All in all ... The bedroom tax

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Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole examines the new 'Bedroom tax'.

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The Government has introduced changes to housing benefit, a benefit paid to help people on low incomes pay their rent. Claimants receive between £50 and £100 a week. From this month, the Government has introduced 'size criteria' to determine the number of bedrooms a family will need. This has led the Labour Party to call the changes a 'bedroom tax'.

The changes mean that households judged to have one spare room will lose 14 per cent of their payment, while those with two or more will lose 25 per cent. The rules allow for one bedroom per adult or per couple, children under 16 of the same gender are expected to share and children under ten are expected to share regardless of gender.

EXEMPTIONS AND DISCRETIONARY PAYMENTS

Some groups of people will be exempt from the changes, including families with adult children living at home who are serving in the Armed Forces and single pensioners, or pensioner couples where both are over 60. However, students must live at home at least six months a year to avoid the cut.

The Government estimates that 660,000 households will have to pay more, but it is expected that lone parents and disabled people on low incomes will be most affected. Some disabled people will be allowed to have a room for a carer, but if that person is also their partner, the couple will be expected to share. When a partner needs to sleep in another room for reasons related to disability, the couple will be able to apply for a discretionary payment from the local authority.

Families of 'severely' disabled children will also be able to apply for discretionary payments.

Concerns have also been raised about the impact on foster carers. Carers who foster one child are exempt, but those who have two or three bedrooms for fostered children are not.

WHERE WILL PEOPLE GO?

People will struggle to find housing. An investigation by The Nottingham Post found that among the 12 housing associations in the city, only 21 one-bedroom and 14 two-bedroom properties are available for 5,506 households.

WHAT ABOUT CHILDREN?

Inevitably, children will be affected by these changes: studies have shown that crowded homes have an impact on children's educational outcomes.

You can find out more about housing benefit here: https://www.gov.uk/housing-benefit

Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole is research fellow in Disability Studies and Psychology, Research Institute for Health and Social Change, Manchester Metropolitan University

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