Bedroom Tax Criticised by MPs
- 05 Mar
As 22 vulnerable and disabled adults and children take legal action against the government's introduction of bedroom tax, it also comes under fire from others for it's affect on vulnerable people.
Liberal Democrat Lord Palmer has said it will lead to some people facing unaffordable increases in their rent, and Labour's Gordon Brown has said it is “offensive, onerous and unfair”.
The bedroom tax, due to come in to effect as of April, has received even heavier criticism in the last few months, particularly from campaigners supporting homeless people, single parents, carers, disabled people, those who have suffered abuse, both children and adults.
There are many individual cases coming through and the local news is filled with how many people in each area will be affect, each describing vulnerable people who will be penalised for having a spare room that is unavoidable.
The case's against Iain Duncan Smith have all been assessed as needing their own bedroom, and so their parents will be penalised for this with a 'spare' room tax. They have highlighted that disabled and vulnerable people will be disproportionately affected by the changes, and a high court judge has given the work and pensions secretary 14 days to show why there should not be a judicial review of the bedroom tax.
Lord Palmer has said that even though the proposal looks fine on paper, in practice it will not work for many people. Directed to Lord Freud, he has said:
One person who is in a two bedroom flat in a high rise block and because of the changes will have to pay an extra £14.50 per week from the beginning of April out of a very small amount of benefits they receive and this applies to people with low working wages as well.
This may be all right in principle and on paper [but] do you believe that this is possible where there are not one-bedroom flats for those people to move into?
Lord Freud's response to this is for benefit claimants to rent from the private sector where property is not available and to wait and see the effects of the policy, but Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Rev Tim Stevens, said many landlords were operating a no benefit claimants policy, which is causing problems for night shelters.
Gordon Brown has also made this point, in his report to Iain Duncan Smith; he said there is a lack of one-bedroom accommodation in the social sector, and that in many areas this could mean there are insufficient properties to enable tenants to move. This would mean social tenants in this situation could lose between 14-25% of their housing benefit simply for having extra rooms and there being no other properties available.
Jack Dromey, Labour's shadow housing minister said that the new tax was cruel and counterproductive:
It's counterproductive because it will end up costing the public purse millions and millions of more pounds in increased benefits.
David Cameron and George Osborne have no idea to have to count every penny of their income to survive.
Rebekah Carrier, the solicitor who is acting for the children and their parents in the legal action against bedroom tax, says:
A year ago the children's commissioner warned the government that these changes would have a disproportionate and devastating impact on families with disabled children and those fleeing domestic violence.
The appalling situation my clients now find themselves in was entirely predictable and avoidable.
The government is advising these families to consider taking in a lodger to make up the financial shortfall, but none of these families have a spare room available because the rooms are already being used.
It is also very surprising that the government is advising families with disabled children, and children suffering trauma following serious abuse, to invite a stranger into their home.
Iain Duncan Smith said:
This is about under-occupancy, let's be very clear about what this is about. We have in social sector housing, a very large number of people in houses where they have many more bedrooms than they actually need.
What we're saying to them is you can stay where you are, but if you do you'll have to pay more.
The main answer from IDS for those who should not have the benefit removed has been the £30 million discretionary fund provided to local authorities, for those who are exceptions to the tax; but this has raised the issue that it doesn't appear that this fund will even come close to covering the money it will need.
The National Housing Federation estimates that the fund will be £100 million short of what is actually required, but there does not appear to be a back up for this.
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Responding to the DWP Consultation: Housing Benefit Reform - Supported Housing "It was well-run, in a good location, and very useful. I've only one suggestion; as the session went on it would perhaps have been useful for bullet points of general agreement about what should be in the sector response to be displayed and added to as the session went on, maybe on a flip chart. Regarding your response paper, I particularly like the answer you give to question 9. In fact the general: "if it ain't broke don't fix it" response could be pushed harder." M.P. - Adref Ltd