Disabled people are likely to be living on lower incomes because of the costs of being disabled and the result of discrimination in the workplace. So it is no surprise they are being hit disproportionately hard by benefit cuts.
Two-thirds of the tenants of Habinteg housing association, which specialises in accessible housing, that are affected by the bedroom tax are disabled. Research has shown that six months after the new policy was put in place only one-third of them had been exempted from payment by local authorities. The prime minister was mistaken in saying that disabled people have been exempted. This is what should happen, but it’s far from the case at the moment.
Ministers defending the policy say people with disabilities should apply for discretionary housing payments – councils’ crisis funds for those struggling with housing costs – but know full well that this small pot of money will not come close to meeting demand. Widely differing policies between local councils have created a new postcode lottery across the country with disabled people regularly refused these crisis funds. Three of the four tenants featured in our case studies were refused.
There is more to come, too. When universal credit is introduced disabled people will find the service charges on their home adaptations are no longer reimbursed, and many of those receiving the disability living allowance will lose essential income when they are assessed for the new personal independence payments (Pip).
Only 15% of Habinteg’s disabled tenants in general needs properties who receive the disability living allowance, have been exempted from the bedroom tax. Unless many more people are made exempt, the impact of further cuts in disability benefits will be severe for this group.