Sheffield households braced for ‘unfair’ benefit change

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CHANGES to housing benefit – which include cutting payments for people with spare bedrooms – could affect substantial numbers of people in Sheffield.

A Sheffield Council questionnaire found 40 per cent of respondents said not all their bedrooms were in use all the time.

Just more than half of people who answered the survey said they were in receipt of housing benefit and 43 per cent of those people said that not all their bedrooms were occupied all of the time.

Some 56 per cent said they would not be able to afford to stay of their housing benefit was reduced.

The council also received comments from some of those who responded to the survey.

One said: “Ours is a three-bedroom house. I have one child with me on a permanent basis and two children of different genders aged 10 and 12, that stay 40 per cent of the time.

“I feel all three bedrooms are occupied and not spare rooms. I think this ruling should be reconsidered.”

Others who commented said they were disabled and their homes had been adapted, so did not want to move.

The Government says pensioners will not be affected by the changes although disabled people are included unless they have to have a carer residing overnight.

However, another respondent said: “I object to the decision by the Government to exempt OAPs from this legislation.

“If it’s one or two people on a three-bed house, it’s under-occupied whether they are under pension age or not.

“In fact, OAPs are more likely to be rattling round in an oversized home.”

Coun Harry Harpham, Sheffield Council cabinet member for housing, said: “The bedroom tax is a complete disregard for the most vulnerable people in our society.

“It will cause utter hardship. It is something people aren’t aware of yet.”

The result of the survey is contained in a report to Sheffield Council’s safer and stronger communities scrutiny board, which was meeting today at Sheffield Town Hall.

The report says other changes to housing benefit will see 600 single people renting homes have their payments reduced.

Meanwhile, there are concerns payment of housing benefits directly to claimants as part of the new universal credit system could increase the likelihood of arrears among people who struggle with finances.