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07 May 2014

CHC responds to debate on 'bedroom tax' abolition and calls on WG to support YBAC campaign

Community Housing Cymru (CHC) welcomed today’s debate (May 7) in the Senedd calling for the removal of the UK Government’s spare room subsidy, also known as the ‘Bedroom Tax’.

The ‘bedroom tax’ was introduced in April 2013, under the UK Government’s Welfare Reform Act, to cut the amount of housing benefit people receive if they are deemed to have a spare bedroom in their council or housing association home.

CHC’s Group Chief Executive Nick Bennett said: “We have campaigned against ‘the bedroom tax’ on behalf of the thousands of people around Wales affected by this policy. There are simply not enough smaller properties to move people to. Thousands of those affected have had their homes specifically adapted for their needs and if people move to the Private Rented Sector, they may end up receiving more in local housing allowance, meaning it will cost more in the long run.

“People have had their lives turned upside down as a result of this policy, by moving out of homes they have lived in all their lives, by struggling to make rental payments or even facing homelessness. Our research found that rent arrears fuelled by the 'bedroom tax' stood at £1.1m six months after the policy’s introduction in April 2013.

CHC believes that a lack of smaller properties available means only 750 people living in social housing have successfully downsized to a smaller property, leaving 97% still affected by the 'bedroom tax'.

In response to the welfare changes, CHC set up the ‘Your Benefits are Changing’ (YBAC) campaign to communicate the changes to tenants. The aims of the YBAC campaign are two fold; to raise awareness of the changes and to provide independent and free advice to those affected through the YBAC money advice team.

CHC is calling on Welsh Government to support the Your Benefits are Changing campaign and that more joined up action is needed to extent advice, awareness and affordable credit as well as more action to extend digital access to stem the spread of poverty in wales.

To date YBAC advisors have spoken to almost 8,000 people affected by welfare cuts, they have restructured budgets to manage £1.7m of non priority debt, identified £1.3m of water related debt, helped 700 people to claim a warm home discount and identified £390,000 of unclaimed beneftis.

The campaign has gained the backing of over 70 organisations who are working in partnership with CHC.