The new under occupation penalty - or ‘bedroom tax’ - for social rented housing means working age tenants will be penalised an average of £11 per week for being deemed to be under occupying their homes – if they are seen to have more bedrooms than they need. CAS believes that many of those affected by this change will be unable to make up the shortfall in their rent but there are not enough one bedroomed properties in the social rented sector for people to move to.
Of the 105,000 households affected by this penalty, 83,000 have an adult in the household with a recognised disability.
Betsy is registered as blind and is hoping to get a guide dog in the next few months. She lives in the north of Scotland in a two bedroomed home with her husband Jeff who is registered disabled. Their home has been specially adapted for their disability needs. Betsy turned to her local CAB advice when she received a letter from her local authority informing her that she and Jeff would have to pay an additional £56 per month in rent as their housing benefit would be cut due to the ‘bedroom tax’.
Betsy has a letter from her GP confirming her requirement for “a second bedroom for her own personal medical reasons” but that is not enough for an exemption. The bureau helped Betsy to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) which local authorities can use to help protect the most vulnerable people from the under occupancy penalty. The funding that has been made available to councils by the UK Government is far below the level of payments that will be lost by claimants and DHPs and are time limited. Betsy and Jeff are waiting for the decision.