The Effect of the “Bedroom Tax” in Ipswich

I know before I start some people seem to take exception to the phrase “Bedroom Tax” and would prefer we used some other term, I believe “spare room subsidy” is the prefer choice but the fact of the matter almost every one knows it as the “Bedroom Tax” and the phrase is in common use amongst politicians council the media and the public. I know language is important but so is ensuring people know what we are talking about so “Bedroom Tax” it is.From April council and social housing tenants who receive housing benefit and who have been assessed by the governments “size criteria” to have two many bedrooms will have there housing benefit cut. If you are deemed to have one spare room your benefit will be cut by 14% if you have two or more spare rooms it will be cut by 25% .So how will this effect people here in Ipswich. The combined number of households in Ipswich both council and social housing affected is 1574. This amount various from ward to ward for example in my ward that I represent Stoke Park 223 households face a hit from the “Bedroom Tax” where as in Bixley for example 6 households are affected.

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.


About glenchisholm

Former Mayor of Ipswich Suffolk, Labour Cllr for Whitehouse, all opinions my own and do not reflect organisations I represent, Si-fi geek and Raiders fan
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10 Responses to The Effect of the “Bedroom Tax” in Ipswich

  1. Pingback: “Bedroom tax” could hit more than 1,300 in Ipswich | Ipswich Spy

  2. IS/BR says:

    CLAIM: Disabled children are exempt from the bedroom tax

    FACT: In the original bedroom tax legislation, there was no protection for disabled children who needed their own room. The Court of Appeal ruled that disabled children should be entitled to their own bedroom and not be forced to share with a sibling.

    Perversely, the Government is now fighting to have this protection removed. But if the family has two extra bedrooms, the second ‘spare’ room means they will be hit by the bedroom tax anyway – even if the ruling is upheld.

    CLAIM: People who need round-the-clock care are exempt from the bedroom tax

    FACT: People who have non-resident carers – such as visiting care workers – may be protected if they have a spare bedroom. But there are many people who get round-the-clock care from a spouse, and because of their health, their partner needs another room to sleep in. In this situation – which is the reality for many across the country – they won’t be protected and will be hit by the bedroom tax.

    If they have two spare bedrooms, the second room will mean they will get a cut to their housing benefit, regardless if they have a non-resident carer or not.

    CLAIM: Pensioners are exempt from the bedroom tax

    FACT: This is true of most pensioners. But mixed-age couples – where one is a pensioner and the other is not – who make a new claim for help for housing costs under the all-in-one Universal Credit benefit – will be hit by the bedroom tax.

    Whatever you were told Glen, and whoever told you it, they need to check their facts. IF it was at an IBC training event, I suggest they update their own training before misleading councillors.

    • glenchisholm says:

      I have not giving any misleading facts and some of the things you are pulling me up on are not included in my Blog, I am aware that pensioners are exempt and I made no reference to them as I said I was talking about the people who would be affected. I also made no reference to round the clock care workers I mentioned partners or spouses who are carers which in your own response confrims they are not exempt,The infomation we were given is that if one of the family is disabled and needs their own bedroom this includes children they are not exempt as it said on fact check Under the new rules, the full benefit will only be paid if under-16s of the same sex share a room, and under-10s will have to share regardless of gender. And the expectation is that this will apply to disabled youngsters too.
      The training was an IBC training event and could be confrimed with the one tory who turned up to our session before leaving early after answering his phone.

    • glenchisholm says:

      But I still dont see how in any way I have given missleading infomation in fact the links confrims everything I have said, The one exception being the effect on disabled children I was under the impression that the legal challenge brought by the children was ongoing and there seems to be conflicting infomation around this area.I also posted this on `streetlife` and there has been a debate ongoing with interesting points being raised on both sides of the debate

  3. IS/BR says:

    I saw that you’d posted on Streetlife and you’ll see I’ve also raised an some comment on there about some of these points. The legal challenge for disabled children is being appealed by the DWP, but it isn’t certain the Supreme Court will even hear the appeal.

    On the Street life site at least one contributor was so confused by Labour’s insistence on calling this a bedroom tax he thought the government would be taxing rooms.

