The LHA and Housing Benefit changes are shambolic and fly in the face of human decency, equality and, frankly, basic intelligence.
How can a family that needs 4 bedrooms suddenly fit into a smaller house with 3 bedrooms?
Of course, I don’t just mean a ‘typical’ family. I’m talking about a family with very specific and unequivocal needs because of circumstance put upon them through no fault of their own. I’m talking about a family with a disabled parent and disabled child, and 2 other children.
The other parent is fit and healthy, but has to be the full-time, 24-7 carer of both the other disabled adult and disabled child, serving all their needs; providing all the personal care and other help required because of disability. Oh yes, and looking after the other two healthy children.
Oh yes, there’ll be the house to clean too, as well as washing and all the other routine household jobs.
Can you imagine if you had to do that? Could you? Honestly?
The eldest child is 15, doing GCSEs and doing very well. The youngest is just 4, not yet in school. The disabled child is 12 and needs help constantly. In the night, he has sleep problems, fits, is sick, and has many 0ther problems that make sharing the bedroom impossible.
He also has to have medication in the room, making it impossible for the youngest to share as it would simply be unsafe. After all, what sort of parent would permit that? So why should a local authority have that power? Why would this be supported and encouraged by way of a Government policy? Who would sanction such a scheme?
So, the oldest needs his own space because he doesn’t finish his homework and revision until 9-10pm, far later than both the other two go to bed. And, of course, like millions of teenagers, he’ll want to play on video games or have friends over etc
Oh yes, and the disabled parent cannot share the bed because of the nature of his disability.
Does that sound like a hard way to live?
Well, it is. And it is way of living that is shared or similar to thousands and thousands of disabled people, families and children across the UK.
It’s important to consider discrimination and equality; but for the fact that the parent is disabled, at least one parent could otherwise be working. But for the fact that one parent is disabled and one child is disabled, the family would have a choice about where they live and what type of house they live in.
But because a parent is disabled and a child is disabled, their housing requirements are determined for them. They have no choice because they are severely disabled and it is this disability that dictates their housing requirements.
They must have 4 bedrooms; their conditions necessitate this.
If LHA changes meant that they must move into a 3 bedroom house because the LHA changes mean they would only be entitled to this, how can this make any sense? How can this be right? It makes no sense.
What are they supposed to do? Where are they supposed to go?
Consider that disabled child and how they feel; consider their pain, what they already have to go through and how they cope from day-to-day. Consider the disabled parent, unable to help, frustrated by being dependent on others so much. I think it puts everyday problems into perspective; after all, disabled people have those problems too.
David Cameron’s words were, “We’re all in this together”. Are we? Really?
Some people already have more than enough to deal with every day; to want to put more on these people is sick, unreasonable and immoral.
How can we treat disabled people and children in this way?
Illness and disability can hit us all, directly or indirectly, at any time. How would you feel if you were in that position?
I am pleased to see that the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has been granted permission to proceed with a judicial review of reforms to local housing allowance (LHA) from April 2011.
CPAG is challenging two of the reforms – the reduction in the maximum size of a dwelling which can be paid for by LHA to 4 bedrooms and the overall cap on the LHA rates payable for each category of property – on the grounds that –
- the changes are contrary to what parliament intended the fundamental purpose of the housing benefit scheme to be: it was meant to be a national scheme to prevent homelessness and the overall cap would mean that a large area of central London would no longer be accessible to housing benefit claimants in the private rented sector; and
- the government has failed to have due regard to the general equality duties under the Race Relations Act 1976 and the Sex Discrimination Act 1975: it is likely that black and minority ethnic groups and lone parents will be disproportionately hit by both cuts being challenged.
CPAG advises that it has been granted permission to proceed with a claim for judicial review by the Administrative Court and that the case should be heard by the end of July.
For more information see CPAG’s challenge to the housing benefit changes on the CPAG website.