From April 2013 new rules will apply to housing benefit for people of working age who live in social housing. This means local authority or housing association tenants.
The new rules mean that tenants in social housing will have their housing benefit restricted to allow one bedroom for each of the following:
Who will this affect?
- A couple
- A person over the age of 16 (including a single parent)
- Two children of the same gender
- Two children under the age of 10
- Any other child (other than a foster child, or a child whose main home is elsewhere)
- A carer providing overnight care.
This will affect any tenant who is deemed to have at least one ‘spare’ bedroom. This will include:
- Separated parents who have shared care and may have been allocated an extra bedroom because of this
- Parents whose children visit regularly but are not always part of the household
- Parents whose children have their own bedrooms, but due to their ages, the criteria says they could share.
It is estimated that around 150,000 single parents will be affected by the change.
Who is not affected?
The reduction will not apply to:
- People who have shared ownership of their property (where the property is part owned and part rented)
- People who are over the state pension credit age (or whose partner is over the state pension credit age)
- People who have been placed in temporary accommodation
- People in certain supported accommodation
- People in certain non-mainstream accommodation, such houseboats or caravans.
If you have a child who is studying away from home, you will not have a deduction made for their bedroom, as long as they are coming back, and it is still their usual home.
If you are an approved foster carer, you are allowed one extra bedroom for a foster child or children in the following situations:
- When a child is placed with you
- If you’re between placements, up to a maximum of a year after the last placement
- If you’re a newly approved foster carer, you are exempt for a maximum of a year, if a child hasn’t been placed with you yet.
If you’re a foster carer with more than one bedroom for foster children, you will only be exempt from the deduction in your housing benefit for one of the bedrooms. You can apply to your local council for a ‘discretionary housing payment’ to make up for the deduction. It is up to the council whether they give you the payment, but as a foster carer, you should get priority.
Parents of armed forces personnel
If you have an adult son or daughter who is in the armed forces, and they normally live with you but are away from home on operations there will not be a deduction in your housing benefit for their bedroom. There would be a deduction made from your housing benefit if you have additional ‘spare’ bedrooms.
If your child has a disability
It is up to the discretion of your local council whether your child would be allocated their own room, and not be expected to share with a brother or sister because of a disability. The council will make a decision based on the severity of your child’s disability, and how much disruption would be caused to their brother or sister if they were to share a room.
If you have a bedroom that is used for equipment relating to your child’s disability, the deduction from housing benefit will apply to you. You should apply to your local council for a ‘discretionary housing payment’ to make up for the deduction.
How much will people lose?
There will be a fixed percentage cut of the housing benefit eligible rent. This will be 14 per cent for one extra bedroom and 25 per cent of two or more extra bedrooms. It is estimated that the average amount that single parents who are affected will lose is £13 a week.
Sofia has two children. Ryan is nine and Olivia is seven. They live in a three bedroom housing association house, and the rent is £100 a week. Sofia has a part-time job and receives full housing benefit of £100 a week.
Because Ryan and Olivia are under 10 years old, under the new rules they would be allocated one bedroom between them, which they would be expected to share. This means that according to the new criteria, Sofia has a ‘spare’ bedroom.
Due to the ‘spare’ bedroom, Sofia’s housing benefit will be reduced. From April 2013 she will lose 14 per cent of her housing benefit, so will receive £86 a week, rather than £100.
If you're affected
You can apply to your local council for a discretionary housing payment
. This is a payment to make up the shortfall in your rent, but the council will decide if you are eligible – they do not have make a payment and if they do, it may be for a limited amount of time. To make an application for discretionary housing payments, contact your local council