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'Blow to thousands' as Government forges ahead with 'bedroom tax'

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'Blow to thousands' as Government forges ahead with 'bedroom tax'

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Published by 24publishing for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Communities, Local Government

'Blow to thousands' as Government forges ahead with 'bedroom tax' 'Blow to thousands' as Government forges ahead with 'bedroom tax'

Thousands face being "driven into poverty" as a result of the Government forging ahead with plans to cut the housing benefit of social tenants with spare rooms, the National Housing Federation (NHF) has warned.

Today in the House of Commons, MPs voted by a margin of 316 to 263 – a majority of 53 - to reject the Lords' compromise amendment to the Welfare Reform Bill.

Peers in the House of Lords had voted to protect vulnerable groups living in homes with one spare room where alternative accommodation couldn't be found.

Under the Government's plans, 670,000 working age social tenants - two-thirds containing a disabled family member - face losing an average of £14 per week from April 2013 because they are deemed to have one or more additional bedrooms.

It hopes to save £490 million from the £23 billion annual housing benefit bill from the measure.

David Orr, chief executive of the NHF, said: "Today’s result is a blow to thousands of families in social housing across the country, many of whom are already struggling to make ends meet.

"That nearly 80 organisations, from disability charities to mortgage lenders, and peers and MPs of all parties, came together in support of this change to the Welfare Reform Bill shows just how important this issue is.

"But today our voices, and those of tenants, have been ignored. This unfair bedroom tax will penalise some of Britain’s most vulnerable families for under-occupying their homes when they have nowhere to move to."

In December the Lords voted for a compromise amendment to protect families with just one additional bedroom if no suitable alternative is available. Earlier this month, the Government claimed financial privilege and rejected the proposals.

A week ago the Welfare Reform Bill again returned to the Lords. Peers voted for another compromise amendment to exempt disabled people, war widows and foster carers with nowhere else to move to.

But today in the Commons the Government again rejected the Lords’ proposals.

The Government has announced an increase of £30 million in the discretionary housing payments aimed at some of the most vulnerable to be hit by the cuts — those living in adapted properties and foster carers. Others in vulnerable situations can also apply to the fund where they have difficulty meeting the shortfall.

David Orr added: "The financial cost of this modest compromise would have been tiny - a fraction of the money lost yearly through administrative error in the benefit system.

"But the social impact of rejecting it will be devastating. This bedroom tax will hurt some of Britain’s most vulnerable families, forcing many into poverty.

"Discretionary Housing Payments are not an appropriate response. The funds are insufficient and won’t even be ringfenced to protect those they are supposed to help.

"We will be working hard with housing associations to make sure these unfair proposals do as little damage as possible to the lives of social housing tenants."

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