One third of disabled people asking for help with ‘bedroom tax’ have applications rejected

Critics say there is a ‘postcode lottery’ for grants meant to protect the vulnerable

Adam Withnall@adamwithnall
Thursday 19 December 2013 10:21
Protesters have been very vocal about the so-called 'bedroom tax'; here pictured outside the LibDem conference
Protesters have been very vocal about the so-called 'bedroom tax'; here pictured outside the LibDem conference

Almost a third of the disabled people affected by the so-called bedroom tax have had their applications for help with the payments refused by local authorities, a survey has found.

When it brought in the controversial levy on “surplus” bedrooms in council-owned accommodation, the Government said grants known as discretionary housing payments (DHPs) would protect the most vulnerable.

It estimated that around 420,000 disabled people would be affected by the bedroom tax, often because they require additional space for treatment equipment or to provide somewhere for carers to stay.

Yet according to the research from the National Housing Federation, responses from 98 local authorities showed that on average 29 per cent of disabled residents had their requests for a DHP grant turned down.

The survey also highlighted what appears to be a worrying “postcode lottery” of payments. In parts of Kent, the success rate for disabled applicants was just 14 per cent.

North East Derbyshire, Basildon, Rotherham and parts of Lancashire and North Yorkshire all saw no more than around 30 per cent of disabled people granted financial help.

They were in stark contrast with 25 of the 98 responding councils, who said they gave DHPs to every single disabled person who asked for one.

David Orr, the chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said: “Whenever ministers are challenged on the bedroom tax, they tell us vulnerable people are not at risk because of these discretionary housing payments.

“Now we know the truth: this so-called bedroom tax protection is starting to look like a postcode lottery, with many disabled people and vulnerable families facing miserable odds of getting help.

“Even those who are lucky enough to get support will have to reapply time and time again, each time facing the stress and worry that the funds will be withdrawn, while councils are being inundated with applications.

“This support fund is ineffective and deeply unfair - just like the bedroom tax itself. The only real solution is to repeal it.”

The Department for Work and Pensions spokesman insisted the money available to councils to make discretionary payments had gone up significantly.

A spokesman said: “We more than tripled the money we give to local authorities to £190m this year to ensure that help was available to those who need it most.

“The cash was given to local authorities to distribute because they deal with their customers on a day-to-day basis and are best placed to see to it that the money reaches those who have the greatest need.

“We will continue to monitor progress closely while our reforms bed down.”

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments