You are here:   Home

Stroud Against The Cuts

Bedroom Tax tenants in hardship refused assistance money from Stroud District Council

Friday, 21 November 2014 18:48 administrator
Print PDF

Press Release 21/11/2014                                                                  Stroud Against the Cuts

Contact: James Beecher via This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 07734 058789

BEDROOM TAX TENANTS IN HARDSHIP REFUSED ASSISTANCE MONEY FROM SDC

Stroud District Council has refused to pass on central government money given to it order to help those in hardship to housing tenants, including one who faces eviction and another who has only been eating once a day.

 

 

Author Maria Shelley, who has been unable to meet rent payments since her housing benefit was reduced in April 2013 due to the introduction of the Under Occupancy Charge or ‘bedroom tax’. As a result she has built up £846.39 of arrears (as of 6th November 2014), and has received a letter from SDC warning of “legal proceedings” that may “leave you with a poor credit rating”, “Prevent you moving home via Gloucestershire Homeseeker and Homeswapper” and “lead to your eviction”. Maria Shelley is appealing against SDCs decision to cut her housing benefit on the grounds that the ‘bedroom’ is too small and is used for reasonable alternative use (3, 5).

The council has recommended that any tenants unable to meet rent payments because of a cut to housing benefit apply for hardship

 

payments known as ‘Discretionary Housing Payment’ (DHP). Indeed, this recommendation was made in a letter to Ms Shelley just two days before she was informed that despite her disability and arrears she would not be eligible for a hardship payment. Another tenant, a domestic violence survivor, has been refused DHP despite the fact that she has been forced into an overdraft and using food banks in order to continue to pay rent (1). Last year SDC returned a substantial sum of money to central government, responding to criticism of this by saying: “We cannot force people to claim discretionary housing payments if they don’t want to and are legally obliged to return any unspent sums to the government.” (2)

Maria Shelley said:

 

“I feel very upset that in some places I might be eligible to get DHP but here in Stroud they’re not taking my health into account – instead the fact I receive disability benefits counts against me and they’re taking the risk of exacerbating my illness. I would have liked the letters from my Doctor to have been given more consideration by SDC because of the impact of stress on my body, and my Doctor is very angry and disappointed that they have ignored her professional opinion. They just don’t seem to get it.”

A letter from Miss Shelley’s doctor to SDC’s Housing Department dated 21st July 2014 said: “I am not knowledgeable in regards to the legalities of the bedroom tax but I have to say that Miss Shelley is in a vulnerable unstable state of health. If taken to court or forced to move, a mental and physical breakdown may occur and may well need a second bedroom then for carers/family to come and look after the patient”

 

Vanessa d’Esterre: “I am trapped in the house I was abused in and I want to move, but I have found that most one- and two-Bedroomed HA properties exceeds the rent of the three-bedroomed house I currently live in. I suffer from PTSD and acute Anxiety and Depression as a direct result of my Domestic Violence & Abuse experiences, but although I need a Safe House and a Safe Location to live in, I have been told that I can only apply to a Council if I have close relatives living in the area. I have not been considered for several Council properties that I felt were in a safe location to bid on, because of the sheer level of community need in the Emergency Banding and the lack of one bedroomed properties in

 

and around the County. Renting privately is unrealistic – it’s unobtainable and unaffordable. Stroud District Council’s answer to this is that I could live in Bed & Breakfast. If SDC are advising women that this is a Safe option to Refuge Spaces that do not exist, then I feel that they are either ignorant of Domestic Violence Abuse issues, paying lip service to safeguarding the vulnerable, or so severely underfunded due to central government funding cuts that they cannot function properly. 

I have recently been refused Discretionary Housing Payment. Because of the lack of guidance and because I am so distressed I omitted some expenditure on my form. In order to meet other costs I have no landline Telephone, Broadband or Television and I also go without heating and mostly eat only once a day.  These sacrifices essentially impact on my mental and physical disabilities and prevent me from moving forward and going back to my career. I will be asking SDC to Review my DHP.”

James Beecher,

 

one of SATC’s volunteer co-ordinators said: “The way tenants are being treated is heart-breaking. I’m disgusted by the way people in obvious hardship are being forced through frankly bizarre bureaucratic hurdles in order to access money intended for them which the council is saying they can’t give away. It’s not that there’s a shortage of people applying, it’s that the council is acting like Scrooge – except with no benefit to its own budget. We’ll continue to campaign for more sensible policies with a serious sense of urgency as tenants face a bleak Christmas” (4).

