105,000 households in Scotland will lose £53 million in housing support due to changes coming into force in April 2013. This is the result of new size criteria for social housing – dubbed the ‘bedroom tax’ – which will see working age tenants penalised an average of £11 per week for under occupying their homes. An estimated 83,000 households affected by the change contain at least one disabled adult.
Hundreds of affected tenants have sought advice from citizens advice bureaux in the weeks leading up to the change, with many worried about homelessness and the impact on their finances. This includes people who require an extra room for a disabled child, those with specially adapted homes for their health conditions, those who have been told that there are no alternative homes available, and those living in rural communities who face moving away from families and friends. In terms of the number of people affected, and the potential impact on their lives, the ‘bedroom tax’ is one of the most significant welfare reforms this Government is pursuing.
This briefing looks at the situations that many clients described to bureaux in the weeks running up to the start of the ‘bedroom tax’. These situations cover a wide range of people and needs, including parents worrying about the care of their disabled children; adults with disabilities facing the loss of their adapted home; foster carers losing support for caring for vulnerable children; tenants who face moving out of rural communities away from family, friends and support structures; and separated parents who face losing access to their children.
Those affected have options to avoid these worst case scenarios. They can try to increase their income, look for a smaller tenancy, or try to move to the private rented sector. However, with a severe mis-match between need and supply for one-bedroom homes, many will find that they have little choice but to try to cope with reduced support on a low income. In this situation, it is inevitable that some will fall into arrears and face potential homelessness.
To stop the impact of the under occupancy penalties on vulnerable households, we call on the DWP and the UK Government to make the following changes immediately:
- Exempt tenants of significantly adapted properties where these properties meet their long term needs
- Delay reductions in support where tenants have shown a clear intention to downsize but where there is insufficient supply of smaller houses within the social rented sector