Have we lost sight of what the Spare Room Subsidy was actually for?


Chris Berry, NSL’s Account Director for Revenues and Benefits, highlights how a good scheme in principle, without the right definitions, can cost councils and the government millions.

The Spare Room subsidy or ‘Bedroom Tax’ has been in the news again recently and opinions on it and its success or otherwise continue to be extremely divided. Since its creation, it has been a very emotive topic, providing many negative and challenging headlines and cases, the most recent case being in the high court.

The subsidy should have been a good thing with families on long social housing waiting lists getting access to housing quicker as those living in houses that were under occupied moved out to more relevant properties therefore cutting the cost of housing benefit on temporary accommodation in bed and breakfast establishments and ensuring families are housed appropriately. Unfortunately though, what could have been good has become an unclear topic for debate.

Families who need spare rooms to care for family, or where the room is needed for other relevant purposes, have fallen victim to a reduction in benefit and, in many cases, have struggled to pay the rent element that they need to cover on their already stretched income. There has been no allowance for any ‘other circumstances’ in the scheme as yet, and this has provided a strain on already stretched discretionary housing payment budgets, with some councils reporting a 1000% increase in payments.

Obviously this cannot continue, and if further cuts or lower benefit caps (as is happening this year with the reduction from £26,000 to £23,000 for couples and lone parents) are introduced then rent arrears will rise and we could see further challenges and pressures on the housing and benefits than before the Spare Room subsidy came into place.

Can this scheme be improved to deliver the outcomes intended? If so then the grey areas must be explored and defined, making some of the challenging scenarios we have seen in the media, less likely and allowing full benefit to be paid where appropriate and right.

Ends

For further information, please contact Luke Allen, Director of Communications, 07468 701361, or Luke.Allen@nsl.co.uk

Notes to Editors:
NSL is a leading UK company specialising in the delivery and management of frontline services in complex public sector and regulated environments. Our core services include business process management; enforcement; passenger and social transport; street management and technical design services. We currently have over 70 contracts with local, regional and central government, as well as with the airport and the private sector, and have delivered contracts for high-profile government agencies, such as The Royal Parks, DVLA, Transport for London and Transport Northern Ireland.

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