I always though pensioners were exempt from the bedroom tax but this is apparently NOT the case. Unless the information I read has been changed since June 2012 and I can find no evidence that it has pensioners will be hit with a £75m per year bedroom tax.
In April it only needs one member of a couple to be a pensioner (in receipt of Pension or Pension Credit) to exempt the household from the bedroom tax. However under Universal Credit it needs BOTH partners to be in receipt of Pension or Pension Credit to be exempt from the bedroom tax.
This is contained in “Making if Fit” a publication from last summer from the CIH and backed by NHF, NHC and LGA (a who’s who of housing organisations) and on page 10 it reads:
“People who have already reached state pension age by April 2012 ill not be subject to the size criteria. A couple are not subject to the size criteria where the eldest member has attained state pension credit age, even if the younger member is still of working age. However when Universal Credit is introduced in October 2013, it is likely that, for new claimants, both will be treated as working age and subject to the size criteria until they have both reached the qualifying age for state pension credit.”
It goes on..
“As the qualifying age for state pension credit increases, the DWP estimates that the number of claimants affected by the size criteria measure will rise from 670,000 to around 760,000 by 2020, assuming that there will be no further changes to assessment criteria and to the caseload.”
Before I begin to unpick the above two quotes the huge issue is that once it becomes known and awareness is raised that pensioners the sacred cow of British politics and especially in welfare terms ARE affected and TAXED by the coalition bedroom tax then the proverbial hits the fan…and big time! The older person lobbies, THE most powerful lobby in British politics who forcefully represent the interests of greater than 40% of the electorate lest we forget, rains down on the coalition.
The first quote “….A couple are not subject to the size criteria (the bedroom tax) where the eldest member has attained state pension credit age…HOWEVER when Universal Credit is introduced…BOTH will be treated as working age and subject to the size criteria UNTIL they have BOTH reached the qualifying age..”
The second quote “the number of claimants affected…will rise from 670,000 to around 760,000..”
So 90,000 what we now call ‘pensioners’ will be hit be the bedroom tax!! We are informed the average bedroom tax deduction will be £16 per week or £834.86 per year or in a red top headline
Pensioners hit with £75m bedroom tax bill !!!
Cue – Help the Aged and Age Concern, now Age UK, Joan Bakewell, Michael Parkinson, Saga, June Whitfield and Uncle Tom Cobley and all will emerge out of the woodwork and the anti bedroom tax campaign suddenly takes off! This is so unfair, How can we treat older persons this way…you get the picture!
Do I need to say anymore? Well yes I do as it happens!
This ‘Making it fit’ document was and is the social landlords collective guidance to themselves on what to do about the bedroom tax in preparation for its introduction and despite clearly saying above that pensioners will be affected and even putting a number on that at 90,000 the same document says on page 15
“Some tenants, for example, those aged 62 and over, may be anxious about the changes even though they won’t be affected, so it’s important that you give out clear messages to allay any fears that they may have.”
Take your own advice!! If you say BOTH partners in a pensioner couple must reach the qualifying age not just one of them you can’t then go on to say they wont be affected!! Especially when you put a figure on this and say 90,000 couples with one of them reaching the qualifying age and the other not will be hit by the bedroom tax. A CLEAR message!!
Speaking with tenants, housing officers, housing managers, housing directors, chief executives, consultants, board members, housing lawyers and others involved with housing over the past 12 months and more it has been a ‘given’ that pensioners are NOT affected by the bedroom tax. The only slight issue is the age necessary for that term being 61.5 years of age in April. Yet here we have the ‘great and the good’ of housing saying that pensioners will be affected by the bedroom tax under Universal Credit and have even stated the numbers who will be!
We need a definitive statement on this from the DWP and from the minister himself IDS who will of course have to explain to his leader, the Prime Minister that his pledge not to tax pensioners any further or take away any universal benefit (which exempting amounts to) in this parliament from pensioners has been broken!
A number of messages have said the Making if Fit document I refer to above is (for some reason!) not available at the link above. I have therefore put the file on my website and you can download or read it there – Making if Fit - The quote above that BOTH partners must be of the qualifying age can be found on page 10
UPDATE – Wednesday 6th February
Interestingly I note today in an article in 24dash entitled “Government attacked over continued failure to define ‘vulnerable’ in Universal Credit” that Lord Freus in defending this says:
“No one will lose financially through the transition to Universal Credit where their circumstances remain the same.”
This clearly is not the case is it? If one member of a couple is 62 and the other 55 then as one of them has reached state pension age (61.5 at April 2013) then they will be exempt from the bedrrom tax in April to September. Yet come October with no change in circumstances this couple do become eligible and will be caught by the bedroom tax. They will lose out financially in the transition to Universal Credit. Unless of course Lord Freud is dadding another £75m per year cost to Universal credit through an added form of transitional protection.
Anyone get the feeling the coalition are making it up as they go along and don’t know what the hell they have gotten themselves into? Pandora’s box indeed!
UPDATE – Wednesday 6th February 2013
In the last 17 days when I have been writing about the bedroom tax the amount of comments I have received has dramatically increased. This update is a first as I reproduce a comment in full below because it holds a number of incredibly important points. May I first congratulate the reader and ask that they contact me and I will give them the full credit if they so wish and I will understand if not too.
Please read the comment and I need to add nothing to it as it is that good:
“If those “mixed-age” households currently claiming Pension Credit were to lose their eligibility, however briefly, they would no longer be eligible for pension credit. For example, if the working-age partner were to find a month’s temporary work, they would have to claim Universal Credit, not Pension Credit, when that work came to an end. Therefore, the couple would be hit by the bedroom tax. On top of that, they would no longer receive such things as cold weather payments. Hardly an incentive to find work!
What’s more, some reports suggest that a pensioner with a working-age partner will actually receive less benefit than a single pensioner. It seems unfair that the pensioner in the couple should be penalised in this way. I fear that these changes will lead either to a surge in divorces, or to a considerable number of poor pensioners whose autumn years will be very bleak due to their having a younger partner who, for one reason or another, is unable to bring in a living wage.”
NB – an enhanced and new blog on pensioners getting hit by the bedroom tax is here and adds more to the above