'5,932 disabled people face being hit by bedroom tax'
MORE than half the people in Derbyshire who stand to suffer when the Government's controversial "bedroom tax" is introduced are disabled, a campaign group claims.
The new legislation means housing benefit and universal credit claimants deemed to have one unused bedroom in their council or housing association home will lose 14% of their housing benefit.
Those with two or more will lose 25%.
As a result, the National Housing Federation estimates 9,417 people in the county could face annual benefit cuts of between £480 and £1,100 for under-occupying their homes – and that 5,932 of them have a disability.
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Disabled people are among the worst hit because their homes are often adapted and include a spare room for medical equipment, such as an oxygen cylinder or a wheelchair.
The Government said it was helping disabled people affected by the changes with its £30 million discretionary housing payments scheme.
But Chris Hobson, East Midlands lead manager for the federation, said it would still leave disabled people significantly short-changed.
He said: "If the Government's discretionary housing payments fund was shared equally among disabled people hit by the tax, they would each receive as little as 97p a week to cover the shortfall, compared to the average £14 a week loss in housing benefit."
Last month, the Derby Telegraph revealed that nearly 300 Derby Homes tenants, who are already behind in their rent payments, also face taking a hit to their housing benefit when the Government makes its bedroom tax changes in April.
The figure was revealed by the city council's social housing arm, which says it is "very concerned" about how the changes will affect its ability to collect rent.
Maureen Davis, Derby Homes housing operations manager, said the organisation was helping people who feel their best option is to move to a smaller property.
A Government spokesman defended the bedroom tax. He said: "Councils have been given an extra £155 million so that they can help their vulnerable tenants, with £30 million specifically targeted towards supporting disabled people who have modified their homes, and foster carers.
"We need to ensure better use of social housing when over a quarter of a million tenants are living in overcrowded homes and two million are on waiting lists."
'THOUSANDS WILL BE PENALISED BY TAX'
THE National Housing Federation said its research suggested the bedroom tax would hit 2,564 people in Derby, 778 in Amber Valley, 702 in Erewash, 576 in South Derbyshire and 423 in Derbyshire Dales. A further 1,357 would lose out in Chesterfield, 1,017 in Bolsover, 626 in High Peak and 1,374 in North East Derbyshire.
As well as disabled people, divorced parents who share custody of their children are among the worst affected because they have rooms that are regularly unused.
Grandparents who share the care of their grandchildren will also lose out, as will foster parents who need spare rooms for when they take in children. Chris Hobson, East Midlands lead manager for the federation, said: "The bedroom tax is flawed and will unfairly penalise thousands of people in Derbyshire who have lived in their homes for years, raised families and contributed to their communities.
"The 'one-size-fits-all' approach does not work and there just aren't enough smaller affordable homes for these families to move into to avoid the tax.
"Many people will find themselves having to move into more expensive privately-rented properties.
"This will only add to the overall housing benefit bill."