In April 2013 there were some changes to Housing Benefit for people who live in social housing (council or housing association properties). These changes are commonly referred to as the 'Bedroom Tax', though they are a reduction in benefits, not a tax.
Why was the change introduced?
Reducing housing benefit is one of a series of measures intended to reduce welfare spending.
The rationale for the change is that people living in social housing should not receive housing benefit to live in a home that is bigger than they need (the Government uses the term “spare room subsidy”).
They believe that this will free up accommodation which is under-occupied by encouraging people to move to smaller accommodation.
Critics of the changes say that this will particularly impact vulnerable families who cannot afford a cut to their housing benefit. They also say that it is difficult to move to smaller accommodation, because there is a shortage of this type of accommodation in many areas.
When was the change be introduced?
From the 1st April 2013 people in social housing (council or housing association properties) who were considered to have more bedrooms than they require stopped receiving their full housing benefit. Housing benefit was restricted to the number of bedrooms that a household needs (using the same criteria as for people renting in the private sector).
The criteria states for each household:
- A child over 16 years of age is entitled to have a bedroom of their own
- If children are of the same sex they will be expected to share a bedroom (until one of them reaches 16 years of age)
- Children who are not the same sex will be expected to share a bedroom (until one is aged 10 years of age).
This means that if you are a single parent with one child, living in a three bedroomed council or housing association property, you would receive a cut of 14% of your housing benefit.
If you have more than one extra ‘spare’ bedroom you will lose 25% of your housing benefit
If your children don’t normally live with you, they are not given a bedroom allocation in your accommodation. If you share the care of a child, the child is counted as living in the home of the person who gets child benefit for them.
A number of single parents have queried what is counted as a bedroom for the purposes of these changes.
For instance, a single parent household might have a small box room or a bedroom room which they consider is too small for two siblings to share. Single parent households want to know whether such rooms would be counted as part of their bedroom allocation.
Try this Bedroom Tax Calculator to see if you will be affected.
Are there people who are excluded from this change?
- Foster carers are allowed an additional room as long as they have fostered a child or become a registered carer in the past 12 months
- Adult offspring in the armed forces who are away on operations will be counted as continuing to live at home, as long as they intend to return home
- Children with severe disabilities where they are unable to share a bedroom
- There is also a limited discretionary fund available (through local authorities) to support "Other priority groups", including "People whose homes have had significant disability adaptations and those with long-term medical conditions that create difficulties in sharing a bedroom"
However, because people with disabilities are a significant group impacted by these changes it is unclear how far this fund will stretch to help all those in need.