Some home truths about the bedroom tax
17 July 2014
by Tony Richards
For the last two years, most disabled people receiving housing benefit and living in council houses have had less money to live on because of the spare room subsidy, commonly dubbed the ‘bedroom tax’.
The aim was to encourage people on housing benefit to move to a smaller place and free up homes for bigger families. But it is pretty clear now that this policy has been a disaster for disabled people who need a spare room — and two-thirds of people affected by the tax are disabled.
Disabled people might need a ‘spare’ room to store vital equipment, or for care workers to stay over. These rooms aren't luxuries, they're necessities.
What's actually happened is that fewer than 1 in 20 of people affected by the changes have actually moved. Instead, six in ten people — that’s over 300,000 people — are seriously behind with their rent.
We are pleased that Nick Clegg has said today he no longer supports the bedroom tax, which he said is influenced by the government’s research. We think all political parties should be concerned about the impact of the tax on the disabled people who need money for wheelchairs, hoists and other support, not to cover extra rent payments.
But whatever happens with this particular benefit change, it points to a wider problem — affecting all disabled people, whether or not they rent or own a home and receive housing benefit. There simply isn’t enough suitable housing for disabled people. That's why yesterday we helped Sue to tell her story across the country. She has been trying to find a disabled-friendly home for two years.
Imagine if someone in Sue's area wanted to move because of these benefits changes — it doesn't seem likely they could.
Our ambition is to ensure that all new builds are to Lifetime Homes standards and 10% are fully accessible. This will provide disabled people the choice to live in homes that are suited to their needs. This is a far better outcome than punishing vulnerable people for ‘making a choice’ to take up a spare room when that choice never existed in the first place.
Over 1,000 people have now signed Sue's petition calling for more disabled-friendly homes. If you haven't yet, please sign the petition now.
Tony Richards is an intern on Leonard Cheshire Disability's Change100 scheme.