Nick Harvey, Liberal Democrat MP for North Devon, has raised concerns in Parliament today about the need to prevent people with disabilities, adapted homes or medical needs being hit hard by the ‘bedroom tax’.
From April 2013 there will be a penalty applied to housing benefit payments if tenants have a spare room, designed to address under-occupancy of social housing.
There are fears, however, that some tenants – with, for example, specially adapted houses, noisy medical equipment or needing space for a wheelchair or a family carer – who have so-called “spare” rooms will be unfairly penalised by the changes.
While the Government has pledged to put an extra £30 million per year into the Discretionary Housing Payments scheme for foster families and disabled people living in adapted properties affected by the bedroom tax, the MP expressed concerns that this would not go nearly far enough.
Commenting, Nick Harvey said:
“It is vital that changes to Council Tax benefits do not adversely affect disabled or ill tenants, including those with specially adapted homes. There is already much anxiety about the changes, which a number of my North Devon constituents have raised with me.
“The Government has pledged £30 million to prevent these people being hit by the changes, but that will only average around £46,000 for each of the 650 constituencies in the UK. On the basis of the financial needs of the first few cases I have seen, this would perhaps only help around 25 households in each constituency. In my view the number affected in North Devon alone could run into hundreds.
“Ministers must look very carefully at the details and ensure the discretionary fund will be enough. I will continue to pursue this matter with the Department for Work and Pensions.”