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Your discretionary housing payment has run out. Pay the #bedroomtax yourself.

More evidence that evictions are on the horizon and the bedroom tax needs to be scrapped right away...

We're hearing from people who were receiving discretionary housing payment to cover the bedroom tax, but who are now having applications declined as their payments run out and they apply again for DHP.

We've been sent this letter by Jo, who we've been in contact with about the bedroom tax for most of this year.

Jo lives in Speke in a two-bedroom housing association flat. She's lived in that flat for about 13 years. She was moved to her current flat so she could care for her elderly mother who lives nearby. Jo is disabled herself and on employment and support allowance. She has one small "spare" room for which she must pay the bedroom tax.

When the bedroom tax began, she knew that she'd struggle to pay for that “spare” bedroom out of her small benefit. So she applied to Liverpool City Council for a discretionary housing payment. That was in April. She was awarded a DHP of about £11 a week which was paid directly to her housing association (the South Liverpool Housing Group) to cover the bedroom tax.

The problem is that Jo's DHP award was only for six months (DHPs are time-limited) and it has just run out. She applied for another DHP a couple of weeks ago, but was turned down. So now she'll have to pay the bedroom tax herself. "A discretionary housing payment is not a long term solution for assistance with your rent shortfall," the council says.

The letter that Jo has received from Liverpool City Council is pretty stark: “the local authority feel that you have had sufficient time to make alternative arrangements to meet your shortfall or seek more affordable accommodation.”

Jo tells us that she isn't too sure what the council means by that. Her financial situation hasn't changed since April. She is still on ESA and still must pay for her “spare” bedroom out of that money. Moving will be very difficult for her - not just because there's a shortage of suitable housing for people to downsize to, but because she still needs to be near her mother to care for her. She goes to her mother's house about three times a day: “I’m like the on-site janitor - if the electricity goes off, I’m the one that’s on call...I’ll cook if she wants anything cooking, I’ll push the hoover round, whatever she needs doing.” She has saved the state thousands of pounds in carers’ fees. If she's not there to do that work, the council will have to do it.

The council's letter says she has two options: she could “try to negotiate a lower rent charge with her landlord” or she could “look for another property to rent.” But as we say, there aren't a lot of those properties around and she needs to be near to her mother to care for her.

The suggestion that she tries to “negotiate a lower rent with her landlord” seems pretty incredible – the whole point is that she had a lower rent before the bedroom tax was introduced. We'll ring SLHG this week to find out if they're open to negotiating lower rents with bedroom tax tenants and how much lower they're prepared to go if they are. We've spoken to people in Liverpool who are paying a small amount each week towards their bedroom tax "arrears," if that's what the council means.

This is ridiculous – and all for about £11 a week.

And what happens as DHP comes to an end for more and more people? We probably all know the answer to that.

And read recent work by False Economy's researcher on bedroom tax arrears: the statistics reveal the scale of debt created by the tax, as one council house tenant in three has been pushed into rent arrears since it was introduced in April.


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