Members and supporters of the Welsh Tenants will be aware of our position regarding the spare room subsidy or what campaigners call the ‘bedroom tax’.
We were among the first to raise awareness of the potential impacts in Wales producing our report in 2011 that advocated for a voluntary downsize scheme rather than the punitive measure of penalising social tenants.
Shortly after, we helped secure a major review in November 2011 of the potential solutions with a report being published by Simon Inkson in May 2012 that examined a range of options to provide assistance to tenants.
We also tried to initiate tenant support to access appeals through Her Majesties Court Tribunal Service (Sept 2013) as well as supporting the development of tenant voices around Wales to provide a network of local voluntary support via tenant campaign groups.
We also worked in partnership with the sector to provide financial inclusion support through ‘Your Benefits Are Changing’ campaign and a number of other initiatives while more recently providing support to the enquiry led by the Wales Audit Office and the subsequent Public Accounts Committee enquiry that reported on July 24th. That report recommended
“a cost/benefit analysis of mitigating the full impact of the removal of the spare room subsidy through discretionary housing payments, as the Scottish Government chose to do.”
Needless to say, we supported whole heartedly the recommendations of that report. Clearly after many years of the imposition of the bedroom tax the objective of enabling tenants to downsize, freeing up social housing for people who are overcrowded has not worked.
The majority of those affected remain in their homes still struggling to make ends meet with many having to access food banks to get by or sell what little they have in order to reduce their arrears.
What is clear, is that none of the solutions propagated then by the Department of Works and Pensions have worked. The small percentage of those that have downsized have lost their security of tenure, and are paying more in rent in the private rented sector, while many have accrued rent arrears placing themselves at risk of eviction.
While many are struggling to maintain their tenancy, it is under a burden of an unnecessary measure that places further hardship and stress on already many vulnerable families in the social housing sector. This cannot go on. With the prospect of further cuts to welfare to working, non-working and disabled tenants, many of those impacted will be under further financial pressure to sustain their tenancy.
Devolution means that we can decide together how we should respond to the imposition of measures designed to address a particular problem in other parts of the UK. That is why we have consulted with partners, supporters and members and are calling for a more radical solution to help the many thousands who are still impacted.
We have agreed a joint statement and registered a petition on the National Assembly for Wales website. If you wish to join our voice, please register your support for the petition by clinking on the link here to provide a more lasting solution. We also want you to share this link with your friends and colleagues asking for their support.