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02 April 2013

Welfare Defence Programme urgently needed in Wales as 'bedroom tax' hits

Community Housing Cymru (CHC), the membership body for housing associations in Wales, is today urging the Welsh Government to support a ‘Welfare Defence Programme’ to mitigate against the worst effects of Welfare Reform. Their call comes as the so called ‘bedroom tax’ is introduced – which will see 40,000 people in Wales lose on average £12 a week from their housing benefit.

The DWP have provided a number of ‘solutions’ for tenants affected by the ‘bedroom tax’ including encouraging them to downsize to a smaller property or applying to their local authority for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) to make up the shortfall, but CHC believe both ‘solutions’ have flaws.

Paul Langley, Senior Money Advisor at Community Housing Cymru (CHC) explains: “Tenants are not needlessly under-occupying larger homes, there simply aren’t enough one and two bed properties in the social rented sector. They could decide to move to a smaller property in the private rented sector, but this is a false economy. Take the example of a couple with two children younger than ten living in a three bedroom housing association property in Swansea where they receive £73 in housing benefit. If they move to a two bedroom property in the private rented sector to avoid the ‘bedroom tax’, they will be entitled to £103.85 in local housing allowance.

The notion that DHP will be a ‘solution’ for those affected is also unrealistic. CHC has been managing an advice line for tenants as part of the ‘Your Benefits are Changing’ campaign. Only 9% of callers affected by the ‘bedroom tax’ would be willing to move if a suitable property was available, 8% would be willing to take in a lodger, 6% felt they could make up the shortfall themselves with the majority requesting further information on DHP. The DHP pot for Wales for 2013/14 is estimated to be around £6.1m, meaning there will be a shortfall of around £18.86m for the coming year.

The real solution to the housing crisis is to build more affordable homes and, as part of the ‘Welfare Defence Programme’, we are calling on the Welsh Government to invest a significant portion of its consequential capital budget in affordable housing to enable more one and two bedroom homes to be built – an essential commodity to ease the problems caused by the ‘bedroom tax’.”

While CHC welcome the announcement that disabled children will be exempt from the ‘bedroom tax’ pending a decision from their local authority, this ruling does not apply to disabled adults or where the extra room is required for equipment connected with their disability. If disabled people in adapted properties moved into smaller homes, this could also cost the taxpayer millions more in costly home adaptations. Some 77% of people on Disability Living Allowance live in the social housing sector and two thirds of the people hit by the ‘bedroom tax’ are disabled.

Paul Langley is available for interview – please contact Edwina if you’d like to set up an interview:

[email protected] or phone 029 2067 4808 or 07791 898497.