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Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith defends the “Bedroom Tax”

Published in Comment, News at 13:00, Wednesday March 13th, 2013.

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From April 1 2013, changes to housing benefit by the UK Government will mean that working-age recipients could face a cut of 14% to their payments for one spare bedroom, and a 25% cut for two spare bedrooms or more.

Critics have labelled the cut a “Bedroom Tax”. Here, Iain Duncan Smith, Work and Pensions Secretary, outlines the UK Government’s argument for the change.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith

There’s nothing fair about making families wait and wait for a house that is big enough, while other households on benefits are allowed to live in homes that are too big for their needs, at no extra cost.

Many working families in Caerphilly cannot afford the luxury of having spare bedrooms, and the Government cannot afford to pay for bedrooms that are not being used.

That’s why from April Housing Benefit claimants living in social housing with spare bedrooms will be expected to make a contribution towards the rent for those spare rooms.

I know there’s been a lot of debate over this policy – our Spare Room Subsidy – and of course I understand some people will have concerns. That’s why I want to explain the changes we are making, why we need to make them and how individuals will be affected.

On average, the extra charge for claimants will be £14 a week. Some people will decide to take up work or work a few more hours to cover the difference. Others will want to move to more appropriately sized accommodation or take in a lodger.

This change will bring Housing Benefit for social housing claimants in line with what happens in the private sector already.

But more fundamentally the Spare Room Subsidy will help us get a better grip of our social housing – and give hope to those households in Caerphilly who are currently squeezed into overcrowded homes.

Of course there will be situations where it would not make sense for people to move, or where personal circumstances mean that extra support will be necessary. That’s why we have given £155 million to local authorities to help with these cases. This includes £30 million targeted specifically at helping disabled people whose homes have been adapted and for foster carers.

Pensioners and people living in temporary accommodation will not be affected by these changes. People who need a spare room for an overnight carer are also exempt, and bereaving families will have a year before the policy will affect them.

Councils and housing associations across the country are getting ready for this reform by running housing swaps, and other innovative programmes that will make it easier for people to find the right accommodation for them.

These changes are about fairness. Better use of social housing can be made in Caerphilly, helping more families into their own home, whilst keeping the welfare budget under control. At the same time we will make sure that people in difficult situations are protected. That’s fair.

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  • Helen

    Oh dear he seems to have missed out the workhouse test and itinerant workforce. I wonder how he managed to conveniently forget the two fundamental principles behind the tax.

    Perhaps Mr Smith in his tax payer funded home, could confirm that there is sufficient social housing of appropriate sizes to accommodate those forced from their homes. If not then why not and could he also confirm that rents in the private sector will not be higher and that people will not be forced to abandon a secure tenancy for a short term one in the private sector.

    When talking of fairness it would be interesting to know why a single person aged 65+ should be rattling around a three bedroomed family home when someone of 64 is an unfair burden on the state depriving families of homes.

    Slum landlords for the disabled and non-working poor passing the new welfare/workhouse test. Along with short term tenancies for the working poor in social housing and the added advantage of bolstering the buy to let market. This is the reality of the bedroom tax and talk of fairness is merely the window dressing to sell it to the masses.

    I do hope Mr Smith and his fellow MP's are not under-occupying their tax payer funded homes and profiting from state subsidy.

  • Trefor Bond

    I am surprised, but pleasantly so, that `Helen` who in past has lauded the forthcoming, Tory, Universal Benefit system, as a wonderful innovation for benefit claimants, which I predict will cause even more of an outcry than this odious tax on hard working families and `Poor` `Genuine` benefit claimants, there are such people, is now defending them against this obnoxious additional financial burden.

    The fact is that the government should have created a moratorium period during which all social landlords would work with tenants in finding agreement on smaller accommodation where the tenants would agree to move to avoid the additional payment for under occupied rooms. In cases, during that moratorium period, where people refused point blank to give up an over sized property for a more reasonably one suited to their needs then it is these tenants who should be required to pay this additional rent, ( although I don`t think it should apply at all it is not a fair tax). The fact is that neither the Caerphilly Council in our case, nor, any of the local Housing Association have sufficient, suitable, smaller, vacant properties, for effected tenants to transfer into.

    It is difficult to disagree either with the sentiments expressed by Helen about these government ministers own living arrangements.