Nine in 10 disabled people and three quarters of carers affected by the bedroom tax are having to cut back on food and heating in order to pay their rent.
The Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), a national coalition of more than 50 charities, revealed the findings in a letter to Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith which called on the government to take immediate action to exempt disabled people, their families and carers from the controversial policy.
The letter, signed by the chief executives of charities including Disability Rights UK, Scope, the Royal National Institute of Blind People and the Child Poverty Action Group, points to “stark evidence” that shows disabled people are not being protected from the controversial policy despite government claims to the contrary.
It states: “Before the policy was implemented, we warned that it would hit disabled people and carers for whom additional accommodation was essential, not spare.
“We have been deeply frustrated at reports that disabled people and their families are protected from this policy. The stark evidence since the policy was implemented in April clearly shows they are not.
“It is hitting disabled people who need an extra room for essential home adaptations or equipment which enable them to live independently; seriously or terminally ill people who sleep on hospital beds and cannot share a room with a partner who cares for them and parents caring 24/7 for disabled children who need a room for a care worker to stay in to give them a night off from caring.
“None of these groups are exempt and our organisations are seeing the devastating impact it is having on those who now face a shortfall in their rent as a result of the changes.
“Nine in 10 disabled people and three quarters of carers affected are now having to cut back on food and heating to pay the shortfall in rent they face as a result of this policy.
“Our organisations are hearing time after time from disabled people, carers and families of disabled children who are being forced deeper and deeper into debt and falling behind on their rent, putting them at risk of eviction.”
The charities also claim that the DWP’s safety net of discretionary payments is not working.
“Our research shows that only a minority of disabled people and carers receiving support from the fund the government set aside to cover the shortfall in rent for disabled people. Those who are unable to access discretionary support are being hit with an average bill of £700 a year,” the letter states.
It continues: “Disabled people and carers are being left in constant fear of losing their homes. Even those who have received discretionary payments to cover the shortfall in rent now are being left with a deep sense of insecurity – knowing they may have to reapply for temporary support for the rest of their lives just to stay in their own homes.
“The Government must act now to exempt disabled people and carers from this policy.”
The latest official statistics show that more than half a million social housing tenants are affected by the bedroom tax. This is hitting disabled people particularly hard as:
- two thirds of housing benefit claimants affected by the tax are disabled;
- 100,000 live in specially adapted properties; and
- around 230,000 claim Disability Living Allowance(DLA)
- over three quarters (77%) of DLA claimants live in the social sector.
by Juhn Lash at 24dash.com, 24th Nov 2013: http://www.24dash.com/news/central_government/2013-11-27-Disabled-people-forced-to-cut-back-on-food-and-heating-to-pay-bedroom-tax-charities