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Bedroom tax impact on disabled tenants set to waste £40m

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Bedroom tax impact on disabled tenants set to waste £40m

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Communities

Disabled enduring 'shockingly high' level of discrimination Disabled enduring 'shockingly high' level of discrimination

More than £40 million of taxpayers' money is set to be wasted in Wales due to the impact of the bedroom tax on disabled people living in specially adapted properties, a new report has revealed.

The study, by social landlord Wales & West Housing, found that:

  • Of the 779 WWH homes assessed as being under-occupied, 74 have been specifically and in many cases substantially adapted for the needs of their tenants, at an average cost of £7,700 each.
  • As a result of the bedroom tax, almost half of these disabled households are now in arrears with their rent.
  • If all the disabled residents living in significantly adapted properties are forced to move home it is estimated £575,000 of public money will have been wasted in adapting their properties in the first instance.
  • Even if other, smaller properties were available, it is estimated a further £600,000 would need to be spent adapting these to meet WWH's residents’ needs.
  • It is estimated, therefore, that the total cost to the public purse of WWH’s 74 disabled households having to move would be well over £1m.
  • Figures from 21 of the 22 local authorities across Wales show that approximately 35,000 households in Wales have been affected by the bedroom tax. If 10% of these are disabled households – based on WWH's findings - the report estimates that around 3,500 disabled households with specific adaptations will have been similarly affected.
  • It is therefore estimated that the total cost to the public purse in Wales of the bedroom tax for disabled people in substantially adapted properties would be £40m - £25m having been spent on adaptations to existing properties, and £15m which would need to be spent on alterations needed to adapt new smaller homes, even if such properties became available.

Shayne Hembrow, WWH's deputy chief executive and commercial director, said: “Our research shows that the removal of the spare room subsidy from disabled people living in adapted properties in Wales makes no financial sense whatsoever. The cost of new adaptations wipes out the potential savings in housing benefit for many years.

“Wales is on track to waste at least £40m of public money as a result of the removal of this subsidy. At a time of intense financial pressure on government and local authorities we believe disabled people living in substantially adapted homes should be exempt from the regulations.

“Our research has also shown that over half of our disabled residents living in substantially adapted properties have fallen into rent arrears due to the removal of the spare room subsidy.

“Yet it is a pernicious, catch-22 situation for most, if not all, of them because there are simply nowhere near the required number of smaller properties available for people with disabilities to downsize into.”

WWH sent its report - 'Who Pays? -The Impact of the Removal of the Spare Room Subsidy on Disabled Residents living in Adapted Properties in Wales' - to Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, and is now sharing its findings, and the response from Lord Freud, Minister for Welfare Reform, with politicians, charities, faith groups and other stakeholders throughout Wales.

“We were profoundly frustrated by the response from Lord Freud, on behalf of the Secretary of State,” said Mr Hembrow.

“We understand the need for reform and the need to get to grips with public finances. We understand the need for change but not putting dogma before common sense, forcing disabled residents to downsize or continuously apply for discretionary housing benefit is an enormous waste of money and time. It makes much more sense to exempt these people from the removal of the spare room subsidy and thereby save the public purse millions.”

“I therefore call on all other social housing providers in Wales, and everyone who has an interest in this matter, to consider the findings of our report, and to themselves lobby for this deeply unfair policy decision to be revoked.”

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