Bedroom Tax Will Hit Disabled People Hardest – Papworth Trust

taxpayer_funded_property07:20 Wednesday 13th March 2013
Bigger Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

[P]AUL STAINTON: From April, people living in social housing will be charged a fee if they have a spare room. But Cambridgeshire-based Papworth Trust believes the changes will unfairly impact on disabled people living in social housing. .. Yesterday the Government announced some changes. They announced that there would be exemptions to this’ armed forces personnel and foster carers would be exempt, but not the disabled. Well Nina Zamo is Policy and Campaigns Officer at Papworth Trust. Morning.
NINA ZAMO: Morning.
PAUL STAINTON: And that’s the rub here, isn’t it really? If you are disabled, and you need that spare room now and again, you’re going to be in a bit of bother.
NINA ZAMO: Yes. That’s absolutely true. The reality for many disabled people is actually that their spare room is in use because of their disability. It might be that they’re using it to store medical equipment, or things like wheelchairs. They might have an overnight carer or something like that coming to stay. So people really do need their spare bedroom. It’s not just a luxury that the taxpayer is paying for.
PAUL STAINTON: Were you surprised that the Government announced some exemptions yesterday for foster carers and for the armed forces, but left out the disabled?
NINA ZAMO: I don’t think I was surprised. I think obviously those groups of people are quite small numbers of people. Unfortunately around 60% of the people who are going to be affected by the under-occupation penalty will be disabled. So a large majority of people will not be made exempt from it, and therefore it’s quite easy for the Government just to exempt smaller groups like armed forces and foster carers.
PAUL STAINTON: And this is going to affect disabled people in a big way. If they lose that spare room, that bit of space that they need, how will that make life harder for them?
NINA ZAMO: The average reduction in the East of England is going to be about £13 a week, so people are going to have to find that money from some other places. I’ve already spoken to people who’ve said I’m going to cut back on my heating, or I’m going to cut back on food in order to pay for it. Unfortunately in a lot of cases it’s not really possible for people to move to another property. We’ve got a real shortage of accessible and adapted properties for disabled people to live in at the moment, never mind finding smaller one and two bedroom properties. I spoke to a lady in South Cambridgeshire who’s been told that there’s a five to six year wait just for a one bedroom accessible property from the local council, so it’s a real problem unfortunately.
PAUL STAINTON: So there’s only one option really isn’t there, for a lot of people? You’ve got to pay it somehow.
NINA ZAMO: Yes. That is the reality unfortunately. There aren’t really many other options for people.
PAUL STAINTON: What can you do? What can the Papworth Trust do to try and help?
NINA ZAMO: The Papworth Trust is campaigning on the issue. We’re speaking to Government about it. We’re also collecting stories from people about how they will be affected by the bedroom tax. If they’d like to get in touch with me that would be absolutely fine. We’re looking to speak to the Government, and convince them that actually a spare bedroom isn’t often very spare. It’s usually in use.
PAUL STAINTON: The trouble is, if they keep on exempting groups of people, you mentioned that 60% of people that are going to be affected by this are going to be disabled in some way. They’ve exempted the armed forces. They’ve exempted foster carers. It won’t be worth bringing in, will it?
NINA ZAMO: Well unfortunately yes, that is the large majority of people that are going to be affected tend to be some of the most vulnerable people in society. They’re the people who are going to be living in social housing. We do recognise that there are many families who live in overcrowded housing, and in theory we’re not against the idea of helping those people who are perhaps under occupying and would like to move to smaller homes to do that, and helping those families living in overcrowded housing move into a home that’s the right size for them.
PAUL STAINTON: Is this morally fair, the changes to housing benefit, do you think??
NINA ZAMO: That’s a tricky question. I think unfortunately for disabled people it’s going to have a real impact, and if we’re trying to help the most vulnerable people in society and make sure that they’re protected, I think it’s a bit of a tricky one for the Government to justify.
PAUL STAINTON: Nina, thank you very much for coming on this morning.