‘Bedroom tax’ is still hitting tenants hard

Anti bedroom tax demo
Anti bedroom tax demo

Controversial welfare reforms are continuing to hit residents hard - despite hundreds of ‘discretionary’ payments being handed out.

It’s been a year since the so-called ‘bedroom tax’ was introduced by the Westminster Government.

The new rules allow one bedroom for each person or couple living in a council or housing association property.

Those who have one extra bedroom face a 14 per cent cut in housing benefit – with two or more resulting in a 25 per cent cut.

But housing chiefs say there has been confusion - with some tenants believing the tax had been scrapped.

It’s thought that the misunderstanding comes from a combination of a now-closed loophole which meant a number of households were temporarily exempt, and the number of council payments being awarded to help those worst affected.

Council leader Rhondda Geekie says she’s had to put a number of constituents right.

She said: “There has been a lot of negative publicity around the under occupancy rules for Housing Benefit and complaints about how it has impacted on people, especially those with disabilities or particular medical needs.

“While dozens of tenants benefitted from the one-off loophole last year and we have awarded 450 Discretionary Housing Payments, it is important to stress that the new rules are still in place and those who are affected need to ensure that they are addressing the impact and paying any additional rent that they are now due as a result of any benefit reduction or seeking help.”

Michael Devlin, director of Antonine Housing Association, and Stephen Macintyre, director of Hillhead Housing Association 2000, both added their voices to the warning.

In a joint statement they said: “It is important to clarify this confusion. Tenants will continue to receive advice from the Associations on how they can be assisted in making up any shortfall in their rent payments.

“Tenants struggling to meet their rent payments should apply to East Dunbartonshire Council for a Discretionary Housing Payment.”

Catherine Bradley, manager of East Dunbartonshire’s Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), added: “We’ve had a number of customers asking if the benefits changes have been scrapped, and the answer is a categorical no.

“At CAB we can advise people on how to budget or assist with an application for DHP to cover additional rent for which they are now liable, but the cause of those additional liabilities is very much still in place.”

To contact CAB call 0141 775 3220. For more advice, or to apply for a Discretionary Housing call 0300 123 4510.