 

Notes for editors:

1.       A letter from Vanessa d’Esterre previously published in the Stroud News and Journal: http://www.stroudnewsandjournal.co.uk/news/lettersextra/11510011.print/

2.       “Eighteen tenants hit by bedroom tax at risk of eviction – campaigners claim” – Stroud News and Journal story http://www.stroudnewsandjournal.co.uk/news/11492022.Eighteen_tenants_hit_by__bedroom_tax__at_risk_of_eviction__campaigners_claim/?ref=mr

3.       Further coverage in the Stroud News and Journal of Stroud Against the Cuts campaign for tenants to appeal against imposition of the bedroom tax http://www.stroudnewsandjournal.co.uk/news/11518174.___Bedroom_tax____protest_hits_Stroud/

4.       Report in Stroud Life on Stroud Against the Cuts’ 2013 attempts to persuade Stroud District Council to adopt a formal ‘no bedroom tax evictions’ policy and other policies to aid tenants: http://www.stroudlife.co.uk/Bedroom-tax-evictions-debate-Stroud-District/story-20241697-detail/story.html

5.       Stroud Against the Cuts’ webpage on “How to appeal against the cut to housing benefit (the under occupancy charge or bedroom tax” http://stroudagainstcuts.co.uk/fightback/disability/41-disability-cuts/174-how-to-appeal-against-a-reduction-in-your-housing-benefit-bedroom-tax.html

 

Last Updated ( Friday, 21 November 2014 19:09 )
 

Support fire and rescue workers! Defend our services! Solidarity with the Fire Brigades Union!

Tuesday, 04 November 2014 19:26 administrator
Print PDF

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) took strike action from 6pm on October 31st 2014 till 6pm on November 4th 2014. In the youtube video playlist below, members of the FBU and supporters in Stroud discuss why the strike took place, why they took part in or supported the action, and how people can find out more or show solidarity with the union in their dispute with the government.
For more information see: http://www.fbu.org.uk
 

 

BEDROOM TAX ‘CAUSING HARDSHIP AND ANXIETY’ FOR PARENTS AND CHILDREN - Press Release

Friday, 10 October 2014 17:48 administrator
Print PDF

Press Release 10/10/14                                         Stroud Against the Cuts

Contact: James Beecher 07734 058789 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or Caroline Molloy 07931 302507 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

BEDROOM TAX ‘CAUSING HARDSHIP AND ANXIETY’ FOR PARENTS AND CHILDREN

SUMMARY: Stroud Against the Cuts is being contacted by dozens of anxious tenants hit by the ‘bedroom tax’, many of whom have been served Notices of Seeking Possession. SATC and Green councillors have been running drop-in sessions to help tenants to appeal against the charge where they have reasonable grounds – for example room size or disability needs[i]. The group has also helped tenants to apply for additional government help (‘Discretionary Housing Payment’[ii]), whilst Green councillor Caroline Molloy has been pushing the council to improve its bedroom tax policies and practices. The group says the information the council has given tenants about both options needs to be better, and so parents, children and single people are all suffering unnecessarily.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Stroud Against the Cuts warned the council back in October 2013 that the poor and vulnerable would suffer if policies were not improved. In November 2013, campaigners from SATC and Unite Community Gloucestershire collected over 1,100 local signatures on a petition and presented it to a full council meeting – but a Green motion supporting some of the campaigners demands did not pass[iii]. Eighteen months since the ‘Under Occupancy Charge’ was introduced by the Coalition Government, arrears are mounting and – SATC say – people are making impossible decisions.

James Beecher from SATC said: “The Council has been telling tenants to ‘Think Rent before it’s Spent’ on terrifying looking documents threatening them with repossession[iv]. I’ve spoken to tenants who find this patronising – for those hit by the bedroom tax, paying rent ‘before it’s spent’ can mean not heating their homes, or missing meals. People are being forced to choose between starving, freezing, or becoming homeless. It’s absolutely disgusting in one of the richest countries in the world. Neil Carmichael should be utterly ashamed for continuing to support this policy’[v].

Of the tenants SATC has spoken to recently, one – Vanessa d’Esterre, a domestic violence survivor – says she found herself forced to eat once a day and visit Stroud District Food Bank in order to make rent payments once £115/month had been cut from her housing benefit[vi]. Scooby Grant, a tenant SATC met while leafleting in Kings St, Stroud, has been unable to keep up with his rent payments since his housing benefit was cut – even though his 9 year old son regularly stays in the house:

Mr Grant said “The apparently “spare bedroom” has been my son’s bedroom since birth and he continues to stay on a weekly basis. The introduction of the bedroom tax has been highly stressful – it’s just another kick in the teeth. My son has gone through a lot of upheaval in the last couple of years and the home he has inhabited since birth is a form of stability for him. I hope to have my daughter staying with me soon and to move to a smaller property is just not feasible. I didn’t know I had a right to appeal, it seems the council don’t want people to know their rights[vii]. If it were not for the determination and efforts of Stroud against the Cuts, I fear many people within the local area would just be brushed under the carpet and evicted from their homes, without being given a voice.”

