Thousands of poorer pensioners will be hit by a new “bedroom tax”, despite the Government’s promises to protect the elderly from the hugely controversial benefit cuts.
They are poised to lose at least £300 a year because their homes will be deemed to be “underoccupied”, slashing their incomes or forcing them to move – away from family and friends, or to flats that are unsuitable for older people.
In some cases, the financial pain will be greater – one housing association has identified pensioners in part of the North who are set to lose a staggering £1,700 a year.
Over time, hundreds of thousands of pensioners will be affected by the little-noticed measure, which extends tough benefit restrictions in the private rented sector to council and housing association homes.
It has been condemned by Labour MP Frank Field, who told The Independent: “Having previously been protected from the viciousness of the bedroom tax, large numbers of poor pensioners now look set to have their living standards cut by the Government’s new strategy.
“My fear is that the great success over the past two decades in countering pensioner poverty could begin to unravel if this stealthy strategy goes ahead in its current form.”
And Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK, said: “Imposing the cap on older tenants will not only cause them anxiety and distress, it is also pointless given the lack of affordable housing options available to them.
“It will create hardship without any significant financial gains for the Government.”
The original bedroom tax was one of the coalition government’s most controversial policies, cutting housing benefit for social housing tenants – but not pensioners – with spare rooms.
Ministers argued that forcing “underoccupying” households to move would free up larger homes for families living in cramped conditions, as well as save £465m a year.
However, it became clear that the vast majority had no smaller homes to move to and suffered steep benefit cuts. One woman confronted David Cameron, telling him: “People have died from the bedroom tax.