Since 1 April 2013, welfare reforms have cut the amount of benefit that people can get if they are deemed to have a spare bedroom in their council or housing association home. This measure only applies to housing benefit claimants of working age, and is commonly referred to as the bedroom tax, size criteria, under-occupation penalty or removal of the spare room subsidy.
What do the changes mean?
The size criteria in the social rented sector restricts housing benefit to allow for one bedroom for each person or couple living as part of the household, with the following exceptions:
• Two children under 16 of same gender expected to share
• Two children under 10 expected to share regardless of gender
• Disabled tenant or partner who needs non-resident overnight carer will be allowed an extra bedroom
• Approved foster carers will be allowed an additional room so long as they have fostered a child, or become an approved foster carer in the last 12 months
• Adult children in the Armed Forces will be treated as continuing to live at home when deployed on operations
• Disabled children who are unable to share a bedroom with a sibling because of their severe disabilities are allowed their own room.
Who will be affected?
All claimants who are deemed to have at least one spare bedroom will be affected. This includes:
• Separated parents who share the care of their children and who may have been allocated an extra bedroom to reflect this. Benefit rules mean that there must be a designated ‘main carer’ for children (who receives the extra benefit)
• Couples who use their ‘spare’ bedroom when recovering from an illness or operation
• Parents whose children visit but are not part of the household
• Disabled people including people living in adapted or specially designed properties
Universal Credit is due to be phased into Somerset between February and April 2015. For more information on the changes and how you may be affected you can see our Universal Credit page.
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