A (bedroom) light on the horizon?

2 April 2014

Rosanna Singlerby Rosanna Singler

We’re pleased today that MPs have recognised that disabled people are being hit hard by the spare room subsidy or ‘bedroom tax’. We have said for a long time that people shouldn’t be penalised for having a disability and an influential group of MPs has agreed with us.

The Work and Pensions Select Committee's report says:

  • When someone is living in a home that has been significantly adapted for them, they should not be expected to pay the extra money to continue living there.
  • If there is no accessible home for a person to move to, then their housing benefit should stay at the same level. This would help hundreds of thousands of disabled people who often cannot find smaller places to live without making expensive adaptations.
  • Everyone getting the higher rate of Disability Living Allowance or the new Personal Independence Payment should be protected, as should anyone who needs an extra room for medical equipment or for a carer to stay.

The government says it is offering support to help vulnerable people, but the help is not getting through.

If someone has more bedrooms than the government says they need, they now get on average £14–16 a week less housing benefit towards their rent than last year. This might not sound much but it could add up to more than £800 per year. And for disabled people who can’t work, this could mean having to eat less or turn off the heating.

People might have an extra room because they need round the clock care. Or they might not be able to share a room with their partner because of disrupted sleep. No-one chooses this — and no-one should have to suffer as a result.

So, could we be seeing the bedroom tax start to topple? The Labour Party and several large charities — including Carers UK, Crisis and ourselves — have criticised the policy for some time, but so far the government has refused to change the rules. However, it seems that, with a general election looming, the Liberal Democrats may finally be responding to public pressure. The Liberal Democrat president, Tim Farron, said today that the party will no longer support the policy.

Public opposition to the bedroom tax is also high. A poll last year found that three in five people want it repealed. This is no surprise to us — we know that the public wants to see disabled people treated fairly. Everyone wants to know that if they became disabled tomorrow, they would be supported, not penalised because of it.

Help us to keep up the pressure on the government: join our campaigns network now.

Rosanna Singler is Leonard Cheshire Disability’s policy officer.

This article was edited on 17 February 2015 to clarify the amount people could lose per week.

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