    Can you explain to me, and your readers, why someone in a council house should be entitled to more rooms than their family circumstances mean they need, but someone in private rented accommodation isn’t entitled to that help? Since Labour changed the rules to exactly these for privately rented accommodation.

    The only change the coalition is making is to bring social and council housing in line with the private rented sector.

    And we’re not even talking about a huge amount of money here – in Ipswich it will be £10 per week for a spare bedroom and £19 per week for two. So yes it will mean that some, like those who already live in private rented accommodation, will have to find a little extra towards their rent. Guess what. Labour already forced all those (including the disabled) to do this for the privately rented sector. The court case on disabled children came about BECAUSE of the changes LABOUR made.

    It is all very well changing your mind, if that is what the Labour party has done. But firstly apologise for the mistake made in forcing through this policy in the private rented sector, and secondly explain how you will pay for the increase in housing benefit payments, currently £21 billion.

    It is all very well for Labour to oppose this policy, even though it is merely a logical extension of their own policy in Government, but if they want to be taken seriously as an alternative Government, they have to say how they would find the savings needed to balance the budget. All we hear from Labour is that they wouldn’t cut here or there. OK so where WOULD you make savings?

    • glenchisholm says:

      But if a spouse of a diabled person, A disabled child or a child of a non resident parent is using the room its not a spare room, The reason they are in socal housing is because of their circumstance and they are in a position where this and other changes will be loaded on them and have a stacking effect on top of them. Its not just labour who think this policy is ill thought out as do shelter also children and disabled charities and even now some Tory Mps are calling for a rethink.

  4. IS/BR says:

    This isn’t a policy that is particularly targeting social housing Glen, it is a Labour policy being extended to its natural conclusion.

    The policy, designed by the last Government, is fairly regimented when it comes to the application of the rules on how many rooms various people are entitled to. It is to deal with the very rare cases of unfairness caused by the rigidity of the rules that the coalition has boosted the DHP fund. Whilst it may seem that the £289k from Government may seem like not much, the limit is 2.5 times that amount – which means that IBC can give out up to 700k in DHP. At a rate of £10pw this will easily cope with all of the needs.

    That is, of course, if you can get a quick decision from the Housing team. I note that no Labour councillor is yet jumping up and down about the number of claims that take more than 2 months to be processed by SRP. The housing and benefits teams seem to be under huge pressure and don’t seem to be up to it. Maybe the budget you just passed wasn’t quite so clever.

    You still haven’t explained why it is satisfactory for this policy to apply to the private rented sector, where many on benefits pay much higher rents and the consequence costs them much more money, but it isn’t ok for the policy to apply to the social housing sector, despite the subsidised rents? The financial effect of Labour’s changes in this area were far worse to those on benefits. But we didn’t hear a peep out of Labour MPs or Labour councillors then. Why was that?

    • glenchisholm says:

      last year the DHP payments where around £110,000 before the changes that are coming in and we have been advsied that the £289,363 will not go far I am not aware of any addtional funds to that I will have to look into that , It is in no way satisfactory that people in private rents pay this, as I said there is usually a reason why people are in social housing and they could not afford private rents (although some want social rent payments to be drastically increased to the same level as private which goes against there point in the first place),As for not shouting about it at the time I was not a councillor or was I even active on social media or bloging at that time or actively invloved in local politics . the issue with SRP I have had some casework around some of the issues that I have been dealing with

  5. IS/BR says:

    Yes the DHP has been massively boosted. The way it is calculated is that next year you will get the mid point between what you were awarded this year and what you spent. So if IBC spend more than the DHP “grant” they will get a bigger grant next year. It is up to you councillors how much you want to give to DHP over and above that which is required by HMGov.

    If people are in social housing and on benefits (and most in social housing are not on benefits I think) then they will be just as likely to be able to afford private rented sector, since whilst they are on benefits the rent is paid. I grant you that if they then get a job the subsidy makes life much easier for those who are lucky enough to have social housing. But many don’t qualify.

    I realise you weren’t an activist back in 2008/10 when these rules first came in Glen. I guess I am more frustrated that your colleagues, many of whom have been around a long time, supported these policies when Labour introduced them. There is a certain amount of hypocrisy when they then slam the Tories for extending them to their logical conclusion.

    SRP has some real issues. Since most of these are officer issues, I won’t go into them online. But remind me when I next see you Glen!

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