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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

IDS fails to go far enough on housing benefit

Today's Guardian reports on an important but partial u-turn by Iain Duncan Smith on planned changes to housing benefit that will penalise under-occupation of properties by claimants.

The paper says that the Secretary of State has now exempted foster carers and armed forces personnel who live at home from changes, so that their families will no longer be penalised if they have a bedroom reserved for those groups:

The changes will mean that about 5,000 approved foster carers will be allowed an additional room as long as they have fostered a child or become a registered carer in the past 12 months.

Adult offspring in the armed forces who are away on operations will be counted as continuing to live at home, as long as they intend to return home.

Duncan Smith also said he had issued guidance to local authorities emphasising that discretionary payments would be available to support "other priority groups" affected, including "people whose homes have had significant disability adaptations and those with long-term medical conditions that create difficulties

I understand that a change was also made yesterday so that disabled children will no longer have to share a bedroom.

All of this is very welcome of course but it does not go far enough. In fact the changes have introduced more inconsistencies into the process. Why for example will co-habiting disabled adults who need their own room be penalised when disabled children are exempt? Why can a room be set aside without penalty for the carer of a disabled adult but not the carer of a disabled child?

The Government have shown that they are willing to listen on this issue. They need to keep on listening and make more changes until they get it right.
The government may even be saving money on the armed forces concession: if a son or daughter on active service is deemed to be living at home, they are presumably also deemed to be contributing to the household budget and abating the parents' benefit accordingly.

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