Women’s Aid Challenges Reforms to Welfare System
> Sign our e-petition to 'Save Lives Save Refuge Services' to protect life saving domestic violence services from the impact of welfare reform.
The welfare system is currently undergoing huge changes, which are going to affect every single person who is claiming any kind of benefit. The changes will include: the amount of money benefits will provide; how benefits are paid; how often benefits are paid; and, a maximum amount of benefits that anyone will receive.
These changes are going to impact domestic violence services and survivors - whether in their own homes, in refuge or in move-on accommodation.
The three main reforms that Women’s Aid is concerned about are:
Women’s Aid is working at the highest levels of government to highlight how the changes are affecting women and children experiencing domestic abuse. We are committed to delivering crucial messages about how the welfare reforms are affecting women are delivered to the key decision makers and ensuring that survivors voices are listened to.
If you are affected by any of the changes, or have examples of others being affected we want to hear from you. Send your examples to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is the bedroom tax?
New housing benefit rules - from 1 April 2013 - mean that individuals in council or housing association properties who currently use housing benefit to pay for some, or all, of their rent but have spare rooms may now see their housing benefit decrease due to the bedroom tax. (This is also called the size criteria or ‘spare room subsidy’).
When did it start?
The bedroom tax was implemented in social housing from April 2013.
How will Bedroom Tax affect people?
The bedroom tax will affect council and housing association tenants of working age who claim housing benefit to pay some or all of their rent. The bedroom tax means that a ‘size criteria’ has been introduced into the social housing sector which restricts full housing benefit to properties which have one bedroom for each individual or couple living as part of the household.
Excerpt from our Emergency Bedroom Tax Appeal:
Let me tell you about Julia*, a survivor of domestic violence who suffered rape, physical assault and harassment at the hands of her partner. Currently, Julia and her 10 year old son, live in a three bedroom house that has been specifically adapted to enable them to live safely in light of the risk posed by Julia’s abuser. A ‘sanctuary system’ has been installed in their home which includes reinforced doors and windows, alarms and a room which Julia can go to safely with a hotline direct to the local police. These measures are necessary to enable Julia and her son to live safely in their home.
Under the Bedroom Tax rules, Julia is only entitled to receive housing benefit for a two bedroom house for herself and her son. She either has to pay the extra rent and go without other essentials, or move to a smaller property. If she can’t pay the extra rent she faces eviction. With very few two-bedroom council houses available, and none with the safety features Julia and her son need, she faces a grave risk from the abuser who has threatened to kill both of them.
Will children be expected to share bedrooms?
· Two children under the age of 16 of the same gender are expected to share a bedroom
· Two children under the age of 10 will be expected to share a room regardless of gender
From April the total amount of eligible rent used to calculate housing benefit available for a property will be reduced by 14% if there is one extra bedroom and it is reduced 25% if there are two or more spare bedrooms.
If the new amount of housing benefit that individuals receive, due to the bedroom tax, is less than the rent they need to pay they will need to make up that shortfall themselves.
Will there be any exceptions to the Bedroom Tax rules?
Not all housing benefit recipients with extra bedrooms will be affected by the bedroom tax. The following individuals will not be affected:
- Individuals living in shared ownership properties
- Individuals living in caravans, mobile homes and houseboat
- Individuals living in some types of supported accommodation
- Homeless individuals in temporary accommodation provided by the Council
- Individuals who have reached state pension credit age or their partner have reached the state pension age
- When an individual, or their partner, is disabled and needs non-resident overnight carers
- Adult children in the Armed Forces will be treated as continuing to live at home and their room will not be considered a ‘spare’ room when they are on operations.
After the full roll-out of Universal Credit, commencing in October 2013, the bedroom tax will operate slightly differently, follow this link to see what will change:
National Housing Federation:
The benefit cap is a limit to the amount of income anyone of working age can receive through benefits. The benefit cap is being introduced to ensure that no one of working age will earn more in benefits than they would from working.
The benefit cap will be £500 per week for lone parents or couples with children, £350 per week for single people.
This means working age, unemployed, single individuals will receive a maximum of £350 per week from benefits. Lone parents or couples with children will receive a maximum of £500 per week from benefits.
The introduction of Universal Credit is a big change to the benefits system. It will affect everyone of working age who needs to claim means-tested benefits.
Universal Credit has been designed to make the benefits and Tax Credits system much simpler, it is the new means-tested benefit for working age people. It will eliminate the ‘in-work’ or ‘out-of-work’ status attached to benefits as there will be one Universal Credit for individuals regardless of their work situation.
What you can do
Women’s Aid are lobbying government for a commitment to ensure all refuges are granted ‘exempt’ status so they are not negatively impacted by the implementation of Universal Credit and the Benefit Cap and we need your help with this.
To support this campaign you can:
- Sign our 'Save Lives Save Refuge Services' e-petition
- Send letters to your local MPs, see a template letter
- Arrange a meeting with your local MP
- Publish a press release to your local media, see a template press release
- Attend a campaign event organised by Women’s Aid, see below
- Retweet all campaign tweets from @womensaid
You can tell us about your campaigning activities by completing the campaign response form and sending it to email@example.com.
Please watch out for further briefings and suggested activities on this page.
Read our letter to The Guardian on benefit cuts threatening refuge services.
Save Lives, Save Services is part of our ongoing Saving Survivors' Services campaign to stop cuts to specialist domestic violence services.