Bedroom tax forces carers to cut back on food

Carers are being forced to cut back on essentials such as food and electricity because of the so-called bedroom tax. Despite Government promises to protect them from the under-occupancy charge, one in six carers forced to pay it are falling behind on their rent and face eviction, research by Carers UK shows.

Campaigners say the charge on ‘spare’ bedrooms in social housing has had a particularly devastating impact on those caring for disabled family members, who often need the extra room. Three quarters of carers having to pay it are being forced to cut back on essential spending on food, electricity and heating.

Heléna Herklots Chief Executive of Carers UK said: “This policy is having a shocking impact on families already struggling to care for seriously ill or disabled loved ones. Carers, whose contribution is often warmly praised by ministers, are being made to feel like they are being punished. These are carers who need an extra room just to get a few hours of sleep as they care 24/7 for a disabled child, or who are unable to share with a partner because of serious illness.”

Ministers pledged £25m in discretionary payments to help protect carers and disabled people when the policy was launched in April, but campaigners warned it would only be enough to support around 40,000 of the 420,000 disabled people affected by the cuts. Just one in 10 carers are receiving these discretionary payments on an ongoing basis, this latest research shows. Others were receiving temporary support. The study of 100 carers paying the charge was published to coincide with 100 days of the controversial cut to housing benefit for those deemed to have ‘spare’ rooms.

Shadow department for work and pensions minister, Liam Byrne said: “This report is exactly why we urgently need a cumulative impact assessment. Today, disabled people face a struggle not a safety net. A system that’s jumbled when it should be joined up. Confusing when it should be coherent.

“The time has come to explore lessons from Australia where ‘universal disability insurance’ is integrating back to work support, social care, and disability benefits in a single personal budget.”