The bedroom tax is forcing people to cut back on food and essential items while burdening them with large personal debts, an official government study released today has revealed.
The report, which was sneaked out on the last day of parliament before Christmas, reveals the lengths which many tenants are forced to go to keep a roof over the heads.
The survey of 1,500 housing benefit claimants, which was commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions and conducted by Ipsos Mori, found that of those affected by the bedroom tax, 76% attempted to find the extra rent by cutting back on food, while 46% spent less on heating and lighting their homes. Over half were forced to cut back on essential items.
A quarter of all those affected were forced to borrow money from friends or family, with around one-in-ten driven to take out payday loans.
The bedroom tax, or as the government calls it 'the removal of the spare room subsidy' was introduced in 2013. Under the policy, tenants who are deemed to have more bedrooms than they need have their housing benefit cut.
The policy was sold as being designed to free up housing stock for families. However, the DWP's study revealed that only tiny numbers of those affected were able to move to alternative accommadation.
Only 17% of those surveyed were able to change their circumstances in order to no longer be affected by the change in the year that the study took place. However, just a small fraction (11%) of this 17% were able to move into smaller social housing and just 1% were able to move into private accommadation.
Almost half of the families with children who were affected by the change, named their child's enrolment at their local school as the most important barrier to moving.
Campaigners today slamed the findings and attacked the government for slipping out the report as MPs head off for Christmas.
"The DWP’s own evaluation finds that the ‘bedroom tax’ is not only pushing families into hardship but it’s also failing to free up more accommodation for families, the key argument ministers used to justify this controversial policy. This is a long and deep look at a hugely controversial policy – it really should not have been released just as MPs rise for Christmas," Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group Alison Garnham, said.
"The research shows what anyone working with families already knows: the bedroom tax is forcing people to cut back on the basics of living – food, clothing and footwear."
The report follows separate research, published earlier this month by Manchester University, which found that children in affected families were showing signs of emotional distress because of the increased pressure their parents were under, following the implementation of the tax.