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By Ian Dipple Thursday 17 April 2014 Updated: 18/04 08:18
THE MAJORITY of residents in social housing have been unable to escape the ‘bedroom tax’ union bosses claim.
Members of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) say their research shows thousands of people on low-incomes have had to try and cope with significant cuts to their housing benefit since the change last April and as a result are at risk of building up a mountain of unpayable debts.
Redditch Borough Council has already seen the amount of rent it is owed increase as a direct result of the changes, but declined to say by exactly how much.
The removal of the spare room subsidy - or bedroom tax as it is dubbed by its critics - means those living in social housing are allowed only one bedroom for every adult, couple or person over 16, one bedroom for any two children under ten and one bedroom for any two children of the same sex aged less than 16. Any extra would result in a cut to the money they received.
More than 500 people across Redditch were affected with 417 people seeing their benefit cut by 14 per cent or almost £511 a year for having one spare room with another 114 losing 25 per cent or over £952 a year.
Research carried out by council officers at the time showed a fifth of them planned to cope with the cut by moving to a smaller property.
But the TUC figures show the number of households subject to the bedroom tax has fallen by just 9.4 per cent in the last year, which it says is proof the Government’s claims people could avoid the cut by moving to a smaller home, taking in a lodger or earning their way out of housing benefit were false.
Rob Johnston, Midlands TUC regional secretary, said the changes had not stopped the welfare bill from rising.
“Ministers seem not to know about the nationwide shortage of single bedroom social homes nor are they aware of any of the many valid reasons why tenants need more space than the Government says they do.”
But Liz Tompkin, head of housing for the council, said the use of the Government’s discretionary housing payments was helping those most affected in the short-term while some people still intended to move but needed more time to do so.
“Some have been able to absorb the reduction in benefit and have stayed put,” she said.
“And from the policy perspective, a year one improvement of 9.4 per cent in the number of social homes in Redditch that are under-occupied is not insignificant.”
Redditch MP Karen Lumley said the reform was about levelling the playing field between private rented accommodation and social housing. She added pensioners were exempt and provision had been made for disabled, foster carers and the armed forces.
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