THE controversial ‘bedroom tax’ is seeing more council house tenants plummet into debt as they struggle with the changes, new statistics have revealed.
Figures released by trade union the TUC showed that a third of families affected by the policy, which sees benefits slashed in homes that have spare bedrooms, had fallen further behind with their rent since its introduction in April.
Suman Antcliffe, advice session supervisor at the East Staffordshire Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), said they are seeing an increase of people in desperate need of their services as they spiral into arrears.
She said: “It has had quite an impact as several things have hit these people at once. There are two things that have most affected people subjected to the bedroom tax.
“The first is the council tax benefit being scrapped for people below the pension age and replaced with council tax reduction.
“Unfortunately the council is given less money so it is impossible to give people the same amount of money as they would have had on council tax benefit.
“This means that they have to pay some of the council tax themselves now.
“The second is they also have to pay the bedroom tax if their houses are too big for them. With only £71.70 jobseekers' allowance, paying the bedroom tax and less council tax it is nearly impossible for them to pay it all when they have to pay things like utility bills as well.
“There are also other issues as people keep saying it is not just a building but their home and some have emotional attachments.
“It is difficult for some when they have lived in the house nearly all their life, some even as children, and then they are being told they have got to move because it is too big.
“They are told they are going to be subject to bedroom tax but are not given keys to move somewhere smaller. There is no place waiting for them.
“These people are being punished when it is not that easy to go. It is not an instant process.”
One case the CAB staff have come across involved a single woman suffering from progressive multiple sclerosis and living in a two bedroom social housing property.
The flat has been adapted for her at the taxpayers’ expense to ensure she can stay at home but she has now been hit with the bedroom tax.
Ms Antcliffe added: “This applies to everyone with disabilities. It is a waste of public money as well as being traumatic for the client.
“There is a discretionary housing fund where the council is given some money to help people like this but it is not an ongoing solution and a lot of people have similar problems.
“These are the sort of issues people are coming to see us with. There is no flexibility with the bedroom tax and no local discretion.”