People With Terminal Illness/Cancer will not be exempt from the Bedroom Tax

by richardhutton

According to Steve Webb MP (DWP Minister for Pensions), in a Written Answers Parliamentary session (4th March 2013):

“Cancer patients who require a spare room for medical reasons will not be exempt from the under-occupancy measure”.

“People with terminal illnesses will not be exempt from the under-occupancy charge.”

It’s worth putting this in context. The DWP’s own Impact Assessment drew upon work by AffinitySutton, whose housing survey quantified the people set to be affected by the reduction of housing benefit due to under-occupancy:

  • Forty-four percent of those affected are a single person living alone, whilst 23% are living with a partner. One in four households included one or more children under 16.
  • Nearly three quarters (72%) of households include someone with a disability or major health concern, with 40% in receipt of Incapacity Benefit or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). 81% of households do not have anyone in employment, with 16% in receipt of Job Seekers Allowance.
  • Over two thirds have a household income (excluding housing benefit) of less than £150 per week.
  • Forty-two percent report struggling to manage financially to some extent and 41% say they regularly run out of money before the end of the week/month.

What will the impact be?

“Seventy-one percent of those surveyed stand to lose up to £15 per week in housing benefit: 29% stand to lose more than this. Based on their current circumstances, 52% would find it ‘very difficult’ and 31% ‘fairly difficult’ to make up the shortfall in housing benefit to pay towards their rent. Over a third of households (35%) think they would be very or quite likely to run into arrears if the amount they received in housing benefit were cut”.

It is a clear possibility that some people who fall into debt, and are unable to pay their rent, will be people suffering from severe ill-health, or terminal illness. 43% will be alone.