Research out last week by Carers UK found three-quarters of carers who had been affected by the cuts had cut back on essential spending on food, electricity and heating, while 17% were falling behind with their rent and were facing eviction.
The ‘bedroom tax’, introduced on 1 April, means working-age council or housing association tenants cannot receive housing benefit for unoccupied bedrooms. Affected families face losing £14 a week on average or £700 a year.
Disabled people are allowed an additional room if they require overnight care from a non-resident carer. However, there is no exemption for people who care for their spouses and need an additional room to ensure they get sufficient sleep. The government has set aside £25m in discretionary payments so that councils can protect disabled people and carers from the impact of the changes. However, while 57 of the 101 carers Carers UK spoke to for its research applied for such a payment, just 10 had been given one that covered their shortfall in housing benefit for a full year. A further 12 had been given a shorter-term discretionary payment, meaning they would have to cover the shortfall when it expired.
“This policy is having a shocking impact on families already struggling to care for seriously ill or disabled loved ones,” said Carers UK chief executive Heléna Herklots. “Carers, whose contribution is often warmly praised by ministers, are being made to feel like they are being punished”
Over 100 letters are being sent to Prime Minister David Cameron from carers who are being affected by the new policy after he promised to look at individual cases of families including disabled people who are affected.Carers UK spoke to 101 carers affected by the ‘bedroom tax’ from 28 June to 9 July. Of those interviewed:
8% had been excused from the changes because the rules allow extra rooms for disabled children who cannot share with other siblings and to accommodate an overnight, non-resident carer. Of those not receiving a discretionary payment to cover the shortfall in rent, 75% were cutting back on essential spending like food and heating and 17% were in rent arrears.
Seven carers had moved as a result of the changes, though of these three said they had moved to better accommodation.29% were also facing additional council tax payments as a result of the replacement of council tax benefit by local council tax subsidy schemes
Source: Community Care
16th July 2013