The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has released two reports looking into the controversial bedroom tax policy.
The first report titled ‘Housing Benefit size criteria: impacts for social sector tenants and options for reform’ has found:
– In the first year of the policy, the DWP is likely to save £330m which is £115m below its initial target.
– 498,000 people have been affected by the policy which is lower than the 660,000 estimate by DWP. Half were in arrears in the first six months of the policy due to the average £14 per week cut.
– 100,000 people wish to move homes but are trapped in larger homes, and only 6% of tenants have moved to avoid paying.
The second report titled ‘The impact of welfare reform on social landlords and tenants’ looks at how multiple changes to the benefits system has impacted tenants everyday lives and has found:
– Three quarters of people have cut back on food bills whilst others have been referred to food banks as people are choosing between heating and eating.
– Over half of people are borrowing money from family and friends in order to pay for essential items.
– With help from landlords many tenants are focusing on finding work and apprenticeships; however people in jobs – which were often low-paid with short hours – were concerned with falling incomes and job security.
The report also looked at how welfare reform was impacting social landlords:
– Housing providers and needing to check in more detail whether new applicants can afford rent, making it harder for people to get housing.
– All associations are clear that rising fuel costs are a cause of increasing poverty, however the impact has grown since welfare reform began.
Kathleen Kelly, JRF policy and research manager, said: “The families affected by welfare reform are already living on low incomes and are being put in a risky position by further cuts in their support. Early indications suggest the worst effects have yet to materialise, but the reforms have transferred housing costs to poor families, who can ill afford the extra costs. A particular concern is the stark choice landlords face as to whether they can afford to house the poorest. The time is right to take stock of the policies and alleviate their worst effects,” reports 24dash.
Report author, the LSE’s Anne Power, added: “Welfare reform may end up making tenants more, not less, dependent, and certainly more vulnerable. Cutbacks in support make people on low incomes, in work and out, more vulnerable to debt, at risk of eviction and short of essentials, so they rely on food banks and other emergency support. Tenants often now see their landlords as a lifeline. Landlords have responded by working more closely with their tenants, but these services have costs, which could leave less money for building new homes.”
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