Pensions secretary admits benefit restrictions could punish families
IDS hints at rethink over ‘bedroom tax’
The government could be set to water down its controversial plans to introduce a ‘bedroom tax’.
Speaking at the London School of Economics last Thursday, Iain Duncan Smith, secretary of state for work and pensions, gave the first indication that the government was considering a rethink due to the impact the proposals might have on families.
Mr Duncan Smith said: ‘We are talking to different groups as to whether this is going to be too much of a penalty.’
The Welfare Reform Bill, currently going through the House of Lords and due to come into effect in April 2013, allows restrictions on housing benefit based on property size.
The government has proposed that working-age tenants should only be entitled to claim benefit to cover one bedroom per person or couple. Same sex teenagers would have to share a room or the family would be penalised. This has angered many in the sector, who point out that even homes in which every bedroom is in use could be bracketed as under-occupied under this size criteria - forcing families to move to more cramped accommodation or face falling behind with their rent.
Andy Tate, policy officer at the National Housing Federation, said he hoped Mr Duncan Smith’s comments indicated the policy will be amended. ‘This bedroom tax will leave 670,000 households struggling to cope with losing between 10 per cent and 25 per cent of their housing benefit,’ he added.
The government has previously estimated that 670,000 families will lose on average £676 a year. But research from the NHF published today suggests a household under-occupying a three-bedroom home in London faces losing up to £1,385 a year. In the north west a family in a three-bed could lose up to £854 a year.
The NHF is backing an amendment by crossbench peer Lord Richard Best calling for under-occupation to be defined as having a minimum of two spare rooms. Lord Best said: ‘In real life, households sometimes need to have a spare room.’
Lord Best is also tabling amendments calling for tenants to opt for the choice of rent being paid directly to their landlord and for housing costs to be removed from the calculation of the total benefit cap.
Peers are likely to vote on the-amendment early next week.
Inside Housing is calling for fairer reform of the benefit system through its What’s the Benefit? campaign.