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JAYNE SMITH, a partner at Nottingham law firm Rothera Dowson, is worried about welfare reforms impacting vulnerable people in the county.
Kids won’t leave home? Hold tight – they might come in handy if you’re on Housing Benefit and rent from local authority or housing association.
The Welfare Reform Act 2012 is changing the way councils calculate Housing Benefit. From April 2013 a spare bedroom will mean a 14% cut. Two (or more) and they’ll chop 25%. Hence the name: Bedroom Tax.
If your house is now too big for your needs, councils will suggest you get a job, or work longer hours, or ask family members to contribute more, or take a lodger. Or they’ll help you move to “more appropriately sized social rented accommodation” or suggest you try the private sector. But in many areas there just aren’t enough smaller places to move into.
Among the affected are ill and disabled couples. They’ll be expected to share one bedroom.
Foster carers are worried too, as the rules expect two children under 10 to share a bedroom, regardless of gender or personal history. These carers provide a priceless service for society. There’s talk of a discretionary cash fund to help them. But no guarantees, and you can’t apply until the changes actually affect you.
Then take vulnerable single people with mental health issues. They may have always lived in the family home, rented from the Council. Their parents sadly pass away. That three bed semi was fine when the family lived there. But disability now rules out work, and they’re frightened at the thought of taking a lodger, getting into debt, or moving house - their support network is local. In some cases their health will be seriously affected, and that won’t help our hard-strapped NHS.
These changes are driven by the Government’s need to balance the budget. And judging from George Osborne’s Autumn Statement yesterday there’s more pain to come.
If local authorities can’t operate the new Bedroom Tax in a fair and humane way, some might view the Welfare Reform Act as the “Well Unfair Act.”
And don’t get me started on Amazon and Google’s tax arrangements – it’ll make me choke on my Starbucks ….
For more information please contact Jayne Smith on 0800 088 6018.