Bedroom Tax Fears for Worried Residents
Published by Anonymous for Two Rivers Housing in Bill Payments and also in Central Government, Housing, Local Government, Universal Credit
Over 60 worried residents crowded into Forest Golf Club last week to hear details of the Government's plans to cut benefits for people with spare bedrooms.
Affordable community homes provider Two Rivers Housing was on hand to provide advice and support for people who are facing a significant reduction in their incomes from April next year.
The Government is undertaking the most radical welfare reform for a generation, seeking to cut the welfare bill and focus on encouraging people to take responsibility for their lives.
Key to this drive is the introduction of a bedroom tax, which will mean anyone under pensions age on housing benefit who is living in a house that is too big for them will, from next April, have their benefits cut.
The move will affect thousands of people in affordable housing association homes. Two Rivers has over 350 homes affected by the bedroom tax.
One spare bedroom will mean a 14% cut in benefits. Two or more spare bedrooms will mean a 25% cut.
The not-for-profit community organisation is so concerned about the impact of the changes on their communities that it has employed a special Welfare and Debt Advisor to help people through the changes.
Rebecca James has experience of working at the sharp end of homelessness and destitution. She joined Two Rivers after four years working with homeless charity Shelter.
"The Government is keen to get people back to work and to cut dependency on benefits. They want people to take responsibility for their lives. There is an enormous shortage of affordable housing, so the tax payer shouldn't be paying for people to live in houses that are too big for them.
"But the bedroom tax will lead to real problems for many people. The housing shortage means there just aren't the spare smaller homes available for people to move into. We are building new homes – but not that fast.
"It's going to be a tough time for many people as their incomes drop dramatically. Many are already struggling to manage their finances.
"This could affect hundreds of our residents. We have written to them all, and have been working hard to publicise the changes. We will provide advice and support where we can, but at the end of the day this is going to be a significant challenge for many people," she said.
Two Rivers is holding events and sessions to brief residents on the complexities of the changes.
Other changes include:
- Merging all the benefits into one single individual payment – assessed by a remote centralised Government benefits team
- All claims must be made on the internet. No face to face or postal applications.
- Failure to inform the new Benefits Office of any changes in circumstances will be met with a £50 for each failure – cut from the single payment.
Rebecca said now is the time to ask questions and prepare.
"It's a really complex set of changes and every case will be different. Many of those who came along last week came up with some very intelligent and probing questions which really challenge whether the new system is workable.
"Whatever happens we will be here to help and support our residents through this. But if they have to face the choice between paying their rent or putting food on the table for their children, then we have some tough choices ahead of us as a society," she said.
Anyone who wants further information should ring their housing provider – for Two Rivers ring 0800 316 0807 and ask for the Welfare and Debt Advisor.