'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.

Start Quote

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

    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

    Comment number 18.

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

  • rate this

    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

    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

    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.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Stepping aside from the emotions in this debate, I do sometimes wonder if we overlook how fortunate we are here in the UK. Welfare safety net (that is what it's for), free health service, free schools et al.

    Having seen the atrocities in Syria last night on the news, are we seriously suggesting that the so called 'bedroom tax' is that critical for people in comparison?

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    we need to get this goverment out fast they killing of this country fast i dont like my own countryfrom 80s up to now , and how it as been ran over decades no one cares for the poor but only the rich, you are a goverment who cant do a job right at all . look after the rich thats all u do ,
    bedroom tax is a shambles so is the goverment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    I want a spare room!
    Can I afford one? No!
    My taxes are going to subsidise ithers and there spare rooms.

    No wonder our ecomony has gone to the dogs. The welfare system is there to support those who are in need but its not there to give them larger houses than the rest of us can afford.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    I am sure it tough for people I have family who are struggling
    But I am afraid you wont get too much sympathy from those of us who have studied worked hard and retired on reduced company pensions
    please remember what ever holes there are in the administration SOMEONE has to pay for it And like it or not we are a failing eonomy and we all have to cut our cloth to suit

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Duncan Smith, is behind these draconian cuts, standing to loose face, it will go to a bitter end. With outgoings greater than incomings it’s a disaster for many. The future will shock most and politicians don’t care. Evictions, homelessness, shanty towns, squats, illegal money lenders, vagrancy, crime & riots. This is social engineering by far right wingers, it will cost the vulnerable GREATLY

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    To tax these people with NO alternative offered, so that millionaires are gifted 10% lower tax is iniquitous. This government has shown it has scant regard for anyone but themselves and their cronies. They did not get a mandate at the last general election. Yet they oppress at every turn, those who have fallen on hard times or who are disabled. This is truly a Government of National Wickedness

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    The initial message was that 'Private' tenants received reduced housing benefit, based on occupancy, therefore 'social housing' tenants should be treated the same. Anyone who has experienced 'social' and 'private' rental will know that it is almost impossible to compare the two, as there are massive variations in quality and price, even within the two sectors.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    As I have said so many times,most people who have spare rooms in council housing or housing associations need to remember, that if you are living in a lets say,a 3 bed house and you are on your own, it is only fair that you make room for a family that needs that house. I do believe that it should be so. I myself live in a 3 bed with 7 people. And no,I am not on any benefits what so ever!

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Unlike many on here I am affected by the bedroom tax! A lot of people commenting who have no understanding what they are talking about so let me put you straight...

    I live in a 2 bedroom house there is NO 1 bedrooms available for me to move to. Now why is this my fault? If I move to 1 bedroom private I will COST the taxpayer MORE money. It's different system for privates.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    For this lady since she is a full time carer for her mother and brother I would say she should probably be made an exception as she is contributing sufficiently to society. Or better still, people who care full time for disabled relatives should be paid equivalent to the minimum wage for full time employment instead of benefits then she would be able to pay the rent as she is earning it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    63 square feet is a single bedroom. My spare room (in a house I own) is about 6ft 6 by 7 ft, about 45 square feet. I can fit a single bed in and have over 3 feet of space beside it. Hardly luxury but one can sleep in it, as do my adult visitors and quite a few children in identical houses to mine. But if you can't fit a standard single bed in then it shouldn't count as a bedroom.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Most working young people have to share or rent someone's spare room to get started in life if they can't live with family, so why should they pay tax subsidize people on benefits to have more space than they do?
    However, people who are disabled and it's not reasonable to expect them to share a room, or for another family member to share with them should be made an exception.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    If someone cannot afford to live on their own without substantial State aid then they should consider living with sharing with a friend or a relative, or even a stranger. Lots of people do this to pay their mortgage. To use an old idiom it's called "cutting your cloth to suit".

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    If I want to live in a home with more rooms then I need to move to a bigger home and pay a bigger mortgage!! So what's the problem here?

    Some people should be grateful for what they have!!



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