Due to the swingeing £500 per month cuts in the overall benefit cap level the disabled household will not get a bedroom tax discretionary housing payment, or DHP from next month.
This is a very significant change as disabled households form 64% of all bedroom taxed households -a figure first admitted by the DWP in their 2012 bedroom tax impact assessment (see below)- and the are mostly unable to take any other mitigating action such as work a few more hours or take in a lodger.
420,000 out of 660,000 is 63.6% of allbedroom tax affected living in a disabled household
In political and legal terms, the courts have accepted that the provision of DHP makes the discrimination the bedroom tax gives to disabled households justifiable and assumes that disabled bedroom tax households will get a DHP. The courts wrongly, and frankly stupidly, in my view have not seen that just because DWP make a DHP allocation to a local council does not mean that DHP gets paid on bedroom tax and its two in three disabled households.
DHPs will now be allocated on the basis of what saves each council more of their own money and will transfer en masse to benefit-capped households in order to prevent much higher homeless costs to LAs. There is no link at all between the overall DHP allocation paid to LA’s and what those DHP monies are spent on in terms of disability need.
This has always been the case in London (as official figures on DHP spend areas have shown) as councils there have always paid out far more in benefit cap DHP than bedroom tax DHP despite the allocation of DHP always being more for bedroom tax than benefit cap. The allocation breakdown of the total DHP budget is a nominal one and a political device and each local council could spend 1% or 100% of DHP on whatever they chose to spend it on.
Now the huge cuts of £250 per month in London and £500 per month in the regions to the overall benefit cap level will force all local councils to follow the London council example and switch DHP payments almost exclusively to benefit cap cases in order for each council to save on homeless costs.
As such, there will be no more bedroom tax DHP and that impacts massively on the disabled household.
Disabled households have come to rely upon a DHP and they will suffer as will the social landlords who also rely on disabled households to receive them and some regional social landlords receive hundreds of thousands per year in DHP for the disabled bedroom tax households.
Disabled households largely chose to apply for a DHP rather than appeal the bedroom tax decision as it was easier to do so and in the case of the majority of areas outside of London, they had a comparatively reasonable chance of receiving a bedroom tax DHP due to their disabilities.
The ONLY option that disabled bedroom tax households have now is to appeal the bedroom tax decision.
Yesterday also saw the DWP issue a HB circular on the changes it will be making to HB regulations following the Supreme Court decisions in Carmichael (when a couple can’t share a bedroom for medical reasons) and Rutherford (any household member can have an overnight carer) yet these changes are limited and will affect relatively few disabled households.
The Carmichael and Rutherford changes only alter the households housing need side of the bedroom tax equation and may only see 5,000 to 10,000 disabled households winning on such grounds.
There is much greater scope to appeal on the other side of the equation, that is what is and is not a (Nelson-compliant) bedroom; and challenges here present much greater chances of appeal success with in my cautious view 15% – 20% of claimed bedrooms are not Nelson-compliant bedrooms but mere rooms that should not attract the bedroom tax HB deduction.
In numbers that is between 65,000 and 85,000 potential appeal successes on what is and is not a bedroom and thus far greater than the disability alone grounds of Carmichael and Rutherford challenges that at most will see 10,000 appeal wins.
I will be discussing those numbers and types of challenges in a separate post to include some emerging tie-ups between bedroom tax appeals and wider disability benefit appeal groups and the timing is prescient as at this time the new bedroom tax decisions to apply for 2017/18 will be landing on social tenant doormats any day now.
Yet perhaps the biggest change that needs to happen is a cultural one by disabled tenant households, disability campaigners, social landlords and councils, all of whom need to rethink and fully embrace the bedroom tax appeal as it is in all of their best financial interests.
- Tenants will obviously win financial from a successful appeal and that needs no further explanation except to say, and however harshly it reads, that disabled households need to stop focusing on the immorality and unfairness of the bedroom tax and take action instead. The appeal against the bedroom tax decision is their ONLY option
- Social landlords now faced with a huge increase in arrears risk due to the disappearance of bedroom tax DHP will now see the necessity and huge foresight of Coast & Country Housing Association who have led the way in supporting their tenants to appeal the bedroom tax because it was the right thing to do and in response to their tenant groups who requested they help.
- Councils will also benefit from supporting tenants to appeal as it reduces the demand on their DHP budgets and can do so very significantly.
Liverpool for example has a £5.9 million per year cut in housing benefit from the bedroom tax (In HB alone and this excludes UC cases) and so if 20% of bedroom tax appeals could succeed it would take a £1.18 million demand away from the DHP.
It would also mean that social landlords in Liverpool take away a £1.18 million per year risk of arrears and it is in the best financial interests of social landlords and councils to support and fund appeals against the bedroom tax decision.
Those figures will be replicated across the country and the same key principle that it is in the best financial interests of social landlords and councils to fund and support bedroom tax appeals holds good.
Disability group and activists should be lobbying their landlords and councils to support bedroom tax appeals and advising disabled households on how to appeal and not on moaning about the policies unfairness. The fact that disabled households are extremely unlikely to ever get a bedroom tax DHP again due to every local council switching DHP funds to benefit-capped households – of which just 15% in the ESA cohort and a large minority are disabled households – forces that change.
In summary a huge change is needed by bedroom tax tenants with a disability, by disability activists and campaigners, by social landlords and by councils in how they view the bedroom tax appeal which is now the ONLY way they can mitigate the pernicious bedroom tax policy that overwhelmingly affects disabled households.