So who will be affected, dispute what David Cameron said at PMQs on 06/03/13 there is no exemption for people with disabled children or a if you have a disabled partner or spouse. The council does have a fund for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) to try to help families facing hardship and the Govt advice is to apply for this. But the DHP budget for ipswich is £289,363 in total now this may seem like a lot but let me put that figure in context. That is for ALL DHP payments not just to mitigate the hardship imposed on disabled families. Last year the council paid out about £110,000 on DHPs and that was before the “Bedroom Tax” the estimate is that if we pay out to all the predicted DHP requests the fund will be exhausted in 13 weeks.
Now people with a disabled child may not be able to downsize and another group that will face problems with downsizing is non resident parents. If you are divorced or separated and your children live with your ex and spend time with you then you will be hit by the “bedroom tax”. As a single father I know who important it is for your child to feel they are safe and secure and have their own space. I’ve shared bunk beds with my son when I first got divorced and slept on a sofa and shared a bed. I am now fortunate enough to live in a two bedroom apartment and my son has his own room.
Yet another group that will be affected is Foster Parents, Fostered Children will not be counted when assessing the number of occupants. A letter signed by the chief executives of 11 charities including Barnardo’s has been sent to Iain Duncan Smith and George Osbourne voices their concerns. It states “there is already a recruitment crisis in foster care with 9,000 new foster carers needed. These new rules will make it even more difficult fir people in social housing to become foster carers at a time we urgently need more to come forward. The government proposed these changes to address residential under-occupancy and to provide incentives for employment. Nether of these rationales is relevant to foster carers, who are required to have a spare room in order to provide homes for vulnerable children”
When questioned on these issues the DWP response “we are providing 30 million to councils to ensure that some groups are protected” but as I said earlier the money that each council receives will not cover the needs of the groups.
It is expected that as councillors from April we will be getting a lot of casework around the changes in benefits its essential that we have good working relationships with partners like CAB,Shelter and Debt advise services like the Ipswich and Suffolk Credit Union.
UPDATE: On Govt U-Turn, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has said the government will introduce new regulations to “clarify” the impact on two groups.He said the 5,000 approved foster carers in the UK would continue to receive rent payments towards an “additional room” as long as they have fostered a child or become an approved foster carer in the previous 12 monthsFamilies with adult children serving in the armed forces will also be exempt from the changes, even when on overseas deployment. They will be treated as if they were continuing to live at home.