THOUSANDS of disabled people are cutting back on food and heating as a result of the Bedroom Tax, says a group of leading charities.
The tax is having a ‘devastating impact’ on people with disabilities, say the chief executives of leading groups including Disability Rights UK, Scope, Carers UK, The Royal National Institute of Blind People and the Council For Disabled Children.
More than 50 organisations sent a letter to Work and Pensions Secretary Duncan Smith calling for the immediate exemption of disabled people from the tax.
They wrote: ‘We have been deeply frustrated at reports that disabled people and their families are protected from this policy.
‘The stark evidence since the policy was implemented in April clearly shows they are not.
‘None of these groups are exempt and our organisations are seeing the devastating impact it is having on those who now face a shortfall in their rent as a result of the changes.’
The letter points to research conducted by the Papworth Trust which showed that one in three disabled people applying for discretionary housing payments (DHPs) are refused, the same number as non-disabled people, and that 90% of disabled people refused a DHP are already cutting back on food, drink, household bills and medication or therapies.
The letter says that carers and families of disabled children are ‘being forced deeper and deeper into debt and falling behind on their rent, putting them at risk of eviction’.
Meanwhile, nearly nine million people across the UK are living with serious debt problems, according to a new report.
The Money Advice Service (MAS) also said very few people were making any attempt to get professional help.
The problem is particularly acute in five English cities, where more than 40% of the population is struggling to repay debt.
According to the survey, 18% of Britons, 8.8 million people, consider they have ‘serious’ financial issues.
MAS, which is backed with public money, said that for the first time, the survey had provided a detailed understanding of the lives of those who are in debt.
The study lists the top five cities where people are ‘over-indebted’.
To qualify as such, people had to feel that their debt amounted to a ‘heavy burden’, or else they had to have missed out on repayments in three of the last six months.
The most heavily indebted area was Hull, where 43.1% of the population admitted they were in trouble financially.
The four other places were also in England: Nottingham, Manchester, Knowsley and Liverpool. All five areas had at least 40% of the population in heavy debt.
Latest figures from the Bank of England suggest that personal borrowing, including mortgages and unsecured loans, is now at £1.43 trillion.