Benefit cuts for Hull families 'about fairness', says Iain Duncan Smith
WORK and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith says cutting housing benefits for 4,700 low-income households in Hull is "about fairness".
The minister spoke out just days after Labour chose the city to launch a national campaign against the so-called bedroom tax.
Shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne visited a couple in Bransholme who are facing a 14 per cent reduction in their housing benefit, which helps subsidise part of their rent on a two-bedroom council property.
Alex and Susan Pattison have been told to consider moving to a one-bedroom home even though they currently sleep in separate bedrooms because he is severely disabled. She is her husband's full-time carer and says she needs to sleep alone for her own respite.
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But Mr Duncan Smith urged people like the Pattisons to apply for special funding being made available to help disabled tenants move into smaller properties.
He said: "These changes are about fairness.
"We will be able to make better use of social housing in Hull and help more families into their own home, while keeping the welfare budget under control.
"At the same time, we will make sure that people in difficult situations are protected. That's fair."
Mr Duncan Smith said the problem of having thousands of people stuck on housing waiting lists in places like Hull needed addressing.
"It can't be right that 14,000 households across Yorkshire and the Humber are living in an overcrowded home," he said.
"There's nothing fair about making families wait and wait for a house that is big enough while other households on benefits are allowed to live in homes that are too big for their needs at no extra cost.
"Many working families in Hull cannot afford the luxury of having spare bedrooms and the Government cannot afford to pay for bedrooms that are not being used.
"That's why, from April, housing benefit claimants living in social housing with spare bedrooms will be expected to make a contribution towards the rent for those spare rooms.
"I know there's been a lot of debate over this policy and, of course, I understand some people will have concerns.
"This change will bring housing benefit for social housing claimants in line with what happens in the private sector already.
"But more fundamentally, ending the spare room subsidy will help us get a better grip of our social housing – and give hope to those households in Hull who are currently squeezed into overcrowded homes."
In an article for the Mail tomorrow, he says: "On average, the extra charge for claimants will be £14 a week.
"Some people will decide to take up work or work a few more hours to cover the difference. Others will want to move to more appropriately sized accommodation or take in a lodger."