Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Added misery

No one would be heartless enough to pass on a bill immediately to a grieving parent. Or would they?

This is precisely what will happen after April. Government changes to housing benefit and more specifically the bedroom tax.

In April that’s when the “bedroom” tax comes into force.

If tenants rent a house and are on housing benefit they’d lose on average £11 per week if they were under-occupying by 1 bedroom. Those under-occupying by 2 bedrooms or more would lose on average £19 per week. 

They’d have to make the money up themselves to pay the rent.  But they wouldn’t be on housing benefit in the first place if they could pay the rent. 

All  families that are on housing benefit that suffer a child’s death and the bedroom is empty could find themselves under-occupying and subject to the bedroom tax. 

No sooner that they’ve got over their grieving. They get their benefit cut. The missing child puts them into the situation that they’re under-occupying. And their local council is obliged to wield the axe. 

A heartless act. But councils have no choice, the housing benefit regulations have been passed by the government and will come into force in this instance in April. 

But here’s the rub. This could happen every time a child dies or goes missing and the parents are on housing benefit. 

Surely, no government would deliberately introduce such a policy. Another example of the law of unexpected consequence. Perhaps the government should rethink its housing benefit reform and prevent additional suffering to grieving families.


  1. You're right but the underlying problem is the ridiculously high price of housing and, subsequently, rents in the UK. Political parties seem to think high house prices are a good thing. For example Labour encouraged knocking down perfectly good terraced housing, eg in Liverpool, mainly to keep house prices up by cutting supply.

    British house prices should have dropped like those in Ireland and Spain but they are kept artificially high. It's ridiculous that councils are charging rents of £80 to £100 pound a week on properties that cost them a few thousand to build. Private landlords have been able to charge rents way above what a free market would dictate because they knew that housing benefit would cough-up.

  2. Good point Gareth, but, seriously, how many people are going to be affected by these two exceptional and heart-breaking instances? One would hope that the council and government can accommodate this.

    But the more general fact is that as someone who's in work my kids have to share a room because I can't afford a bigger house. Should someone who isn't working have more rooms than me?

    I'm not sure. These sums are small budgets for anyone to live on but I think you're taking an extreme example here to detract from a more general point. It's a valid point but the issue is house prices and should people who don't work have more rooms than those who do work but can't afford a large house?

  3. A rethink implies they thought about it in the first place.

    @Anon 15:21 I see your point, but the govt is simply punishing the poorest whilst not actually addressing your problem. Over 900,000 recipients of Housing Benefit are actually working. There is a lack of social housing and very poor provision in the rented sector. Rent controls would be more helpful, as they have in many American cities. This is Thatcher's housing policy coming back to bite us in the backside.

    I think there will be many, many examples of hardship and helping out a handful of them on an arbitrary, jump-through-yet-more-hoops basis can't possibly be fair.

    It will hit social landlords very hard, making it harder for them to build more housing. People will be pushed into the private sector and receive more housing benefit than they before. The policy simply does not compute.

  4. Why do people have kids if they can't afford them/are not absolutely convinced they can afford them come what may?

    Perhaps it is time we started teaching 'consequences' in school. Have kids, pay for them. And keep on paying for them come what may. Don't want to have kids but want lots of sex, go for sterilisation.

    Those that 'have' have got tired of paying for those that had but now haven't and those that never had in the first place.

    It's time we all grew up!

  5. I believe that local councils have been allocated a sum of money to cover these exceptional cases ... they'll probably spend it on something nearer to their hearts.