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

Monday, 22 September 2014 14:13 administrator
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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.

 

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

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

Friday, 10 October 2014 17:48 administrator
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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 )
 

Press Release: Stroud Tenants Hit By Bedroom Tax Must Act Now

Monday, 22 September 2014 14:27 administrator
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Press release 22/09/2014 Stroud Against The Cuts
Contact: James Beecher This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or Caroline Molloy 07931 302507.


Summary: Tenants affected by the bedroom tax may have a chance to reclaim their arrears if they act quickly, campaign group Stroud Against the Cuts have discovered, through working with affected tenants. The issue is growing in seriousness, with around 350 tenants affected, most in mounting arrears, and 18 already having been served with repossession orders, thus facing serious threat of eviction. Campaigners have also discovered that SDC has also handed back government money offered to help tenants in arrears, even as some tenants have been refused access to this money (1).


At last week’s SDC Housing Committee (2) Stroud Against the Cuts campaigner and Green councillor for Stroud Central Cllr Caroline Molloy highlighted a national test case that could potentially give Stroud social housing tenants the opportunity to reclaim all their arrears – but only if they submit a formal appeal to the Council’s Housing Benefit Department within the next month.


Local campaigners have learned from national campaigners that other councils are taking more robust action to help tenants affected by the bedroom tax. Some have made it easier for people to get the government financial assistance that is available, or have reclassified very small rooms so that they are not inappropriately referred to as ‘spare bedrooms’.


James Beecher pointed out that last year SDC said: “The reclassifying of properties was found to be inappropriate for a number of reasons and was dismissed as an option… We do not regard any Council properties in Stroud to have such an anomaly. (3)” But Beecher said: “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)


Another tenant, Vanessa d’Esterre, a Stroud mum affected by the bedroom tax, said: “Since April 2013 my housing benefit payments have been reduced by just under £130 per month, leaving me to make up the shortfall. As a result, I have had to cut back to the point where I am eating once a day. I have also had to withdraw from my University studies. The financial stress has added to my already existing post-traumatic health issues. I am prepared to move, and have advertised continuously on 'Home Swapper' for the past three years, but there aren’t enough properties available and too many tenants are trapped by debts – often caused by the bedroom tax.


I wasn’t aware that I had a right to appeal the decision to reduce my housing benefit – but I will be doing so as soon as possible.”


The Housing Committee agreed to Cllr Caroline Molloy’s request that the council urgently deliver an overdue report on how it administers the bedroom tax. Cllr Molloy also asked the council to write to all tenants affected by the bedroom tax, advising them of their rights to appeal and the importance of doing so in the next month. She advised the housing committee that this could well happen at no cost to the council as potentially arrears could be backdated by central government in such cases.


Cllr Molloy said: “I was disappointed that the Housing Committee declined to discuss the issue further at this time, but I will continue to work with council officers, campaigners and local agencies to urgently notify tenants of their right to appeal. I am also pushing the council to measure and reclassify any small rooms, or those which have reasonable alternative use.”


James Beecher said: “We urge people affected by the bedroom tax to get in touch in the next month so we can help them appeal against decisions to reduce their housing benefit. Tenants have nothing to lose by appealing – but a chance of winning their arrears backdated, particularly if their spare room is too small, if someone has a disability, caring responsibilities, or has experienced domestic violence.”


If any tenant needs help with filling in their appeal form, there is guidance and the official GL24 form (5) on the Stroud Against the Cuts website, or they can contact Cllr Molloy on 07931 302507.


Notes for editors:


1. Stroud District Council was, like all councils, given a pot of money from central government to help
tenants hit by the bedroom tax (‘Discretionary Housing Payment’), but Cllr Molloy has discovered
that the council failed to give it all to tenants and ended up giving much of the money back to
government, even as some tenants who applied have been refused support and are now in serious
rent arrears.


2. The Housing Committee meeting, held on Tuesday 16th September, can be watched online here:
http://www.strouddc.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/134380. Cllr Caroline Molloy speaks
regarding the Bedroom Tax from 19:35 (or 15 minutes into the webcast).


