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Home / Latest News / Rise in hardship payments across Wales as effects of ‘bedroom tax’ kick in

Rise in hardship payments across Wales as effects of ‘bedroom tax’ kick in

Councils across Wales have seen huge increases in applications for hardship payments since the introduction of the “bedroom tax” in April.

Figures released to Plaid Cymru by the country’s 22 local authorities show a surge in applications for Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) during April and May, with most councils receiving more applications in the two months than they did in the whole of the previous year.

Since April all social housing tenants who claim housing benefit have faced cuts to their regular payments if it is considered they have too many bedroom for their needs.

The UK Government has allocated a cash-limited fund to each local authority so DHPs can be made to individuals to help them pay rent, council tax or both.

Decisions about whether payments should be made are based on a number of factors, including the applicant’s income, savings, whether anyone else in the household can help, and whether they “have tried to put the matter right” themselves.

Payments are only supposed to be made on a short-term basis. In some cases DHPs can be paid to applicants for up to 18 months but often they are for shorter periods of three to six months.

Not all applications for DHPs will be the result of  cuts in housing benefit. Nevertheless, figures from individual councils illustrate the extent of the rise in applications for such hardship payments. 

Wrexham council said its applications had risen 371% in April and May 2013 compared to the same two months of 2012.

Vale of Glamorgan council reported it had received 524 applications in the first three months of the 2013-14 financial year compared to just 91 over the same period of 2012.

Applications also rose substantially in Swansea – 820 in April and May this year compared to 802 for the whole of 2012-13.

There were also significant rises in demand in Anglesey, Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Caerphilly, Carmarthenshire, Gwynedd, Merthyr Tydfil, Monmouthshire, Swansea, and Torfaen.

Plaid Cymru has also received a breakdown by local authority of the numbers affected by the spare room subsidy. Figures supplied by 21 of the 22 council showed that more than 35,000 households in Wales have had their benefits affected  by the bedroom tax.

Jocelyn Davies, the party’s housing spokeswoman and former housing minister, said: “These figures reveal the true impact of the UK Coalition Government’s policies on social housing tenants. They are hitting vulnerable people hard.

“It is clear that many people have turned to local authorities for top-up help with their housing costs after seeing their benefit cut.

“It is disingenuous of Labour to express outrage on this issue while refusing to commit to reversing this harmful policy. It’s clear that a consensus exists between the three London parties. The public will not be duped.”

But Owen Smith MP, Labour’s Shadow Welsh Secretary said: “Labour MPs have been at the forefront of campaigning against the bedroom tax, highlighting the dreadful impact on our communities and supporting residents who have been affected through our constituency surgeries.

“It is one of the worst examples of cruelty by this Tory-led Government and is hitting serving soldiers and disabled people who have had their homes adapted, and forcing parents into the hands of loan sharks and food banks.

“And even though evidence is mounting that this ill-considered policy could end up costing more than it is supposed to save because there simply aren’t enough smaller properties for affected people to move to, Tory Ministers and their Lib Dem sidekicks are determined to stick with it.  Labour is absolutely clear that they should think again and drop this hated tax.”

Meanwhile the UK Government will this week implement a benefit cap of £500 a week across the UK.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said: “A benefit system that allows a minority of claimants to receive massive state hand-outs, sometimes more than £100,000 a year lets down everyone.

“It fails the very people it is supposed to be helping by deterring them from moving into work, and it is unfair to hard working taxpayers who funds it.”

He said around 40,000 households across Britain would be affected, including 300 in Cardiff.

Mr Smith added:  “Once the benefit cap is in place we will have a welfare state that is fit for the 21st century. One that is financially sustainable and provides the right support to claimants, and helps families lift themselves out of benefit dependency and get on.”

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