Friday, 22 February 2013

Tories’ ‘bedroom tax’ to hit more than 1000 Reading households


17 February 2013

Tories’ ‘bedroom tax’ to hit more than 1000 Reading households - Labour

596 Council tenants and 412 Housing Association tenants in Reading Borough will be hit if the Tories’ new ‘bedroom tax’ comes into effect this April, says Reading West Parliamentary candidate Victoria Groulef. Those affected will include families with disabled children who cannot be share a bedroom for medical reasons, couples who cannot share a bedroom for medical reasons, and foster carers who need a bedroom for a foster child.

Under the new scheme, households classed as ‘under-occupying’ are no longer supported through Housing Benefit for any ‘extra’ rooms. Victoria Groulef says “I have spoken to many people across Reading West who will be hit by these changes, many are wondering how they will be able to cope. They include people with a disabled family member and foster carers who will have to pay the bedroom tax on a bedroom occupied by a child they are fostering. The Tories are living up to their image of being the nasty party and both they and their Lib Dem partners are totally out of touch with the real impact of this policy on ordinary people.”
Lead Councillor for Housing Rachel Eden will be moving a resolution on this issue (attached) at the next Council meeting on 26 February. She says: “The ‘bedroom tax’ is simply unfair. Over a thousand families, in Reading Borough alone, are going to be put in real difficulty. The government’s own analysis estimates that two-thirds of those affected will have a disability and the funds available to help people will be far too little to help them all. If families end up moving into the private rented sector it will actually cost the public purse more in Housing Benefit, so it may not even save any money. Sadly the Conservatives haven’t thought this policy through and it’s going to result in real misery for many people.”

Lead Councillor for Education and Children’s Services John Ennis will be backing the resolution because many foster carers have spoken to him about the bedroom tax and he has promised to take their concerns forward. “Foster carers play a vital role in looking after children in care,” he says, “and I can hardly believe the government is not taking that into account.”

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Rachel Eden’s resolution to Council
This council notes that:
1. The ‘bedroom tax’ is due to take effect from April this year.
2. It will affect anyone of working age (below 61 ½) deemed to be ‘underoccupying’ a social housing home this is 596 council tenants and 412 housing association households in every part of Reading borough.
3. That those families with a disabled child who should not be sharing a bedroom for medical reasons are not exempt from this.
4. That those couples who need an extra bedroom because of one of them having a medical condition or disability are not exempt from this.
5. That foster carers are not exempt from this.
6. That the Berkshire authorities have recently launched a joint campaign to recruit foster carers
7. That this council is committed to supporting all residents both children and adults, including those with disabilities and medical needs.
8. That the discretionary payments fund that the Tory-led government has made available is estimated to cover less than a quarter of those affected by the bedroom tax.
9. That the government’s own equality impact assessment estimates that 2/3rds of households affected will have a member with a disability.
10. That many independent analysts are predicting that households will move into the private rented sector, costing more and that care needs for many disabled people will increase, again costing more.
11. That there is not an excess supply of small properties available for households to move to in Reading.
Council therefore believes:
1. That the bedroom tax will unfairly hit many people including foster carers, families with disabled children, disabled veterans and other adults with disabilities.
2. This policy may well end up costing the public purse more.
3. That this policy will penalise foster carer’s who do so much to support this town’s most vulnerable children at a time when we want to recruit more.
4. That disabled people – both adults and children – deserve respect and not to be penalised for their medical needs.
5. That both housing associations and this council will have more difficulty in keeping arrears down, damaging services for all tenants.
Council therefore resolves to:
1. Mandate the Managing Director of the council to write to the secretary of state outlining our concerns and urgently requesting that the bedroom tax is suspended.
2. Mandate the lead councillor for housing and neighbourhoods to write to the borough’s MPs outlining our concerns and asking that they lobby for their affected constituents and push for the bedroom tax to be suspended.
3. To encourage housing associations to be proactive in supporting their tenants.
4. Request that housing, housing benefit and children’s services work together to look at foster carer’s individual situations to provide support to them.
5. To write to all affected council tenants inviting them to meet and discuss their individual situations and offer advice and support.
6. To ask officers to hold surgeries in accessible locations around town to encourage face to face contact with tenants who are affected.

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