'Bedroom tax': More tenants apply for financial help

 
Stephanie Chapman Stephanie Chapman is facing a rent increase of £72 per month for her "extra" bedroom

Bedroom tax or spare room subsidy? The politicians may argue over the title but one fact can't be ignored.

That's the growing evidence of council tenants facing real financial difficulties.

New figures from councils in the East Midlands report a rise in the number of people applying for emergency financial help to avoid eviction.

It's known as the discretionary housing payment (DHP) and it offers a short-term cash lifeline.

Rent increases

Stephanie Chapman, from Leicester, is typical of many tenants seeking DHP help.

She cares full time for her mother and brother, who live nearby.

Home is a rented 1920s council house in the city's Knighton area, where she's lived for 13 years. It's got two bedrooms upstairs.

Start Quote

The government haven't thought it out. They haven't looked at people's circumstances. ”

End Quote Stephanie Chapman Council tenant

Stephanie showed me the downstairs box room that's now been deemed a spare bedroom. Under the government's welfare reforms, she'll have to pay an increase in rent or quit the property.

"I've measured it. It's just 63 sq ft. That's tiny," she told me.

"A young child could just about sleep in there but it's too small for an adult. In fact, it would be regarded as statutory overcrowding."

Her monthly rent will now cost Stephanie an extra £72.

That's why she's one of hundreds of tenants seeking emergency cash assistance.

"If there was any smaller accommodation in the vicinity, I would move but there just isn't," she added.

"The government haven't thought it out. They haven't looked at people's circumstances.

"Many tenants don't understand what is happening to them. When they get the letters through the postbox, it's 'oh my God'. Quite honestly, we're scared."

'Vulnerable people'
John Hess I saw just how small Stephanie's spare bedroom is

Since the introduction of the bedroom tax/spare room subsidy, councils in the East Midlands are reporting more people applying for DHP cash.

Nottingham City Council has dealt with 223 applications for financial help, a fourfold increase on April last year.

In Derby, it's 420 households, that's almost as many as the whole of last year. And in Leicester, there were 327 cases - six times as many as April 2012.

"I'm not surprised at those figures at all," said Labour's Leicester South MP Jon Ashworth.

"The government's got to rip up this bedroom tax. Lots of vulnerable people are being hit by it. It's so deeply unfair."

Mr Ashworth also warned that it could be a false saving as more tenants are forced into the private rented sector.

"They are going to be claiming more in housing benefit because there isn't the right sort of accommodation available. That's why I favour a huge house building programme," he added.

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Labour councils are folding their arms and whingeing rather than looking after their communities”

End Quote Mark Spencer Conservative MP, Sherwood
'Faulty' system

The government calculates there are one-and-a-half-million spare bedrooms in council homes across England and Wales and a quarter of a million families in overcrowded accommodation needing family-sized homes.

But critics say the the changes are a blunt instrument to free up more houses.

Not so, says Sherwood Conservative MP Mark Spencer.

"The government's recognised that people feel squeezed. That's why it's put an extra £150m aside to help with the discretionary payments to ease the changes," he said.

"We've got families living in overcrowded accommodation and people with spare rooms. We've got to mix it a bit to address the faults in the system.

"But it strikes me that Labour councils are folding their arms and whingeing rather than looking after their communities."

Mr Ashworth is outraged at such comments.

"This isn't about whingeing. Labour councils haven't got enough suitable housing for the people who need it.

"Tory MPs and Tory councils should instead look at why they always oppose building new homes," he told me.

Bedroom tax or spare room subsidy: when the political parties can't even agree on the language, you know the reform is highly controversial.

 
John Hess Article written by John Hess John Hess Political editor, East Midlands

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  • rate this
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    Comment number 19.

    I think Mrs Chapman has miscalculated her bedroom as 63sq ft. Looking at the picture I think she has made a mistake

  • rate this
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    Comment number 18.

    I thought that the room has to over a certain size before it can be classed as a bedroom

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 17.

    I despair at people who can support a government that are destroying millions of jobs, tax money being squandered on useless destructive wars which cause terrible suffering, selling off our country to the highest bidders while they're all feathering their own nests! People look the other way but comment about this awful bedroom tax.. I just hope you never become ill or unemployed!!!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 16.

    I just wish the whining tax payers, people who own their own homes and have a job would get their facts straight before they make judgements! I have lived in my 3 bedroomed house for over 20 years I needed the 3 rooms.. My circumstances changed dramatically as could yours. My home is boxed up in readiness to move but I've been told I have to wait until someone dies! IS THAT MY FAULT!!!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 15.

    Some people who have studied and worked hard all their lives but have fallen in bad times and may have lost their jobs and homes are also effected by this bedroom tax it is not all about those on full benefits I wish people would do their research before being so righteous its so frustrating no job is safe these days and i hope it never happens to you so do you research people before judging.

 

Comments 5 of 19

 

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