Bedroom Tax Continues to Cause Sleepless Nights

by Heather Peebles

Friday, March 21st, 2014

Banks of Scotland notesA respected social landlord is exasperated that the welfare reforms continue to adversely impact on some of their customers.

Blackwood, a pioneer in both housing and care, set up a dedicated team last year to help its tenants navigate their way through the baffling benefit changes including the controversial Bedroom Tax.

As a result they identified 286 households affected by the Bedroom Tax, which cuts the housing benefit of those deemed to be living in a property with too many bedrooms for their needs.

Their intensive work has helped secure 139 exemptions for affected customers, who include people with physical or learning disabilities, mental health issues or sensory impairment but the fight goes on.

Many of those living in specially adapted homes continue to face added uncertainty from the Bedroom Tax because downsizing would simply mean huge costs and upheaval to adapt new homes to their specific needs. Blackwood commented they struggle to understand how this provides value for public money.

Discretionary Payments

A further 68 of Blackwood’s tenants who claim Housing Benefit have been helped to successfully apply for additional Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) to cover the shortfall in Housing Benefit resulting from the Bedroom Tax.

However, even tenants fortunate enough to obtain DHP are compelled to keep reapplying for and providing proof of their circumstances causing continued worry and stress.

In the 40 years it has been running, Blackwood has earned a reputation as the foremost experts in adapting properties – from entire renovations to minor adaptations – which transform the lives of people living in them.

Katrina Hamilton, Blackwood’s East Regional Manager said: “With so many changes made to the welfare system we understand how difficult it is to keep on top of it all and we know this is a source of worry for many people.

“The prospect of having to move into a smaller property can be extremely distressing for some of our tenants, because the adaptations in their existing homes are what enable them to live independently.

“We listen carefully to the people who live in our properties and it is clear many of them are extremely anxious about what these reforms mean for them.

“So we continue to run our dedicated Welfare Reform project to provide the advice, support and help customers need to put their minds at rest, ensure they know what benefits they are entitled to and also giving them practical advice to help them continue paying their rent on time.”

Blackwood works in 29 of Scotland’s 32 council areas, working closely with many local authorities, more than any other care or housing provider. With 1600 properties and tailored, individual care packages for more than 400 people, Blackwood has embraced the challenges of taking housing and care into innovative areas at a time when funding is increasingly difficult.

Private: Heather Peebles

Based as a PR in Edinburgh, Heather Peebles is a highly-valued member of the team at Holyrood Partnership. Her work with the Scottish public relations consultancy sees her advising clients in healthcare, construction, renewables and logistics. As well as delivering numerous successful PR campaigns, she is also experienced in crisis PR and reputation management.

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