month whether they can launch a High Court challenge against the Government’s “spare bedroom tax”.
A judge yesterday set down a timetable which will allow the court to decide by mid-March whether the challenge is “arguable” and should go to a full hearing.
Lawyers say the rules fail to take their circumstances into account, contrary to Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.