Disabled members and the “spare bedroom tax”

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2012 National LGBT Conference
21 September 2012
Carried as Amended


Conference notes the changes to Housing Benefit Legislation which is leading to additional pressure on those renting in the private sector. The Local Housing Allowance (LHA) restriction to that of a room in a shared house for single people under 35 has led to an increase in rent arrears and homelessness.

It is proposed that from April 2013, tenants living in social housing (from local authorities and registered Housing Associations) will have a reduction of up to 25% in their Housing Benefit if it is deemed that they are under-occupied. This can be from an elderly couple whose children have grown up and moved out to a couple with a small spare bedroom.

Conference welcomes the unanimous ruling in the Court of Appeal that the size criteria in the housing benefit regulations discriminate against disabled people, because they do not allow for an additional room to be paid for where a disabled person has a carer, or where two children cannot share a room because of disability.

The decision concerned a couple who needed 24 hour care, which required carers to work in shifts and a claimant who has two disabled daughters who cannot share a room because of the nature of their disabilities.

The Secretary of State has applied for permission to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court on the grounds that the use of the size criteria in the LHA is either not discriminatory or else can be justified.

With further changes in the near future or already in place with the implementation of Universal Credit, changes in Disability Living Allowance (DLA) changing to Personal Independence Plans (PIPs) and the time limitation on the contribution based Employment Support Allowance (ESA), this could have a huge effect on disabled members who are also lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT).

Many LGBT people, particularly young LGBT people, have to move to urban areas in order to find support networks. Those in low-paid transient work are hard hit and may have to choose between staying in an unsafe home environment or move to potentially unsupportive shared housing.

Many disabled people who are not in receipt of the middle or higher rate of the care component of DLA but still may need an extra bedroom due to their disability will have a detrimental effect on their weekly budget. LGBT people not out to their homophobic or transphobic families may rely on an additional room in the house.

With anecdotal evidence showing that landlords are less willing to take tenants in receipt of Housing Benefit and the limited stock of social housing, there is an ever smaller number of affordable properties.

Conference calls on the National LGBT committee to:

1)Campaign with the National Disabled Members’ Committee and other appropriate bodies against the implementation of these policies;

2)Publicise UNISON welfare, advice lines and appeals;

3)monitor and publicise developments in this area which impact on LGBT members including disabled LGBT members.