On Wednesday this week the latest housing benefit figures were released which reveal that the number of households affected by the bedroom tax has fallen from 449,151 in the previous quarter to 442,933 – Yet that is a myth.
The data records the number of bedroom tax households claiming housing benefit yet does NOT include the number of bedroom tax households who are on Universal Credit as they do not receive housing benefit.
The fact is both the number of households in receipt of benefit to pay for housing costs and the numbers of those hit by the bedroom tax are hidden in the Universal Credit numbers – and Universal Credit data in the public domain does not say how many recipients claim the housing costs element or how many are affected by the bedroom tax.
In short, nobody can say whether the bedroom tax affected cohort has fallen or even increased – though that will not stop IDS or DWP saying that fewer are affected and the policy is incentivising the shirkers to get off their backside and get a job or some other such propagandist bullshit.
I have written to the DWP statisticians as to bedroom tax UC numbers and await a reply on how many bedroom tax affected UC households there are or even if indeed these numbers are recorded which they may not be.
A small fall of 7,000 in a quarter on a national basis is pretty minor in relative terms yet since November 2013 when the first bedroom tax numbers of just over 523k appeared to the latest figures which record up to November 2015, the fall of 81k to the latest 442k affected is just over 15% and is a significant number.
It is highly likely that there will still be 523,000 or so affected by the bedroom tax as ever since that first figure was released in November 2013 each quarter since has had a small reduction of 7 – 12,000 each quarter.
What this all means is that there is no way to verify any financial savings claim made by the government for the bedroom tax. It also means that local councils in seeing these reduced numbers each quarter may plan their DHP and other strategies based on these (mythical?) falls in numbers affected too – and in general terms the bedroom tax HB data has become wholly unreliable.
Then what about devolved issues such as regional government and for example the Manchester devolved region has some powers over housing policy yet as the housing benefit data becomes ever more unreliable given it will eventually not exist as Universal Credit rolls out, then how can they plan housing issues without the critical HB data we once had? The answer is they can’t!
The relevance of that becomes clear as Stockport has 10.66% of social tenants hit by the bedroom tax yet Wigan has 19.77% and almost double that figure (both for HB claimants only) and so how can a Greater Manchester wide body with housing powers factor this in for a regional housing strategy? To add to that we see Universal Credit has rolled out far more in Wigan than in Stockport so Wigan could have more than double the Stockport figure of bedroom tax affected households.
The bedroom tax as financial risk (and strategic risk too) will diminish massively when the reduced overall benefit cap comes in from £26k or £500 per week down to £20k or £384 per week, that could be as early as April 2016.
Currently the amount of housing benefit cut across the 10 Greater Manchester authorities is £20.2 million in bedroom tax and £2.25 million in benefit cap and sees the bedroom tax cut being 9 times higher than the overall benefit cap cut. In short, the bedroom tax is a far greater financial and strategic risk than the benefit cap, yet that changes as the projected HB cut in the reduced benefit cap is almost £51 million, an increase of almost 23 times what it is now and more than double the risk of the bedroom tax HB cut!
Having spoken with a number of people in Greater Manchester in the past week or so, very few if any are aware of this hugely significant change and scale of the overall benefit cap HB cut, which because of the scale will see that DHP for bedroom tax will inevitably migrate to DHP for benefit cap and creating a much greater risk of tenant evictions due to bedroom tax.
The validity of the figures or more correctly the lack of validity also impacts on bedroom tax appeals. When I posted a few weeks ago that every bedroom tax household should appeal it as a direct action protest aimed at costing central government 4 times as much to administer appeals than is actually cut in HB terms, the rationale for appealing also becomes the bedroom tax tenant necessity as there is scant chance of a bedroom tax DHP – and is another reason why social landlords should get their finger out and support their tenants to appeal as most notably Coast & Country has done in the North East.
The bedroom tax affected UC households if they wish to appeal the bedroom tax will need to go through the mandatory reconsideration (MR) gate-keeping phase before their appeal can go to a tribunal and that added MR route will cost the DWP so much more than the bedroom tax appellants in receipt of housing benefit
This gate-keeping MR phase does not apply to bedroom tax appeals if claiming HB and we have a good ballpark cost for each appeal at £2800 each yet this may reach £3500 per appeal for the probable 81,000 bedroom tax households on UC that are not included in the latest HB figures.
I hear and read many social landlords stating that they have got ‘x%’ of their tenants a DHP for bedroom tax. They include these figures in the amounts of money they say their welfare team has got in additional benefits for tenants and nothing against that even though DHP is obviously not a benefit. Yet, because the amount of bedroom tax DHP will fall dramatically due to the reduced overall benefit cap taking the majority of DHP allocations, social landlords total DHP ‘income’ will fall very significantly indeed.
Moreover, as local councils will be firstly paying benefit cap DHP to private tenants as a priority as private landlords are much more inclined to evict than social landlords, and once any eviction takes place the families become a cost issue for local councils in homeless terms, the amount of DHP in total that goes to social landlords will also fall significantly as a higher percentage will go to the private rented sector.
The linkages between all of the welfare ‘reforms’ (sic) especially in the regions where to date the £26k benefit cap has had little impact on social landlords will rapidly become a real issue. I did a quick illustration the other week for one Northern social landlord which said in summary that the overall benefit cap reducing will equate to a 2% overall rent cut and double the imposed 1% that has all social landlords going apoplectic.
Finally, housing professionals who are reading this will see that their responses to welfare (sic) reform (sic) policies will need to be revised markedly.
Issues such as supporting tenants to appeal that 3 years ago you all thought were extremist and political are as I have always maintained good business practice and necessary.
This is especially the case as the financial mitigation route social landlords took over bedroom tax, launching head first into more affordable (sic, sic, sic) rent products that increased your rental income by more than the bedroom tax arrears cut is now dead and buried given the LHA maxima cap issue for general needs housing.
Yes I mean that bit of the LHA maxima that the usual great and good of the housing sector is ignoring as they focus on sheltered but not supported or general needs impacts. Do I really need to go into detail on the LHA maxima impact on AR? The fact that LHA on a national average only covers about 57% of gross market rent (£109 of £192) yet AR is set at 80% of gross market rent and so the LHA maxima cap will significantly cut any HB or UC housing payment should the AR tenant not be working or lose employment or become sick …
What was Glorious Leader Orr saying in Inside Housing this morning…
Yes doesn’t that mean that the working age AR tenant is not included in Glorious Leader’s solution to the LHA maxima? Yes! Doesn’t it also mean Glorious Leader’s solution will see the tens of thousands of 55 – 67 year olds in sheltered housing who don’t need support will be hit by it too? Yes it does.
Are you still all happy going along with the cult of personality strategy you have for Glorious Leader as you will not have a word said against him? Or are you actually going to think for once when it comes to welfare reform and realise that Glorious Leader doesn’t know what the issues are as evidenced by his own hand above!
Have a nice weekend now!