Under the Welfare Reform Bill, an overall benefits’ cap for each household will be introduced in 2013. The Government’s own impact assessment estimates around 50,000 families will lose nearly £5,000 on average a year under the proposal – leaving them with little option but to move to a cheaper area, borrow significant amounts of money or make drastic savings.
The cap will hit larger families in areas with high property prices like London, where trouble flared last month and quickly spread to other cities across the country.
Around 670,000 social housing tenants with a ‘spare bedroom’ in their home will also lose an average of £676 per year under the new rules. An estimated 220,000 households containing children will be affected by the measure.
Foster carers, who are required to have spare rooms in their property for temporary placements, could also be hit by the ‘penalty’ – even though the rooms could be used on a frequent basis. Carers will be left out of pocket as they will have to meet the housing costs for fostered children themselves.
Mr Cameron announced plans to apply a ‘family test’ to all domestic policy following the disorder.
He said: ‘If it hurts families, if it undermines commitment, if it tramples over the values that keeps people together, or stops families from being together, then we shouldn’t do it.’
The Federation said the welfare reforms would fail Cameron’s own test in relation to the under occupancy penalty and the benefit cap in the following ways:
•Forcing families to relocate, potentially miles away from their child’s school, work place, extended family and support network
•Fathers with access arrangements to their children following relationship breakdowns may no longer be able to comply with conditions laid down by the courts
•Families who use a spare bedroom to enable them to provide foster care will have to stop fostering or lose out financially
•Families who want their adult children to come and stay will be financially penalised
•Older children will no longer have the space needed to study
•Grandparents won’t have the space to help their own children with informal childcare to enable them to work.
Speaking during the National Housing Federation’s annual conference in Birmingham, chief executive David Orr said:
‘If Mr Cameron is serious about his family test he would do well to reconsider some of his welfare reform proposals, which are likely to lead to severe upheaval for thousands of low-income families across the country.
‘Plans to slash the housing benefit of social tenants deemed to be under-occupying their homes will force 670,000 households into hardship, debt, or in many cases having to move away from their families and support networks.
‘It will hit families who want their adult children to come and stay and it will also hit foster families because foster children are not counted as part of the household for the purposes of housing benefit.
‘Separate plans to impose an overall cap on household benefits will hit families with children disproportionately, particularly in London and the south east. This could force families to relocate, potentially miles away from their child’s school or place of work. There is no doubt that this will hurt families, and Mr Cameron should abandon these unfair and counter-productive proposals.’
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