On 30th July 2014, the Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Dr Alan Smith, received answers to two written questions on the social impacts of the under-occupancy charge from the Minister for Welfare Reform, Lord Freud.
Lord Freud: The removal of the spare room subsidy was a necessary change in order to get the housing benefit bill under control, return fairness to the system and make better use of social housing stock.
For those that are vulnerable and who may require more time to make the transition to change, the Discretionary Housing Payment scheme administered by local authorities is available. Money management and budgeting and debt advice is also provided by many local authorities and social sector landlords.
Additional Discretionary Housing Payment funding has been made available to local authorities to help them support vulnerable claimants to cope with the changes. For 2014/15 this totals £165m. At the end of 2013/14 £21m of the £180m central Government funding remained unspent. This included £7m from a bidding scheme fund that was available during the second half of the year and which all local authorities were encouraged to apply for.
Recently published data from the Homes and Communities Agency shows housing association arrears in England falling for the two quarters to the end of March 2014 compared to the same period in the previous year. Rent collection remained at 99 per cent during the same period.
We are continuing to monitor and evaluate the policy. The final report of the two year independent evaluation will be published during 2015.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact of the under-occupancy charge on child poverty.[HL1589]
Lord Freud: This cost of providing this information is disproportionate.
This Government has made good progress in tackling the root cause of child poverty and has recently published its 2014-17 child poverty strategy which outlines the actions being taken.
The latest figures from 2012/13 show that the number of children in relative income poverty has fallen by 300,000 since 2009/10 representing the lowest level since the mid-1980s.