Councillor Caroline Molloy said “Central government’s bedroom tax is crazy - it won’t even save public money. Forcing often vulnerable people out of social housing and their communities, away from families and friends, and into the private sector or temporary homeless accommodation will cost us all more, because of extortionate private sector rents and the knock-on effects. I’m concerned what we’ve seen so far is just the tip of the iceberg - I have been asking questions to find out how many tenants are just walking away from social housing because the whole thing is so stressful.”

Notes to editors:

 


[i] Information on grounds for appeal and the GL24 form required to do so can be found on the SATC website at: http://stroudagainstcuts.co.uk/fightback/disability/41-disability-cuts/174-how-to-appeal-against-a-reduction-in-your-housing-benefit-bedroom-tax.html.

[ii] SDC is granted £120,000/year in Discretionary Housing Payment by central government in order to help those in hardship because of the bedroom tax. Last year the council gave back a significant amount of this money claiming an insufficient number of tenants had applied for assistance. SATC says many tenants applied and were denied DHP.

[iv] See a picture of the repossession notice sent to several tenants here: https://twitter.com/StroudAntiCuts/status/520510686791999488.

[v] Neil Carmichael voted against the ‘Affordable Homes Bill’ at its Second Reading, refusing additional exemptions to the “Housing Benefit Penalty for Those Deemed to Have Excess Bedrooms” on the 5th September, 2014. See:  http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2014-09-05&number=47&mpn=Neil_Carmichael&mpc=Stroud&house=commons.

[vii] Separated parents with children who stay in both parents homes shouldn’t have to pay the under-occupancy penalty, see tribunal judgements discussed here: http://speye.wordpress.com/2014/02/18/the-bedroom-tax-violates-a-parent-and-childs-right-to-a-family-life-what-an-appeal-win/ and here: http://speye.wordpress.com/2014/08/15/bedroom-tax-decision-of-all-bedroom-tax-winning-decisions-just-maybe/.

 

Last Updated ( Thursday, 23 October 2014 12:10 )
 

How to appeal against a reduction in your housing benefit (bedroom tax)

Monday, 22 September 2014 14:13 administrator
Print PDF

Help for people hit by the bedroom tax

Are you a council or Housing Association tenant? Has your Housing Benefit been reduced because of the bedroom tax (under-occupancy charge)?

About 400 people in Stroud have been affected since April last year, losing up to a quarter of HB.

There’s a chance that you may be able to get your bedroom tax rent arrears wiped, reduced and/or capped, but to have the best chance, you need to act now (before mid October).

Act now - you’ve nothing to lose

Submit an official appeal on the 2-page form ‘GL24’ NOW (http://bit.ly/1wh6SrG) and give it to the council.

Need help?

We can help you get hold of the forms and fill them in. We will be arranging drop-in sessions at The Exchange, Brick Row, Stroud GL5 (dates & times to be confirmed). Or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or call Cllr Caroline Molloy on 07931 302507.

Want to do it yourself?

It must be on this official form (even if you’ve already written). Reasons you can use in an appeal include:

·         The room is too small to count as a bedroom

·         I do not use the room as a bedroom, but for another purpose

·         I need the room because someone in my household has disability / health issues, because I have my kids or carer staying part-time, because I have experienced domestic violence.

Use these expert websites suggested wording on how to fill in each section of the form:

http://bit.ly/1owIiOk (NOTE - in Section 4, put in April 2014 as the date, not March 2013)

http://bit.ly/1tBiXpN (See p3 and 4 and pick the arguments that apply to your own situation)

 

There’s no guarantee of success, but tenants across the country have successfully overturned their bedroom tax using these arguments. If the council doesn’t agree your case, the next step is to go to a tribunal hearing. If that happens, the tribunal will pay your expenses and we will ensure you have someone to go with you. Judges have been sympathetic to tenants. There’s no charge for this, so you’ve nothing to lose by trying.

What else can you do?

In addition, you could ask the council for the application form for ‘Discretionary Housing Payment’ to make up the shortfall. So far, not enough people in Stroud have claimed this money. If you applied but were rejected, write to the council asking them to ‘reconsider the decision’- and let us know (using the contact details above).

What else are we doing?

