Lords worried about ‘bedroom tax’
A so-called ‘bedroom tax’ on unoccupied bedrooms in local authority housing will be introduced as part of the changes to existing housing benefit regulation due in April 2013.
An estimated 660,000 social housing tenants with spare rooms will be docked an average of £14 per week in housing benefit.
The government estimates the policy will save £500 million a year. The Department for Work and Pensions estimates 420,000 of the 660,000 affected will be disabled people.
The government has made an additional £25 million a year available for people who have had their homes significantly adapted and a further £5 million for foster carers, but peers don’t think this willb be enough.
Labour peer Lord William McKenzie said: “It is accepted that 420,000 of the 660,000 households affected… contain a family member with a disability. On what basis did the government consider the addition of a £30 million a year DHP pot to be sufficient to address the needs of a disabled tenant?”
Liberal Democrat Lord Archy Kirkwood, said: “I was taken aback by the extent to which the client group [disabled people] will be affected by this policy change. I wish that I had known it during the passage of the bill.”
Welfare reform minister Lord David Freud said it does not necessarily follow that the daily lives of the 420,000 people are affected by their disabilities. He said:
“Lords will accept that, as unpalatable as these measures are, we have found the best balanced way of reducing the housing bill, which is simply enormous now. ‘It requires a response from local authorities, housing associations and tenants but one that, in the majority of cases, these groups will be able to make. There will be hard cases.
“Let us hope we have put enough resource into looking after various hard cases.”