Disabled hardest hit by bedroom tax and other benefit cuts - report
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Communities
Disabled enduring 'shockingly high' level of discrimination
Disabled people are being hit hardest by the government's welfare reforms, a new report has concluded.
Housing association Habinteg's 'What price independent lives?' study found that two thirds of its tenants affected by the controversial bedroom tax are disabled people.
Habinteg's analysis of its tenancy data six months since the introduction of the benefit cuts revealed the following:
- Only a third of its disabled tenants affected by the bedroom tax had been exempted from paying by local authorities.
- 56% of its tenants living in wheelchair standard properties have not yet been given exempt status from the bedroom tax.
- Only 15% of tenants who receive disability living allowance (DLA) but live in general needs properties have been given bedroom tax exempt status by their local authority, raising concerns that disabled people in this group may be faced with additionally reduced income when tested for eligibility for personal independence payment (PIP).
Additionally, Habinteg found that a localised criteria for bedroom tax exemption has created a new postcode lottery for disabled people, with an inconsistent and unpredictable approach which varies between local authorities.
The report notes that most of Habinteg's bedroom tax victims are preparing to “stay and pay” in order to keep their existing property. According to Habinteg, the "chronic shortage" of wheelchair standard and accessible properties means downsizing is not an option.
Where councils do not agree exempt status, Habinteg is supporting tenants to apply for Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP). However, many are being refused DHP support, with three out of four of the report's case studies being turned down.
Some tenants have been given DHP support by their local authority while others in similar circumstances have been refused. Habinteg says the inconsistency makes it difficult for housing providers to manage their response and support tenants.
In light in of the report's findings, Habinteg is now calling on the government to repeal the bedroom tax, especially in respect of disabled people, review its stance on universal credit which will not cover service charging on disability-related adaptations and revise plans to cut benefit payments under the transfer from DLA to PIPs.
A Habinteg tenant who featured in the report as a case study said: “I can’t begin to explain how stressful this whole process has been. It was a trauma to work out what I was going to do. I kept thinking why would they do this?
“I never believed that moving was an option as the lack of a purpose built one bedroom wheelchair accessible home gave me no choice but to find a way to pay."
Habinteg's chief executive, Paul Gamble, said: “Our report shows clearly the disproportionate impact from combined welfare reform policies on disabled people and highlights the very serious risk that the basic right to an independent life is threatened by the increased financial burden.
“We want the government to acknowledge, understand and act on the cumulative impact of its welfare cuts agenda on disabled people. We are calling for the repeal of the bedroom tax, especially in respect of disabled people along with other steps to ensure their on-going right to independence and inclusion in their homes and communities."
Habinteg provides affordable accessible homes and support services across the country, managing 3,300 homes across 81 local authorities. One in three of its properties are designed specifically for wheelchair users.
Baroness Rosalie Wilkins, vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Disability Group, said: “Habinteg’s new research provides a rallying cry for choice, independence and equality. Independent living is a right not a privilege. The way in which the bedroom tax cuts the incomes of disabled people at a stroke and impinges on their ability to live independently is something that must be challenged.
“I fully endorse Habinteg in their efforts to persuade the government to listen to the evidence, call a halt to the bedroom tax and rethink a welfare benefits programme that is unfairly impacting on disabled people.”