The bedroom tax is a government policy. But Stroud Against the Cuts are working with Green Councillor Caroline Molloy to push Stroud Council to change their policy so that people falling into rent arrears due to the bedroom tax are not at risk of losing their homes. If you appeal it may help our wider campaigning against the bedroom tax.

 

Google+

Last Updated ( Thursday, 23 October 2014 12:09 )
 

Stroud Against the Cuts slams Neil Carmichael MP’s position on housing, benefits, and young people

Tuesday, 30 September 2014 11:06 administrator
Print PDF

Press release 29/09/2014

Contact: James Beecher This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or Caroline Molloy 07931 302507.

Stroud Against the Cuts slams Neil Carmichael MP’s position on housing, benefits, and young people

Summary: Campaigning group Stroud Against the Cuts has reacted angrily to Neil Carmichael’s stance on cutting benefits, saying it will cause even greater hardship for struggling local people. At a recent parliamentary vote, local MP Neil Carmichael also reaffirmed his support for the bedroom tax that now threatens local tenants with eviction (1). Meanwhile, SATC have arranged a drop-in session on Friday 3rd October to support people affected by the bedroom tax to find out how to appeal against a reduction in their housing benefit (2). The group handed out flyers in Stroud town centre on Saturday 26th September with information on the drop-in session and websites people can visit to help them fill in the forms themselves (3).

Earlier this month, Neil Carmichael voted to continue the government’s policy of withdrawing a percentage of housing benefit from tenants with ‘spare bedrooms’, even where these tenants have offered to move but there are no appropriate properties available.

SATC have highlighted that around 350 council tenants are affected by the bedroom tax, and are investigating how many housing association tenants are as well.

Caroline Molloy, Green Party Councillor for Stroud Central is working with housing and benefit officers at the District Council to see if they can adopt policies that other councils have introduced, to help local tenants. She said:

“Neil Carmichael clearly has no idea about the hardship people affected by the bedroom tax are going through. Why vote to continue to punish people financially when there is nowhere for them to move? In only a couple of hours of leafleting we met a dozen more people hit by this foolish and cruel catch 22. Some were disabled or vulnerable, some had stories of box rooms being counted as bedrooms, and very few knew of their right to appeal, or how to go about doing so.”

James Beecher from Stroud Against the Cuts added:

“A few months ago, I was disgusted to discover that the very first tenant who approached Stroud Against the Cuts had a ‘spare room’ so small that, if she let it out to a lodger as the council advised, she would be breaking housing law (4). If any tenant has seen their housing benefit cut we encourage them to attend our drop-in session between 10am and 1pm on Friday 3rd October at The Exchange. We will continue to support those affected by the bedroom tax and intend to expand our support for others on the receiving end of this government’s vicious policies”

Tenants seeking further information can find guidance and the official GL24 form on the www.stroudagainstcuts.co.uk website, or they can contact Cllr Molloy on 07931 302507. Forms will be available with advice and assistance between 10am and 1pm on Friday 3rd October at The Exchange GL5 1DF.

David Cameron pledged at the Conservative Party’s conference this week that people aged 18-21 would be barred from accessing housing and unemployment benefit (5). “Through the bedroom tax, the Tories have already punished people whose children have left home, now they want to consign those young people to poverty or homelessness”, said James Beecher, “How can Neil Carmichael defend this disgusting policy?”

Notes for editors:

  1. Carmichael voted against the ‘Affordable Homes Bill’ at its Second Reading, refusing additional exemptions to the “Housing Benefit Penalty for Those Deemed to Have Excess Bedrooms” on the 5th September, 2014. See:  http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2014-09-05&number=47&mpn=Neil_Carmichael&mpc=Stroud&house=commons.
  2. The drop-in session will be repeated in future. Members of SATC are in contact with people at the local Citizens Advice Bureau, Marah and Stroud District Food Bank about the services these agencies provide, but are independent organisations and no support for SATC’s political position’s is implied.
  3. A copy of the leaflet is available on request – the text is available at www.stroudagainstcuts.co.uk.
  4. The room of the affected tenant in Stroud was measured by a SDC Housing Officer at 3.067m x 2.052m or 6.293m2. This equates to 67.737 sq ft, under the ‘space standard’ specified in paragraph 326 of the Housing Act 1988, which details that a room under 70 sq. ft. can only be used as a bedroom by a child under 10. See: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1985/68/section/326.
  5. See, for instance, “Tories pledge to scrap housing benefit for 18-to-21-year-olds”, Inside Housing, 28th September. Available online at: http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/finance/tories-pledge-to-scrap-housing-benefit-for-18-to-21-year-olds/7005967.article.
Last Updated ( Thursday, 23 October 2014 12:11 )
 


Page 1 of 9