As the bedroom tax comes into effect this week ELL boroughs are among the hardest hit and two thirds of those affected are classed as disabled.
Under the new system, housing benefit and unemployment claimants, living in social housing and deemed to have one spare room are set to lose 14% of their housing benefit while those with two or more spare rooms will lose 25%.
In Hackney 4,579 residents will be affected, or 18.6 in every thousand. Tower Hamlets will see 4,514 affected residents (17.8 of every thousand), Lewisham 3,856 (14 of every thousand), and Croydon 2,908 (8 of every thousand).
Wendy Hayward Rainey, 51, is a long-term resident of New Addington, a housing estate on Croydon’s south-easterly edge. Her son was left with brain damage after being attacked in October 2011 and has been cared for in a rehabilitation unit outside the borough since.
“He is starting to respond and my waking day is spent at his bedside. I also look after my elderly father who has dementia. I have a three bedroom and I am in the process of moving to be nearer to my son. But because he is in a rehabilitation unit, the law says I only need a two bedroom. I’m not prepared to give my three bedroom up to then have to fight the council for one again once my son can return home.”
Like two-thirds of those affected, Wendy is disabled herself. She fears that her family’s need for a wet room and wheelchair adaptations means her wait may be longer while limiting her ability to find private accommodation. She says she has had little help from the council.
“As for speaking to someone regarding the bedroom tax I rang my housing officer who was not there three times and am still now waiting for a call back.”
“I know someone who is disabled and lives alone in a two-bedroom. She has tried so hard to downsize but has had no luck. She’s been on the council list to move since long before the bedroom tax came in. Now it looks like she will have to start paying the extra but she will no doubt get in arrears and then be evicted. It’s disgusting what’s happening because those that don’t mind moving are still not helped by the council!”
“I feel tired. I get up every morning and drive three-quarters of an hour to my son. I help with his care until around three and then I drive back home to take over care of my father from my other son. I cook and clean through the evening, get to bed about 1am then get up again any time from 4.30am and do it all again.”
“I do feel strongly against the bedroom tax as, yet again, it’s not helping the poor.”
The government say the measure is designed to help deal with overcrowding by encouraging social tenants to swap to more suitably sized properties, while saving the taxpayer £500 million a year. However, critics point out that many areas lack a spread of property sizes and many tenants will have to absorb the cost or move further afield.
Freedom of Information requests have shown that, nationally, councils have sufficient one and two-bedroom properties to house only one in 20 families with spare rooms.
Describing the tax as ‘cruel’, shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne said: “They say it’s not a tax but 96% of people have nowhere to move to.
“This wicked bedroom tax is going to rip neighbour from neighbour, force vulnerable people to food banks and loan sharks, and end up costing Britain more than it saves as tenants are forced to go homeless or move into the expensive private rented sector.
“It is the worst possible blend of cruelty and incompetence. The Government must think again and drop this tax now.”