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02/04/2014 - Bedroom tax a failure one year on

bedroomtaxA BBC investigation suggests the government's controversial changes to housing benefit have failed to achieve one of the main aims of the policy.

The Government said the ‘bedroom tax’ (brought in on the 1st April 2013) would encourage people to downsize and reduce Housing Benefit costs. Ministers claimed that cutting the spare room subsidy, described by critics as the "bedroom tax", would free up under-occupied homes and reduce over-crowding.

However, a year on, figures suggest that just 6% of tenants have moved with 28% of tenants falling into rent arrears.

Commenting on the findings, chief executive of the think tank Demos, Claudia Wood, said:

“In reality, a chronic shortage of smaller properties means many cannot move. Today's figures show over 1 in 4 households affected have fallen into arrears for the first time, and if the problems worsen then evictions come at a price. Evicting someone can cost over £5,000.

"Even those who are able to move turn to the private sector - where sky-high rents lead to higher benefit claims.

“The inevitable consequence of this poorly considered policy is it fails its main objective – saving the Government money - and creates a huge amount of hardship in the process.

On the impact the bedroom tax has on vulnerable groups, Claudia Wood added:

“The policy has caused 365 days of stress and hardship to some of the most vulnerable groups in society.

“420,000 people - two thirds of those affected - are disabled, losing out on a combined £200 million as a group every year.

“For them, a 'spare room' often isn't spare at all, but absolutely essential for storing life-saving equipment and for carers to sleep in. At the same time, older people - many of whom under-occupy and looking for help to downsize - have been excluded.

“A blunt financial penalty is an ineffective and expensive way to identify who does genuinely have spare room and could move with the right support."

Patrick Harrington, general secretary of the Solidarity Trade Union, said:

"We have been very concerned by rising rent arrears and the way the bedroom tax impacts on disabled people in particular. One year on it we can see it does more harm than good. It should be scrapped."