May 132012
 

 

 

 

DISABLED PEOPLE AGAINST CUTS

 

www.dpac.uk.net

 

HOUSING AND HOUSING BENEFITS- BRIEFING NOTES

 

Linda Burnip

01926 842253

0771 492 7533

linda_burnip@yahoo.co.uk

mail@dpac.uk.net

 

The future prognosis for disabled people’s housing is grim

 

  • Already 30% of disabled people live below the poverty line and 1 in 4 families with disabled children can’t afford heating.

 

  • The Chartered Institute of Housing has calculated that the cumulative effects of the coalition’s proposals mean that by 2020 every tenants’ Housing Benefit will be too low to cover their rent.

 

Changes to Housing Benefits from April 2011

 

The size criteria will be adjusted to provide for an additional bedroom for a non-resident carer ( ie not a member of your family who shares your home) where a disabled customer has an established need for overnight care. This must be claimed for and will not be awarded automatically.

 

While this is a very small positive change it still totally fails to address the lack of an extra room for disabled children who need an extra bedroom, pensioner and other couples who need an extra room due to their medical needs, and a wide range of other disability related factors which mean disabled people need extra housing space including the need for space for dialysis, room to store equipment, room to use a wheelchair, ground-floor and level access accommodation. The recent DWP Select committee into LHA said that these factors were posing considerable barriers to independent living and should be addressed urgently but still have not been. In essence the overall proposed changes to LHA will simply increase these barriers.

 

From January 2012 – Under 35s

 

Any single  person under 35 years of age renting in the private rented sector who is disabled but not in receipt of middle or higher rate DLA care component will not be able to claim for more than a shared room rate. As DLA is now being scrapped we currently have no idea of the full impact of these 2 changes together.

 

The difference between the LHA for a one-bed property and single room rate is almost 50% and inEdinburghthe one bed rate is £114.23 per week compared to £66.92 per week. It is generally agreed that there are not enough houses in multiple occupancy for everyone who needs to move to be able to do so. ssac’s own report estimated this move alone to change Housing Benefit could lead to 11,000 people becoming homeless.

 

Disabled people who are most likely to be disproportionately affected by these changes are those who most need to live in peaceful surroundings such as those with Mental Health and Neuro-Diverse impairments.

 

From October 2011

 

The Local Housing Allowance has been set at the 30th percentile rent in each Broad Market Rental Area, rather then the 50th percentile as before. Disabled people will only be able to afford to rent in the cheapest properties in an area, which are more than likely to be inaccessible.

 

This will also increase the difficulties disabled people face in finding suitable accommodation to live independently , increase homelessness amongst disabled people and push disabled people further into poverty especially if DLA recipients are cut by half a million as planned by DWP.

 

The proposed changes to the 30th percentile, rather then the median, rent being used to calculate LHA from October 2011 will only make these matters worse than they already are and will constitute serious breaches of UNCRPD particularly article 28, article 19,and article 7. New changes to our legislation should not be allowed to contravene these convention rights.

 

Longer term reforms

 

These required primary legislation

 

from 2013-14 Local Housing Allowance and Housing Benefit rates will be upgraded in line with CPI ( Consumer Price Index)  rather than on the basis of local rents. CPI does not include any account being taken of housing costs so this will result in the amount of money people can get to help pay their rents being even lower. At the same time this will apply to increases in other benefit rates and an estimate I have seen is that disabled people will be £300 per year worse off because of this.

 

Social Rented Sector

There are plans to remove any security of tenure from social housing tenants and to increase rents to 80% of market values. Together with the caps on Housing Benefits this will make renting in the social housing sector unaffordable in many higher priced areas  of the country.

 

The Bedroom Tax

From 2013 housing benefit for working age social rented sector customers will be restricted for those who are occupying a larger property than their household size would warrant. This is something that the Labour government and DWP tried to introduce in Welfare Reform bill 2007 but were forced to drop by pressure from Housing Associations. It means that if you are living in an adapted property which may have cost thousands of pounds to adapt then if you also have an extra bedroom you have no apparent need for you will only get HB paid at the one bedroom rate.

 

Evicting disabled people from adapted properties when there are few other accessible and adapted ones available seems an act of lunacy and an unnecessary expense to taxpayers as well as causing untold misery to disabled people who will be affected by all of this.

 

Social housing tenants who no longer get funding for an extra room will mostly lose £12 a week. The National Housing Federation estimate 180,000 social tenants are underoccupying 2 bedroom homes but there were only 68,000 1 bed social homes to rent in 2009-2010. Even the DWP EIA said there were not enough 1 bedroom properties.

 

This is unlikely to reduce housing costs as a couple with one child having to move from a 3 bed social house in Crawley and rent a smaller property in the private sector would be able to get £66 a week more in Housing Benefit.

 

Discretionary Housing Payments

 

Recognising the chaos their HB reforms are going to make the sum allocated by government has increased by £10 million in 2011 and by £40 million in 2012. This will apparently give more flexibility to local authorities but DHPs are not supposed to cover long term housing costs and have to be applied for every 13 weeks. There is no right of appeal if they are refused although you can seek a Judicial Review.Leicesterfor example has now introduced a policy where they will only pay for a maximum of 13 weeks during which time disabled people getting a DHP are harrassed to move to a cheaper property, regardless of their independent living needs.

 

Less important changes for disabled people who live outside ofLondon, but disastrous for anyone living inLondonor other high priced areas of the country. Planned introduction postponed until 2012.

 

Local Housing Allowance levels have been restricted to the 4 bedroom rate. The 5 bedroom rate has been scrapped.

 

Caps have been introduced which are

 

A new upper limit will be introduced

£250 a week for a one bedroom property

£290 a week for a 2 bedroom property

£340 a week for a 3 bedroom property

£420 a week for a 4 bedroom property

 

According to government figures about 3-3,500 disabled people rent privately in centralLondon. DPOs in London however have raised concerns that as the centre of London becomes unaffordable to most disabled people then there will be additional pressures on local councils for example in Brent where there is already a 10 year waiting list for re-housing as more people are forced to move.

 

Half of all household affected by the cap on benefits has a disabled person living in them. Moving is often not an option as care packages are not transportable across local authority boundaries, and continuity of other services is often essential.

 

Universal credit will introduce caps on the total amount of benefit any claimant can get, for both housing needs and living expenses. The suggested total amount is £350 for a single person and £500 per week regardless of family size, or costs of housing. This will particularly affect those living in areas such asLondonwhere rents are higher than average. Currently 7 out of 8 people who get Housing Benefit are in low paid jobs, so having a living wage might well reduce the overall benefit bill more effectively than demonising benefit claimants further.

 

Much has been made of the figure of £26,000 as the maximum annual cap but the vast majority of claimants will in fact get far less then £26,000. Only 1% of claimants will be affected by this cap level but that will still be 67,000 families. In Brent alone 3,300 families are due to lose benefits because of the cap. Social cleansing of poor families has already started in boroughs likeWestminster.

 

Mortgage Interest changes

Changes to the amounts paid to mortgage interest for disabled claimants have been estimated to potentially lead to an additional 64,000 disabled people becoming homeless.

 

Cumulative Impact

The resulting increase in homelessness will lead to local authorities paying out millions more in costs.