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