Since April 2013 families receiving housing benefit and deemed to have too much living space by
their local authorities receive a reduced payment. Under the government’s so-called “size criteria”, families are assessed for the number of bedrooms they actually need.
Dubbed ‘the bedroom tax’ these recent changes in housing benefit affect less well-off council tenants, as well as those who rent from housing associations. It does not affect private sector tenants who are already subject to certain rules.
Chartwell, a completely independent insurance broker that offers a specialist service for disabled customers, thinks it is time to have a look at how this measure is affecting disabled people and where they can go for help. There have been several high profile cases in the popular media that serve to fuel misunderstandings about the issue, so Chartwell wants to make sure its customers have the facts.
The most common complaint about the bedroom tax is that it is thought to discriminate unfairly against disabled people in social housing because it fails to take into account the extra space needed for couples who cannot share a bedroom because of disability. There are also those who need the extra space to store their wheelchairs, other mobility aids and medical equipment.
Disability Rights UK has a detailed section entitled ’The Bedroom Tax’, which is a good place to come to grips with how this will affect you. The National Housing Federation has explained the facts very clearly in its comprehensive Bedroom Tax guide.
Contact a Family, an organisation that specialises in helping families with disabled children, offers important advice about the situation if your child’s condition prevents them sharing a bedroom with a sibling. Most importantly, it advises that you should make sure you contact your local housing benefit office to explain your situation.
The state of affairs with the bedroom tax is constantly under review as people mount appeals and challenges, so it pays to keep checking back on the relevant websites. Inside Housing reports of a woman with multiple sclerosis who won her appeal against Glasgow Council’s decision to deduct housing benefit for her spare bedroom, which was used by her husband.
The woman has to use an adapted bed and keeps medical equipment in her room so the couple cannot share. Judge Lyndy Boyd ruled that in this ‘very limited’ situation applying the bedroom tax was a breach of human rights.
Wales Online has reported the case that The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has taken up on behalf of Paul and Susan Rutherford, who are full-time carers to their grandson, Warren. His condition means that he needs a carer to stay overnight in a spare bedroom to give respite to the Rutherfords, who are themselves disabled.
The message here is that if you are in any doubt about the bedroom tax look for help. Organisations such as Shelter offer good advice and have plenty of experience in this area.