GOVERNMENT plans to force social housing tenants to pay more if they have a ‘spare’ room need to make better provision for foster carers, says MP Jonathan Reynolds.
Under Government plans – due to come into force in April – tenants will lose a portion of their housing benefit if their home is ‘under-occupied’.
A tenant with one ‘empty’ room in their house will lose 14 per cent of their housing benefit and a tenant with two or more ‘empty’ rooms would lose 25 per cent.
It’s estimated that the controversial charge – dubbed the ‘bedroom tax’ – could cost some tenants as much as £1000 a year.
Stalybridge and Hyde MP Jonathan Reynolds has serious concerns about the impact the change will have on tenants.
For example, the implementation of the ‘bedroom tax’ makes no provision for parents who have weekend access to their children.
Nor does it allow for families where an individual requires a separate room because of illness or medical equipment.
And even in those circumstances where tenants would rather move to a smaller property than lose their benefit, it is unlikely to be possible because of a shortage of smaller properties.
Mr Reynolds also has concerns about the particular impact it may have on foster carers, which he raised during a debate in the House of Commons.
That’s because tenants who are foster carers who keep a spare bedroom in expectation of a placement are not exempt from the ‘bedroom tax’.
So, a tenant who has an ‘extra’ room - for a current or potential foster child - will be treated as under-occupying. Mr Reynolds says there are concerns that this will discourage some tenants from fostering children – and he believes foster carers should be exempt from the additional charges.
He said: "As a society our councils rely on a team of foster carers being available to look after some of the most vulnerable children in our communities. "We should be doing all that we can to support them, but the introduction of the ‘bedroom tax’ will make it harder for anyone who lives in social housing.
"These unconscionable changes will mean foster carers have to pay more in order to keep a ‘spare’ room available for those times when the council requires them to take in a child.
"It is simply unfair to put foster carers in this position – and the risk is that they will choose to move to smaller accommodation rather than meet the additional cost. "We need more foster carers not less – but the Government’s refusal to exempt them from these charges can only deter those who are social tenants."
The proposals are contained in the Housing Benefit (Amendment) Regulations 2012.
Published 29 January, 2013.