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Opinion: Facts show welfare reforms are hitting disabled people harder than most

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Opinion: Facts show welfare reforms are hitting disabled people harder than most

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Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Care and Support, Central Government

Opinion: Facts show welfare reforms are hitting disabled people harder than most Opinion: Facts show welfare reforms are hitting disabled people harder than most

Paul Gamble (pictured), chief executive of specialist housing provider Habinteg, hopes the government is willing to listen to today's recommendations from the Work and Pensions select committee.

Today’s calls from the House of Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee to scrap a range of housing related benefit cuts are well timed and will be welcomed by many, including a large number of our tenants.

In tune with the national picture, two-thirds of Habinteg tenants affected by the Social Sector Size Criteria [bedroom tax] are disabled people, 47% of whom live in wheelchair standard properties.

Not only is the bedroom tax mainly hitting disabled people, but disabled tenants have few options in response. Living often on lower incomes with higher costs, disabled tenants judged to be under occupying their home are further disadvantaged by the national shortage of accessible homes and lack of available smaller properties. If they do have the opportunity to move, disabled tenants could also face the loss of the very adaptations that make their home viable for them, let alone vital support networks and established care arrangements.

So we’re completely in agreement with the committee’s recommendation that anyone living in a home that has been adapted for them, or is in receipt of higher level DLA, should be exempt from the bedroom tax.

We’re also pleased to see the committee raise the patchy approach to Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) across the country. Feedback from our local teams (operating in over 80 local authorities) shows that needs assessment for DHP varies hugely from one authority to another with some taking Disability Living Allowance (DLA) into account when assessing applications.

DLA is a payment to cover the extra costs arising from disability. It’s not extra spending money and as such the committee rightly recommends that authorities should be directed to disregard it from DHP means tests.

On top of all this, many disabled tenants who previously received council tax benefit now have to also find between £3 and £6 a week for council tax. Few of us would simply shell out on a bill of £150-£300 a year without flinching, but the policy of localising council tax support means that many disabled people are expected to do just that.

The committee also highlighted the negative impact of government policy on the supply of social housing, as resources are consumed on initiatives to help tenants weather the storm. Like many associations we’re working hard to help tenants stay on top of their finances, and we support the Committee’s call for funding to providers to mitigate this expenditure and protect the sector’s ability to build new homes.

The evidence is clear and mounting that the cumulative impact of welfare reforms is hitting disabled people harder than most. This cross party report is a welcome wake up call for government and we hope they are listening.

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