Bedroom tax/ spare room subsidy, call it what you will. At the PMQs on March 6, David Cameron seemed to be in a muddle again. I have been checking on some of his statements.
“Pensioners are exempt.”
Quite right. The changes only apply to working-age claimants. And couples with only one partner over the state pension credit age will both be exempt.
“People with severely disabled children are exempt.”
Wrong. There’s no automatic exemption for disabled children.
In fact, not only is the government not making this blanket exception, it is actually fighting a legal challenge on the point from 10 disabled children who argue that the rule changes amount to discrimination.
“People who need round-the-clock care are exempt.”
Wrong. DWP has said that an extra bedroom is allowed if a disabled person has a live-in or overnight carer. But that doesn’t apply if the carer is also your partner or spouse.
If you are disabled and your wife is also your full-time carer, but needs to sleep in a different room, you will still face a benefit cut.
Again, you could be eligible for money from the hardship fund, but that doesn’t amount to an exemption to everyone who needs 24-hour care.
“We are spending £23bn on housing benefit. That is up by 50 per cent over the last decade.”
True. DWP spending tables show that we were spending just over £16bn in real terms in 2002/3 and will spend £23.8bn this year. That’s a rise of 48 per cent in ten years.
The Prime Minister didn’t get it all wrong. He was right on the scale of increases in housing benefit over the last decade.
And he was right to point out that there are important exemptions from the changes, including pensioners.
But, while there are measures in place that are intended to protect disabled people, it’s wrong to suggest that severely disabled children or people who need round-the-clock care will definitely not be affected.
Bob Milton, Leyland Road.