Pledge to protect vulnerable tenants could be backpedalled
Lord Freud may have to go back on his pledge to protect vulnerable people from welfare reforms due to political opposition to letting more people avoid paying the bedroom tax.
Current rules allow some supported housing (exempt accommodation) to be protected from the new welfare reforms such as bedroom tax, benefit cap and universal credit. However, accommodation is not exempt if the landlord is not the provider of care or if the landlord is a council.
Last April the welfare reform minister said that officials at the Department for Work and Pensions were working to ensure supported accommodation not meeting the current ‘exempt’ definition would be protected from welfare reform, reports Inside Housing.
The DWP has now admitted however that there is not a way to exempt all supported accommodation from welfare reforms. It sent a letter to a number of housing organisations in which is said that whilst it still wishes to protect supported accommodation from universal credit and the benefit cap, it no longer wants to protect non-exempt accommodation from the bedroom tax.
The National Housing Federation has written to the government asking them to protect supported housing without political embarrassment when it amend housing benefit rules made before 1996 to correct a technical error which means thousands of people could have been wrongly hit by the bedroom tax.
Sue Ramsden, policy lead at the NHF, said: “As ministers will be amending the housing benefit regulations to close the bedroom tax loophole, we would urge them to take the opportunity to also extend the definition of exempt accommodation to ensure that it covers supported housing where there is a split between the landlord and the support provider.”
A DWP spokesperson said: “We remain committed to working with supported accommodation providers and refuges to ensure that they can provide strong services and are protected from any possible unintended consequences of essential welfare reform.”
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