New exemptions from the bedroom tax come into law

From 1st April 2017 the rules are changing to allow an additional bedroom for disabled children or non-dependent adults who require overnight care and for couples who are unable to share a bedroom for health reasons. Previously people in these circumstances could have been subject to the bedroom tax.

The ‘bedroom tax’ means that working age people who get help towards their rent through Housing Benefit can have the amount they receive restricted if they are considered to have too many bedrooms.

Ever since the policy was proposed Carers UK have campaigned for it to be scrapped. We’ve argued that these bedrooms are not spare but needed by families providing care.

In November the Supreme Court ruled in favour of two families; Carers UK member Paul Rutherford and his wife Susan care for their profoundly disabled 14-year-old grandson, Warren, and live in a specially adapted home, which has a room for a care worker to stay when providing overnight care. This had been deemed as a spare bedroom and, as a result, their housing benefit had been reduced.

The Court also ruled in favour of Jacqueline and Jayson Carmichael, who are unable to share a bedroom due to Jacqueline’s severe disability.

To reflect the Court’s ruling the Government has changed the law to create further exemptions for carers from the Bedroom Tax. This means that from the 1st of April:

  • A couple that could not share a room because of a disability – could now have an additional room. This is already allowed for disabled children that cannot share a bedroom with another child.
  • A child that is disabled – may need overnight care from someone other than the parent/s and may need an additional bedroom can have one.  This was previously allowed for a disabled adult, but not for children.

Although we are delighted that the law is being changed we are concerned about the way the change is being communicated to local authority staff in charge of Housing Benefit as the guidance given to them appears to attempt to  limit the kinds of health conditions that could result in an extra room.

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This is how much the bedroom tax is costing your council

The money was supposed to last a year – but new figures show 84 per cent was spent in the first six months

Councils in the West Midlands are in danger of running out of cash to help poor residents hit by government housing reforms.

Birmingham has spent 35% of its £3.8 million handed out to help deal with housing issues like the “bedroom tax” – meaning more than £1.3 million has been shelled out.

Meanwhile, Dudley council was given an extra £672,883 by ministers last April to help deal with problems caused by the so-called ‘bedroom tax’, the introduction of a benefits cap, and reforms to other housing benefits.

The money was supposed to last a year – but new figures show £564,556, or 84%, was spent in the first six months.

Some £432,800 went on helping people hit by the bedroom tax, which removed extra help with rent for those deemed to have a ‘spare’ bedroom.

Wolverhampton council had spent 47% of its £806,530 allocation by September, while Sandwell had spent 41% of its £1,029,913 and Coventry 41% of its £788,669.

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Bedroom tax revenue in Caerphilly is close to £4m

IT HAS been revealed that the bedroom tax has cost Caerphilly county borough council tenants almost £4m in three years.

Freedom of Information Act requests show that since the tax was introduced in 2013, council tenants have paid out an additional £3,780,945.

They also show that while 95 tenants who were affected by the spare room subsidy have downsized or moved to alternative council accommodation, 1,921 are currently continuing to pay the tax.

Councillor Colin Mann, leader of the Plaid Cymru group, said: “These figures show the impact this awful tax is having on many council tenants, who are forced to pay more rent to stay in their homes. This comes at a time when many are struggling to meet food and energy prices.

“We have always stood out firmly against the bedroom tax and have campaigned for its abolition ever since it was introduced. It should be scrapped but the heartless UK Government shows no sign of doing so. They seem intent on making the poor poorer.”

The information also reveals that the additional amounts collected across Caerphilly county borough has risen each year.

In the 2013/14 financial year, the council’s estimated total amount paid by tenants due to the tax totalled £1,211,409, before going up to £1,261,884 the following year.

Across the 2015/16 financial year, it is £1,307,652.

Cllr Mann, ward member for Llanbradach, added: “There is not the suitable alternative accommodation available for many people so tenants have no choice but to extra pay rent.

“The introduction of the bedroom tax also meant the authority had to bring in additional support staff.”

A Caerphilly Labour group spokesman said: “It’s disgraceful that some of the hardest-hit residents in Caerphilly county borough have had to bear these unfair charges. We put the blame for this squarely at the door of the last government, which imposed the bedroom tax, while also cutting budgets of Welsh Government and councils.

“Despite this, Caerphilly CBC has invested in dedicated resources to support tenants affected by the bedroom tax.

“I had to get my local MP to intervene due to DWP staff laughing at me down the phone when I was requesting letters etc in braille.

……..”I would have my benefits delayed, not weeks but months to be processed and in the mean-time I had nothing to live on. I ran up debts for my utility bills and council tax etc and this confounded bedroom tax for a box room smaller than my toilet. When they were finally sorted I was sanctioned. Why? For spending too much time at the cancer units and not enough time looking for a job. Sanction after sanction after sanction.”………

This is an extract from a letter published on Welfare Weekly.

Read the rest of it here:

Cut after cut has left a disabled woman with nothing to live on

Bessie has been hit by a succession of cruel blows by the DWP. She even ended up pawning her inherited jewellery just to eat and stay warm

When a UN inquiry ruled last week that Britain’s austerity policies amount to a “systematic violation” of disabled people’s rights, it was talking about people like Bessie.

Bessie, 51, has agoraphobia, Asperger’s and complex mental health problems, and for the last three-and-a-half years she’s lived the reality of Conservative cuts. First came the bedroom tax, taking with it £12 a week. Then she was told her lifetime disability benefit would be scrapped. And now, as the latest cruel blow, Bessie – who’s received out-of-work sickness benefits since 2012 – has been declared “fit for work”. “You get over one thing and then another hits,” she says quietly. “It’s horrendous.”

