Government admits penalty will affect couples if one partner is of working age

15/02/2013 | By Carl Brown, Inside Housing

More than 67,000 pensioners could be hit by the bedroom tax – despite the government’s insistence the controversial policy will only apply to people of working age.

Exclusive research carried out by the Chartered Institute of Housing for Inside Housing shows there are 67,000 households on housing benefit where one partner is over pension age and one is under.

Although these people won’t be hit by the under-occupation penalty, commonly known as the bedroom tax, from 1 April, they will be hit by the penalty when they move on to the new universal credit after October.

An impact assessment published by the Department for Work and Pensions last June said couples will remain on universal credit, which applies to working-age households, until both members of the couple reach pension age. The bedroom tax, under which social housing tenants will have their benefit cut if they have a spare room, will apply to all universal credit claimants.

Gavin Smart, policy and practice director at the CIH, described the findings as ‘extremely worrying’.

He said: ‘The government needs to make sure these people are protected as the transition to universal credit takes place.’

A DWP spokesperson confirmed such ‘mixed-age’ couples will be affected when they transfer to universal credit between October 2013 and 2017. He also said the younger person in the couple will benefit from ‘work incentives’ through universal credit.

Meanwhile, activists in Liverpool have been encouraging people to protest outside the offices of social landlords about the bedroom tax.

Last Thursday protestors targeted Liverpool Mutual Homes while protests will take place outside the offices of One Vision Housing on 28 February and West Lancashire Council on 25 February.

Neil Furey, a Labour councillor at Conservative-led West Lancashire Council who is backing the protests, said landlords should be doing more to help people affected by the bedroom tax cope, such as putting together hardship funds to help people pay their rent.

An internet blog called Combat the Bedroom Tax suggests people refuse to pay the shortfalls caused by the policy.