Riverside urges MPs to keep the pressure up on bedroom tax
Published by Riverside for Riverside in Housing and also in Central Government
Housing association Riverside is urging MPs to ensure there is a rigorous evaluation of the impact of the Welfare Reform Bill.
Riverside has written to all MPs in constituencies where it has over 50 homes. The housing association, which owns or manages around 50,000 from Irvine to Ipswich, estimates that nearly 7,000 of its tenants will be affected by the bedroom tax, losing £5 million per year in housing benefit.
Hugh Owen, Director of Policy and Communications at Riverside, said: “We are very concerned about the impact of benefit cuts on our tenants and the business, having campaigned against a number of aspects of the Welfare Reform Bill as it went through Parliament.
“While the Welfare Reform Act is now on the statute book, there are still changes the government can introduce to help mitigate the impact including undertaking a comprehensive review of the policy. We are asking MPs for their support in ensuring that any evaluation is undertaken quickly, independently and thoroughly. It also needs to be sufficiently broadly scoped to consider the financial impact of the policy, its impact on individuals and the wider neighbourhood impact.”
He added: “We are also calling for the government to ensure guidance is such that the penalty is not imposed unfairly. Within the bedroom tax, there is a lack of distinction between a bedroom being occupied by one person or two people. This means that people in certain property types are particularly vulnerable to having benefits reduced, even when they don’t physically under-occupy their home, because of the technical definition of under-occupation. We are asking the government for sufficient flexibility in the guidance to take a sensible line and not apply the bedroom tax where there is clearly no physical under-occupation.”
Even though there are limited opportunities for tenants to avoid many of the changes that are being introduced, Riverside is trying to mitigate the impact under its B!G Changes campaign.
Riverside is targeting those at risk to explain their options, including seeking to downsize, take in a lodger and ‘stay and pay’.
Riverside also has an 11-strong Money Advice Team who provide telephone and face-to-face advice to tenants, helping them maximise their income, reduce their outgoings and deal with debt. Between April and December 2012 the service secured over £1m in unclaimed benefits and reduced rent arrears by more than £130,000.
For more information visit: www.riverside.org.uk/national/the_big_changes.aspx