I first spoke to Bessie in 2013, six months after the bedroom tax was brought in. It had been years since she had been well enough to earn a wage – before that, she worked in her late dad’s shop and then lived off some savings – and scraping by on benefits was always hard. The evidence of that was all around her then and still is today. There’s no oven or microwave in Bessie’s kitchen. No freezer either; she got rid of that to save money. When her washing machine broke, she couldn’t afford to replace it – not even with a second-hand one.

But it was the bedroom tax that meant, for the first time in her life, Bessie was pushed into debt. With her savings gone and struggling to pay the bills, by October 2013 she had six months of rent arrears, as well as for water, gas, and electricity.

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“The system makes us depressed”: The impacts of the ‘Bedroom Tax’ on children and their education

Research from the Manchester Institute of Education shows the dangerous conswquences for children in the households affected by the Bedroom Tax.

……..We conducted a small scale exploratory project, interviewing staff at 20 schools, housing associations and community organisations, and 14 parents impacted by the ‘bedroom tax’. In the interviews we asked about what people thought the impacts of the policy on children and their education were, if any.

Our analysis indicates that children are perceived to be impacted by the ‘bedroom tax’ in a number of ways. Some of these impacts relate to basic needs. For example having less food in the house and the heating being on less often.

One mum told us “I mean a loaf of bread isn’t going to keep me dry or keep me warm, or keep them warm or keep them dry. So you’ve got to pick that and that’s the hard bit”.

Parents we talked to also told us about the difficulties of children of significantly different ages (e.g. 6 and 15) sharing one bedroom, and the problems this raised for getting homework done. They also reported an increase in their own mental health problems, which they suggested impacted negatively on their children. Children were reported to worry about the possibility of moving.

Beyond the impacts which were seen within the house, participants also reflected on the impact of the policy on local communities and the feelings of particular groups of society being persecuted.

Representatives from schools also told us that hungry children were struggling to settle with their work, which may potentially means impacts for children beyond those in households directly impacted by the policy.

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Tories’ hated bedroom tax defeated in Supreme Court giving hope to 600,000 families struggling to pay

(Please note: Jayson and Paul wins are significant victories but disabled people in adapted housing affected by the bedroom tax did not win and neither did the case of victims of domestic violence in sanctuary housing affected by the bedroom tax. They will still have to apply for DHP on case by case basis)

In a devastating blow to the hated policy, seven justices of the Supreme Court found in favour of Paul and Sue Rutherford, who look after their severely disabled grandson Warren.

The government has been defeated in the highest court in the land over the bedroom tax .

In a devastating blow to the hated policy, seven justices of the Supreme Court found in favour of Paul and Sue Rutherford, who look after their severely disabled grandson Warren.

They also backed the Carmichaels , who are unable to share a bedroom due to Jacqueline Carmichael’s severe disability.

The Rutherfords have been fighting for three years against the levy, which is charged on a room used to store Warren’s equipment.

Born with rare chromosomal disorder Potocki Shaffer syndrome – which affects the development of his bones, brain and other organs – teenage Warren needs round-the-clock care which the Rutherfords provide.

Because he has epilepsy and autism, skeletal problems and learning difficulties, Warren’s home was specially built for him as a three-bedroom bungalow to allow space for his equipment and for respite carers. Yet his grandparents are still charged £60 a month “spare room subsidy”.

This is despite the fact Paul and Sue save the taxpayer thousands of pounds a week by caring for Warren at home.

The Mirror has backed the Rutherfords since the beginning of their fight, along with many of the other families as part of our Axe the Bedroom Tax campaign.

Since the Supreme Court hearing in February, the fate of seven families have lain in the hands of in seven judges – as the Rutherfords’ case was heard alongside six other cases.

They included a victim of rape and domestic violence paying the bedroom tax on a home with a panic room – a reinforced attic with security devices provided by police.

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“I don’t know what else I can do” – mother makes urgent plea over housing for disabled daughter

The mother of a disabled woman is at her wits’ end as she desperately searches for appropriate housing

Wendy Morris is having to carry her 24-year-old daughter Rebecca, who suffers from Rett’s syndrome, over her shoulder to a tiny downstairs shower from a makeshift bedroom in the lounge.

She has been doing this for the past eight months, after carrying her daughter up the stairs proved too much at their property on Dennis Hall Road, in Amblecote.

Rett syndrome is a rare neuro-developmental disorder. It can cause severe physical and mental disability, starting in early childhood. The condition affects approximately one in every 10 to 12,000 females and is only rarely seen in males.

Mrs Morris had thought there may be an end to her having to struggle carrying her daughter after being put on Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council’s urgent housing list, but 12 months later they are still waiting.

“I don’t know what else I can do. I have called the council thousands of times,” says Mrs Morris.

She also believes the wait has been prolonged because an occupational therapist has concluded they must have a bungalow, despite there not being any available.

She said: “Every time I try to offer a solution they say no. They say we can’t have a stair lift, or an internal lift.

“I suggested a bedroom and shower room downstairs but they said that would take me over the room limit.

“I am willing to pay to extra bedroom tax, but they still said no.”

readmore here:

I have now pitched a tent in my bedroom as I can’t face another winter freezing

From my facebook feed:

“As I am hit by 2 x bedroom tax, this year I am taking note of how the South Korean’s kept warm when their energy bills went sky high (I’ve done a lot of googling). I have now pitched a tent in my bedroom as I can’t face another winter freezing and can only afford to put the heating on to stop the pipes freezing, hopefully this will be an improvement on last year when I spent all the time when I wasn’t working in bed with a onesey (tights and t-shirt under this), thick walking socks, jumper, hat and 2 x hot water bottles. On another note I think romance in my life has died lol”

Poorest pensioners to lose hundreds of pounds a year in ‘new bedroom tax

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.

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