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Vulnerable groups 'suffering due to bedroom tax'

The Government has reformed the housing cost support system with the aim of reducing benefit expenditure and incentivising people to enter work.

But vulnerable groups who were not the intended targets of the reforms and are not able to respond by moving house or finding a job are suffering as a result.

The Government's reforms are causing severe financial hardship and distress to vulnerable groups, including disabled people.

Discretionary housing payments (DHPs), which local authorities can award to people facing hardship in paying their rent, are not a solution for many claimants.

– Dame Anne Begg, House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee chair

DWP: 'Bedroom tax' is saving the taxpayer £1 million a day

Our reforms are necessary to restore fairness to the system and make a better use of social housing. Unreformed, the Housing Benefit bill would have grown to £26 billion in 2013/14.We have given councils £345 million since reforms came in last year to support vulnerable groups, especially disabled people.

The removal of the spare room subsidy means we still pay the majority of most claimants' rent. But we are saving the taxpayer £1 million a day which was being paid for extra bedrooms and are freeing up bigger homes for people forced to live in cramped, overcrowded accommodation.

– Department for Work and Pensions spokesma


MPs urge more 'bedroom tax' exemptions

The work and pensions select committee voted down a proposal from Labour MP Sheila Gilmore to call for the policy, officially known as the removal of the spare room subsidy, to be scrapped but it did urge ministers to exempt:

  • anyone whose home has been adapted to help them with their disability
  • any household containing a claimant receiving disability benefits at the higher level
  • carers living with disabled people should be exempt from the benefits cap

It said that it was "particularly unjust" for homeless people to be subjected to the benefits cap, as they have no choice over the temporary accommodation in which they are placed, which may force them over the limit. The committee called for them to be exempted from the cap.

'Bedroom tax' causing 'severe hardship and distress'

Disabled people are suffering "severe financial hardship and distress" as a result of the 'bedroom tax', a cross-party committee of MPs has said.

People stage a demonstration over bedroom tax outside the Liberal Democrat conference in Glasgow in September 2013.
People stage a demonstration over bedroom tax outside the Liberal Democrat conference in Glasgow in September 2013. Credit: David Cheskin/PA Wire

The decision to reduce housing benefit payments from social tenants deemed to have a larger home than they need has hit vulnerable people who were not the intended targets of the reform and have little hope of moving to a smaller property, the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee found.

Penning: 'Government wanted to end Atos contract'

Government had been looking for a way to end the contract with Atos but was waiting for a way to get out of the deal without losing the taxpayer money said Department for Work and Pensions minister Mike Penning.

Mr Penning said that if the DWP had sacked Atos "we would have had to have paid millions of pounds in compensation to them. I've had to work with them to actually say we want you to leave, they've announced that they wanted to leave.

"But I didn't want a gap and I wanted a quality and I wanted the backlog sorted out that we've negotiated and done and of course there'll be a large contribution to the tax payer."


Atos 'remains committed to delivering services'

We are pleased to have reached an agreement with the Government to allow us to exit this contract early and we remain committed to delivering essential services to the UK Government as a strategic supplier.

Our team will work hard to support transition to a new provider and we believe that we have reached a settlement that is in the best interests of all parties. We have supported and been flexible in implementing all the changes asked of us from the reviews of the Work Capability Assessment process.

– Ursula Morgenstern, Atos CEO

In a statement Atos said it would: "continue to deliver the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessments in Scotland, north of England, London and south of England and to deliver Work Capability Assessments on behalf of the Department for Social Development in Northern Ireland."

Your views: Concerns over what comes after Atos

As Atos says it has ended its contract with the Government over controversial assessments of whether benefits claimants are fit to work, we asked you if you had been through an Atos assessment and what you felt now that the IT company will no longer be responsible for them.

  • Anne Elsdon: "Too little too late, they have caused far too much suffering to ill people."
  • Sarah-Jane Darbon-Tailby: "Yes I have and they have a lot to answer for. Have caused people a lot of stress and illness when people already suffering!"

Read more: Atos ends controversial fit-to-work tests contract

  • Kaye Edwards: "I've had a ATOS assessment, but what worries me the most is who/what is going to take over now and are they going to be better/worse or same? It's all too worrying for those who have to go through these assessments yet!"
  • Irene Baldwin: "Best thing that's happened. They've caused so much heartache and distress to genuinely ill people. Glad to see them go hope the new company takes on board the short comings of ATOS."

You can join the conversation and tell us about your experiences on the ITV News Facebook page.

Labour: Changing Atos contract 'is not enough'

People have been badly let down by Atos which is why Labour has repeatedly called on the Government to sack them with immediate effect.

But changing the contract isn’t enough. It’s time for the Government to reform fundamentally Work Capability Assessments so that disabled people who can work are given support they need to find a job.

– Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Minister

Atos made 'substantial settlement' to DWP

Atos has paid a settlement to the Department for Work and Pensions Disabled minister Mike Penning has said after the IT firm ended its contract early.


In fact, Atos has made a "substantial financial settlement" to the #DWP, says Disabled Minister Mike Penning #ESA

Read more: Atos ends controversial fit-to-work tests contract

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