Attack on Housing Benefit
This information is provided by
The LOCAL HOUSING ALLOWANCE REFORM GROUP
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Proposed changes to Housing Benefits in June budget 2010.
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. As yet there are no firm details how this will be decided.
While we are pleased with the small positive changes to LHA regarding an extra bedroom for a live-in carer for a disabled person requiring overnight care/support the changes have still totally failed to address many other issues such as parents of disabled children who need an extra bedroom for their child, 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 proposed changes to LHA will simply increase these barriers.
In some instances this still leaves cases where disabled children are unnecessarily being taken into care and cases where pensioner couples are being forced to choose between paying for housing costs or for care/support and if unable to afford both having to do without essential care/support. DWP legislation does not recognise the need disabled people may have for support and only talks about care, although what this constitutes is not clarified. Until now they also failed to take account of disabled people having care/support provided through Direct payments.
From October 2011
The Local Housing Allowance will be set at the 30th percentile rent in each Broad Market Rental Area, rather then the 50th percentile as now. 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 one-fifth as planned by DWP.
The proposed changes to the 30th percentile, rather then the median, rent being used to calculate LHA from October next year will only make these matters worse than they already are and will in my opinion 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.
The rates of these will rise in stages so the overall amount of housing and other benefits anyone with non-dependents in their household receives will fall. This is to reflect growth in rents and council taxes.
Longer term reforms
These will require primary legislation
from 2013-14 Local Housing Allowance 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 month worse off because of this.
Social Rented Sector From 2013 housing benefit for working age social rented sector customers will be restricted fro 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.
Time limiting Housing Benefit customers who are claiming Job seekers allowance will only receive their full Housing Benefit award for a period of 12 months. After that their benefit will be reduced by 10% and they will continue to be ineligible for the full out of work Housing Benefit rate until after they have left the benefit system and been in work for a period.
This needs to be understood in conjunction with the work capability assessment for ESA which is designed to get as many disabled people as possible off Incapacity Benefit and into non-existent jobs which should be completed by 2013. therefore this will probably affect quite a lot of disabled people too.
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. Leicester for 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 supposed to move to a cheaper property, regardless of their independent living needs.
When LHA was initially introduced DWP did not cary out an impact assessment although 25 % ( almost 2 million) people renting in the private sector are disabled. They are currently carrying out an impact assessment on these new changes and from the parliamentary debates that have taken place recently this will include details of the estimated numbers of private rented properties which exist below the 30th percentile rent However there is no mention that this EIA will in any way consider the numbers of accessible properties available for less than the 30th percentile of rents in any Broad Market Rental Area. Further this will not in any way address the needs of disabled people with learning and neuro-diverse impairments who may have specific housing needs linked to staying in a particular area, or an area where they feel and are safe.These EIAs will be completed and published together with the greatly reduced LHA rates on July 23rd.
Less important changes for disabled people.
Local Housing Allowance levels will be restricted to the 4 bedroom rate. The 5 bedroom rate has been scrapped.
A new upper limit will be introduced
£250 a week for a one bedrrom property
£290 a week for a2 bedroom property
£340 a week for a 3 bedroom property
£420 a week for a 4 bedroom property
The £15 weekly excess provision currently payable within LHA rules will be removed.