On Wednesday 23 January there will be Westminster Hall debates on housing benefit and disabled people and on the under-occupancy of social housing and housing benefit entitlement – the bedroom tax. The debates have been secured by Jeremy Lefroy, Conservative MP for Stafford and Phil Wilson, Labour MP for Sedgefield respectively.
Contact a Family welcomes the debates which will shine a light on the ‘discriminatory’ rule due to affect families with disabled children in April.
Srabani Sen, Chief Executive of Contact a Family, said: “Contact a Family is extremely concerned that in April some families whose children cannot share a room with their brother or sister because of their disabilities and caring needs, will face a terrible dilemma: move to a smaller property that is unsuitable for their disabled child or face a cut in help towards rent. The Court of Appeal recently ruled the policy as discriminatory towards disabled children and their families. Contact a Family is calling for families in social housing to be exempt from the size criteria rules where their child’s disability is a factor in the size of property that they have been allocated.”
Families with disabled children often need an extra bedroom because their disabled child cannot share with their brothers and sisters. For instance a child with challenging behaviour may present a risk to siblings or a child with complex disabilities may require frequent or prolonged attention during the night which would be disruptive to anyone sharing their room.
Under new rules due to affect social housing from April, a family seen to under-occupy by one bedroom will have their housing benefit cut by 14%. If a family is seen to under occupy by two or more bedrooms the cut will be 25%. By the government’s own assessment 670,000 households are going to be affected in April 2013, with two thirds containing a disabled family member.
Last year Contact a Family campaigned for families with disabled children who need care through the night, to be protected from the bedroom tax. The House of Lords recognized the damage that the bedroom tax could cause and voted twice to limit its impact, however the government has pushed ahead with the policy.
The Contact a Family helpline has received many calls from families extremely worried about the situation. We are advising them to appeal the decision quoting the Court of Appeal case in Burnip/Burnip v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, and to apply for Discretionary Housing Payments when the cuts happen.
Families concerned about the impact of the bedroom tax should call the Contact a Family helpline for advice 0808 808 3555.
Families with disabled children who live in private rented accommodation are already being affected by the bedroom tax and meeting a shortfall in their housing benefit. These families should also seek advice about challenging their housing benefit award in line with the Court of Appeal decision.
About Contact a Family
Contact a Family is the only UK charity that provides vital support and information for families of disabled children whatever their condition or disability. Last year we helped 340,000 families to access life-changing help. Call the helpline 0808 808 3555 or visit the website www.cafamily.org.uk