Government sneaks out report revealing 57,000 Bedroom Tax victims fell behind on rent

More than 57,000 people fell behind on their rent in just one year after being hit by the Bedroom Tax, damning new figures revealed today.

Data buried deep in the government’s 2014/15 English Housing Survey shows the vast toll of people hit by Iain Duncan Smith’s most controversial policy.

When the survey was taken 364,000 households in social housing were in rent arrears. Another 348,000 had been behind on rent in the previous year.

Among those, 22% (153,800 households) blamed problems or cuts in their benefits.

And 37% of that group (57,485 households) said they had benefits cut for ‘under-occupying’ their home – the hated bedroom tax.

The report was slipped out in a mountain of more than 300 documents on the day MPs leave Westminster for their six-week summer holiday.

Another 24,000 people in social housing fell behind on rent due to new systems like Universal Credit or the benefits cap.

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Debbie Abrahams said it was “yet more evidence of the total failure of the Bedroom Tax.”

She added: “The Discretionary Housing Payment system, which was meant to be a short term stop gap, is clearly not working. People are having to make a choice about whether they keep a roof over their heads or feed their families.

“The discriminatory, unfair and divisive nature of the Bedroom Tax is why Labour has consistently called for it to be abolished.”

Former Labour housing minister John Healey added: “These figures are fresh proof of the terrible impact of the cruel bedroom tax.

“The truth is the Conservatives’ record on housing six years of failure right across the board. Under Tory Ministers, home-ownership has fallen, homelessness has soared and figures I released this week show that David Cameron built fewer homes than any Prime Minister since 1923.”

The Bedroom Tax deducts 14% from the benefit paid towards a social housing tenant’s “eligible rent” if they have a spare bedroom. If there are two spare bedrooms that rises to 25%.

That means victims are vulnerable to high rents in areas like London and the south east.

Mr Duncan Smith claims the tax, officially named “removal of the spare room subsidy”, stops people clogging up social housing – but there is a shortage of one-bed flats to move into.

Last year the DWP handed out £100million in Discretionary Housing Payments, 79% more than was originally allocated, to cover people who could no longer afford their bills.

The department is handing out £870million of DHPs over this Parliament.

Figures we revealed earlier this year showed the Bedroom Tax is now costing each victim £66 a year more than Iain Duncan Smith’s department first predicted.

The cost to 442,000 home was around £794 a year, compared to £728 in the official impact assessment dated 2013/14.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) blamed the difference on rent rises over the past two years – but Labour said it proved once again why the tax should be scrapped.

A Department for Work and Pensions source pointed out today’s data came only from a survey of a self-reporting sample of tenants.

A DWP spokesman said: “Removing the spare room subsidy has restored fairness to the system, and the number of people affected by it is going down.

“Between 2011 and the end of this Parliament we will have made over £1bn available to local authorities to help people adjust to our reforms.”

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