Bedroom Tax – 80% affected run out of money by the end of the week

Charlie Cooper for The Independent – A DWP study finds almost 80% affected by the Bedroom Tax run out of money by the end of the week.

The Study also reveals almost half have cut back on food spending to cope.

The so-called bedroom tax has increased hardship among those affected, with nearly half reporting that they had to cut back on food spending to cope, a Government-ordered study has revealed.

The report, commissioned by the Department of Work and Pensions and published on the last day before MPs take their Christmas break, finds that 78 per cent of people affected by the removal of the spare room subsidy – otherwise known as the bedroom tax – regularly run out of money by the end of the week or the month.

It also reveals that only a third of people affected who applied for emergency support to pay the rent received any help.

The bedroom tax, which came into effect in April 2013, saw the housing benefits of hundreds of thousands of social tenants cut if they had a spare bedroom in their property. The new report, compiled by Ipsos MORI and the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research on behalf of the Department of Work and Pensions, is based on research, surveys and interviews into the impact of the policy carried out in 2013 and 2014.

It says that people who were still affected by the bedroom tax in 2014 were “more likely than those no longer affected to say they run out of money by the end of the week or month very or fairly often”.

“Among those still affected, claimants had paid the rent by: using up savings, borrowing from family and friends or accruing debt,” the report says.

Bedroom tax

One in four of those affected cut back spending on heating and electric bills, one in five had to reduce their spend on transport, and 44 per cent had to reduce spending on food.

By autumn 2014, only 16 per cent of tenants still affected by the bedroom tax were registered to move to a smaller property. The report says that disabled tenants have had particular difficulty moving out of a property affected by bedroom tax because of “difficulties…finding a property that meets their needs as well as in packing and transporting their belongings”.

The report also finds that the number of households affected by the bedroom tax fell from 547,000 in May 2013 to 465,000 November 2014.

Only 29 per cent of people affected in 2014 said they applied for Discretionary Housing Payments – intended to support those struggling to pay their rent – and only 36 per cent were successful in their application.

Owen Smith, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions’ Secretary called the report “damning”.

“If one policy sums up the cruelty of this Tory government it’s the Bedroom Tax.”

“This damning independent report published by the DWP itself, shows how this brutal and unfair policy deliberately drives people deeper and deeper in to poverty.  It’s shameful – especially in the run up to Christmas – that 80 per cent of people hit by the Bedroom Tax regularly run out of money by the end of the week or month.

“Iain Duncan Smith claimed a ‘discretionary’ pot of money would be available to help people affected, but this research makes it crystal clear that over 75 per cent of people who lose out have not received that support.  How he can continue to stand by this vile policy is beyond me.

“This report yet again shows it isn’t just cruel, but doesn’t even achieve what it set out to.  The case for scraping the Bedroom Tax is overwhelming, the Tories should learn the lessons from their tax credit U-turn and end this brutal policy.”

Chief Executive of  Child Poverty Action Group Alison Garnham, said: “The DWP’s own evaluation finds that the ‘bedroom tax’ is not only pushing families into hardship but it’s also failing to free up more accommodation for families, the key argument ministers used to justify this controversial policy. This is a long and deep look at a hugely controversial policy – it really should not have been released just as MPs rise for Christmas.”

DWP officials said that between November 2014, when the research concluded, and August 2015, 15,000 households had ceased to be affected by the spare room subsidy.

A Government spokesperson said: “It is wrong that under the previous system taxpayers had to subsidise benefit claimants to live in houses that are larger than they require. Removing the spare room subsidy has restored fairness to the system for claimants as well as the taxpayer, and the numbers subject to a reduction are falling.

“We know that there are cases where people may need extra support whilst they transition to our reforms – that’s why we have given councils £500m of funding to provide discretionary payments to those that need them, with a further £800m to be provided over the course of this Parliament.”

“Just another tax that screws the less unfortunate”

Welfare Benefits – Banardo’s say it’s no ‘Safety Net’

The benefits system is “no longer providing an adequate safety net” for the poorest families, with “devastating effects” for vulnerable youngsters, a children’s charity is warning.

In a report on recent changes to the welfare system, Banardo’s said an increasing number of families were being forced to rely on food banks and faced eviction as a result of benefits cuts.

The charity is calling for a review of the impact of welfare reform on poor families, with a relaxation of the “bedroom tax” listed as a minimum requirement.

Banardo'sIn a survey of 138 0f its centres nationwide, 60 per cent said welfare changes introduced by both the Coalition and the previous Labour governments, were having a “wholly negative” impact on the families and young people reliant on their services.

Among these, 64 per cent said they had seen a rise in the use of food banks among users of their services, while 47 per cent reported a rise in rent arrears and 20 per cent an increased threat of eviction.

“Many of our services are concerned that the net impact of welfare changes is that the system no longer provides an adequate safety net for “working age families” the report said. “the evidence in this report shows how cutting families’ incomes can have a devastating effect on vulnerable children and young people.”

Benefit sanctions, which can see welfare payments stopped for up to three years if claimants fail to abide by a wide variety of terms were the “biggest concerns”. The report said some families were being left with little or no income as a result of being sanctioned, and were turning to “very risky means” to support themselves.

The report cited the case of one family in the North-West who ended up owing £700 to a local loan shark to cover a £300 loan, after their benefits were stopped for six weeks as a result of one missed Jobcentre appointment.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “The benefits system this government inherited was broken, trapping the very people it was meant to help. Our welfare reforms are transforming the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities… We continue to spend £94bn a year on a welfare safety net to support those who are on low incomes or unemployed.”

Banardo’s said the “bedroom tax” – which reduces monthly housing payments if claimants have a spare room – was preventing families living in emergency accommodation from getting a new home because of a shortage of smaller social housing units.

Apps. P 2015 The Independent Daily Briefing 16/03/2015 P. 5

“Banardo’s reporting this, and, the Chancellor after another £12bn in welfare savings if re-elected!  This government is only concerned with reducing ‘the deficit’, while people in the UK are dying because of it.”