Evictions and increased levels of homelessness among disabled people are an “inevitable” result of the government’s housing benefit reforms, MPs have been told.
In a report on the likely impact of the reforms, the Commons work and pensions committee – which is chaired by the disabled Labour MP Anne Begg – called on the government to monitor how they affect disabled people.
The committee also said the government should work with local authorities to address the need for an “adequate supply” of affordable and accessible housing for disabled people.
Witnesses had told the committee that “evictions and increased levels of homelessness” were inevitable for some groups, including disabled people.
The report’s publication came only days after campaigners from Disabled People Against Cuts warned in a protest in London’s Trafalgar Square that the reforms would cause increasing numbers of disabled people to become homeless.
The work and pensions committee called for “discretionary” payments to be used to avoid disabled people being forced to move house and then have their new homes adapted. The government admitted this could happen, in an equality impact assessment.
The government has also admitted that the reforms could disrupt support services for disabled people.
The committee welcomed plans to allow disabled people to claim extra housing benefit from April 2011 if they need a room for a live-in care worker.
But it said this should be extended to cover all disabled people who need more space, for example for wheelchair access, a guide dog, essential equipment, or where a child cannot share a room with a sibling because of their impairment.
The committee also heard concerns about the government proposal to cut housing benefit by 10 per cent once a claimant has been receiving jobseeker’s allowance for 12 months.
Witnesses said the measure fails to take account of the barriers to work faced by disabled people.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission told the committee that the 10 per cent cut could “disproportionately impact” on disabled people and other groups that face barriers to work.
And the TUC told the committee in its evidence that at least 13 per cent of those affected by the 10 per cent cut would be disabled people who had previously claimed incapacity benefits.
The committee called on the government to say how it would address this issue and other concerns over the 12-month limit when it responded to the report.
21 December 2010