As each day goes by, we are creeping towards 1st April. As we all know on the 1st, it is April Fools (until 12 noon), ironic that this is also a significant date in the Government’s Welfare Reform Agenda. Unfortunately the changes are not a joke and Cornwall will be heavily impacted in a number of ways. One item that I wish was a spoof, as the reality is going to be devastating to so many people.
The item in question is what is officially known as the ‘Housing Benefit Under Occupancy’ rule, or as it is more commonly known, The Bedroom Tax. Under the new rules, tenants (Pensioners are exempt) who are in receipt of Housing Benefit (HB) will be allowed one bedroom if they are single, or a couple. To qualify for an additional (one) bedroom the following criteria are applied:
- A child
- Two children under 10
- Two children of the same sex and up to the age of 16
- Each child over the age of 10 of the opposite sex
- other single people, or couples aged 16 of over
If a tenant in social housing (council house), has an additional bedroom(s), your Housing Benefit will be reduced. It should also be noted, this ‘tax’ will be applied even if you want to move to a smaller place, but cannot due to the lack of availability of either private or social housing available in your area.
Some people may argue that people sitting in homes with extra rooms should downsize, and allow their house to be better utilised. But I would say, yes in parts I could agree to this, BUT only if an alternative house is found is suited to them with help given to move.
If you find yourself in the position of having an extra bedroom the following rule applies:
One extra bedroom your HB will be reduced by 14% of your overall rent. Which is around £10 per week using the average Cornwall Council own rental prices*.Two or more extra bedrooms the HB will be reduced by 25% of your overall rent. This adds up to around £18 per week.
It is estimated the impact of the ‘Bedroom Tax will affect at least 1000 of Cornwall Council’s own tenants and at least 3,000 of the other Registered Social Landlord (RSL) tenants.
This extra burden on already hard-pressed residents is on top of Cornwall Council’s shocking decision to make those in receipt of Council Tax Benefit (CTB) pay 25% of their Council Tax. Worse is yet to come, as from April 2014 (for Cornwall), the Governments dreaded Universal Credit scheme will be in operation.
There are a few exemptions. Bereavement, or could afford to pay the rent for the last 12 months without claiming HB. Also tenants who need an overnight carer maybe considered entitled to an extra bedroom. Allowance may also be considered for an extra bedroom for an extra child. I am really unhappy with the words maybe, or considered for an extra room. That could lead to unnecessary extra assessments, leading to added pressure on families. Apart from those I have listed, there are no other exemptions that I have seen or been told about.
I would really urge anyone who is in receipt of the HB to get in contact with their landlords ASAP. Again, I have been told at least 400 of Cornwall Council’s tenants have raised their concerns about the implementation of this scheme. It is certainly not a good time to be on a low-household income in this Country and will only get worse!!
*Rents of other housing provide are higher than Cornwall Council rents and the exact amount of the reduction in benefit will depend on the actual rent