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Bedroom Tax: Carers facing debt, eviction and food poverty

Carers are being hard hit by the Government ‘bedroom tax’ cuts to Housing Benefit – despite Ministers’ promises of support to protect carers and disabled people.

New research by Carers UK, published 100 days after the introduction of the ‘bedroom tax’ lays bare the shocking impact of the policy on families caring for disabled loved ones.

Carers UK interviewed 100 carers affected by the changes, and the findings include:

  • Three quarters (75%) of carers having to pay the ‘bedroom tax’ are being forced to cut back on essential spending on food, electricity and heating.
  • One in six (17%) are falling behind on their rent and face eviction.

The welfare changes dubbed the ‘bedroom tax’ mean people in social housing considered to have ‘spare rooms’ are seeing Housing Benefit cut and are being left with an average shortfall of £14 a week – over £700 a year. Families who cannot afford to pay face having to move seriously ill or disabled loved ones.

When the policy was launched in April, ministers pledged a £25 million discretionary payments fund to help protect carers and disabled people. Carers UK warned the fund was woefully insufficient, and would only be enough to support around 40,000 of the 420,000 disabled people Government figures indicated would be hit by the cuts.

  • The charity’s new research shows only 1 in 10 carers receiving these discretionary payments on an ongoing basis. Others were receiving temporary support of just a few months, facing the extra costs once discretionary relief expires.

With insufficient funds to meet the needs of people affected by the cuts, local councils are, Carers UK says, drawing up their own criteria to ration discretionary payments.

Carers turned down for support reported reasons given by local authorities including that spending any more than £3.60 a day per person on food, buying spectacles or postage stamps all counted as unnecessary expenditure and could be cut to cover rent shortfall.

Heléna Herklots Chief Executive of Carers UK said: “This policy is having a shocking impact on families already struggling to care for seriously ill or disabled loved ones. Carers, whose contribution is often warmly praised by ministers, are being made to feel like they are being punished.

“These are carers who need an extra room just to get few hours of sleep as they care 24/7 for a disabled child, or who are unable to share with a partner because of serious illness.

“Our research exposes the devastating impact on those affected: carers being left unable to pay electricity bills and cutting back on meals to ensure the people they care for have enough to eat. Families coping with impact of conditions like cancer or a stroke, or caring for a severely disabled child, now face eviction.”

This week the charity is delivering over 100 heartfelt letters from carers affected to the Prime Minister, in response to his commitment to look at individual cases of families including disabled people who are being affected .

Carers UK is calling on Government to take urgent action to review the ‘bedroom tax’ and protect carers.

Heléna Herklots added: “We were promised that disabled people and their families who needed the extra space would be protected. Yet it is clear that policy is having a devastating impact on vulnerable families – the Government cannot allow it to continue.”

For case studies and spokespeople, contact:

Steve McIntosh, 0207 378 4937/ steve.mcintosh@carersuk.org, Chloe Wright 0207 378 4942/chloe.wright@carersuk.org. Out of hours mobile: 07875724088

 

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