3. See the Briefing Note “Supporting Tenants through Welfare Reform”, produced for the SDC Housing
Committee meeting on 19 September 2013: http://connect.strouddc.publici.tv/document/Ag10_Task_and_Finish_Briefing_Note_to_Hsg_Committee.pdf


4. See paragraph 326 of the Housing Act 1988, which details that a room under 70 sq. ft. is only
deemed a suitable as a bedroom for a child under 10. 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’.


5. The ‘Appeal a Benefit Decision’ GL24 form is available www.stroudagainstcuts.co.uk.

Last Updated ( Monday, 22 September 2014 14:32 )
 

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

Tuesday, 30 September 2014 11:06 administrator
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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 )
 

Support the July 10th strike - march and rally in Gloucester

Thursday, 10 July 2014 08:13 administrator
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Up to 2 million members of Unite, National Union of Teachers, Public and Commercial Services Union, Fire Brigades Union, Unison and GMB will all be taking strike action together on 10 July.

Gloucester and District Trades Council are organising a march meeting at 11.30am at the Gloucester City Council offices in Gloucester Docks, marching to a rally at Shire Hall. If you can share transport from Stroud please let us know.


This is the biggest co-ordinated strike action for years.
Stroud Against the Cuts encourages our supporters to support the strikes in whatever way possible.

Why is the strike happening?

The National Union of Teachers have produced a video explaining why the strike is happening: .

They have also made a leaflet for parents (a pdf file here)

They describe the reasons for striking as "excessive workload and pointless bureaucracy" (with teachers working an average of nearly 60 hours a week), opposition to the imposition of counter-productive performance related pay, concerns about the number of teachers, attacks on pensions, and the nature of government/union talks. (click for more information from the NUT)

Unison have also produced a video explaining the reasons for their members in local government taking strike action:

 

They say: "Most UNISON members are low-paid, part-time women workers, struggling to pay their household bills. Losing pay for strike action is not something they do lightly.

Our members are not asking for the 14% pay increase company bosses and bankers are getting. Or the 11% MPs will see. They are just asking for a rise of at least £1 an hour.

That would mean almost half a million council and school support workers currently earning below the Living Wage of £7.65 an hour could come off in-work benefits." (See more from Unison)

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) says: "The long-running dispute over firefighters’ pensions will see a further day of strikes at the same time as a walk out by local government workers, teachers and civil servants over a range of issues, including attacks on pay and pensions and workloads.

 

The strike will last between 10am and 7pm and will be the fifteenth in the FBU’s campaign. The union is also expected to announce further action later this week. Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “The FBU has wanted to settle our dispute for a long time, but the government at Westminster is simply not listening. “We are therefore proud to take strike action alongside our colleagues in other unions on 10 July." (Click for more information from the FBU. Firefighters will also take further strike action later in July)

The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union has also produced a video:

 

They say: "Across the UK, pay cuts have damaged the economy and caused real hardship for millions of people. If pay had kept pace with inflation, average civil service pay would be £2,300 higher than it is now. But the government has announced that the pay cap will continue in 2014 and 2015 and possibly beyond.

We have submitted a pay claim to the Cabinet Office, which seeks a £1,200 or 5% pay increase. We have sought central talks on our claim. Now is the time to get behind this campaign as we go from strength to strength in challenging the government’s low pay agenda." (click for more from the PCS)

Unite the Union says: "Unite is seeking a £1-an-hour increase in pay for the local council workforce which has 400,000 employees earning below £15,000 a year and a million earning less than £21,000.

Unite national officer for local government Fiona Farmer said: “Our members have endured four years of pay cuts in real terms and they have now voted overwhelmingly to strike on 10 July to drive home the message to ministers that ‘poverty pay’ in local government must end."

Unite’s members in England, Wales and Northern Ireland voted by 68 per cent to take strike action and by 79 per cent to take industrial action short of a strike after enduring four years of cuts in real terms." (click for more from Unite)

The GMB union says: "GMB members serving school meals, cleaning streets, emptying bins, looking after the elderly, helping children in classrooms and in all the other vital roles serving our communities are fed up with being ignored and undervalued.

Their pay has gone up only 1% since 2010 and in October even the national minimum wage will overtake local authority pay scales. Their case is reasonable, the employers won't listen and don't care, no wonder they have turned to strike action as the only way of making their voices heard." A ballot of members saw a 73% vote in favour of going on strike. (click for more from the GMB)

Last Updated ( Thursday, 10 July 2014 08:24 )
 


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