The Welfare Reform Bill, that was passed by parliament last year, went some way towards addressing the issue of social welfare tenants living in large properties with spare rooms at taxpayers expense. We have a situation where some working people live in cramped conditions because they can’t afford to rent larger properties. It seems unfair that there are housing benefit claimants living in houses that are large enough to have spare rooms.
The Welfare Reform Bill forced social housing tenants to downgrade to smaller homes or face a reduction of up-to 25% in their housing benefit.
Whilst the intentions of the bill were to address an unfair situation its wording has led to another injustice. Families who are unable to find smaller homes are still penalised with a significant reduction in their housing benefit. There are also cases where an additional bedroom is required by some due to a disability but despite this clear need they have been forced to downgrade or face the penalty. The bill, commonly known as the ‘bedroom tax’, has reinforced the view that Conservatives are callous.
Andrew George, the Liberal Democrat MP, proposed the Affordable Homes Bill to put right the injustice inherent in the Welfare bill. His bill exempts those who can’t downgrade to a smaller home because they can’t find an alternative. It also exempts the disabled who have adapted homes and/or where they need a ‘spare’ room for carers.
It was interesting to note that Ian Duncan Smith’s, the Work and Pensions secretary, focus was on the cost to the treasury of £1 billion for this amendment. He couldn’t care less about the suffering of the most vulnerable members of our society.
Angie Bray, MP for Ealing and Acton, was the only conservative MP brave and principled enough to vote for the changes.
The final vote after the second reading was 306 for and 231 against which takes it a step closer to addressing the injustice inherent in the Welfare Reform bill.