Homelessness news – Romford ‘hero’ unearths bedroom tax loophole which could see 40,000 receiving a refund

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Up to 40,000 people will receive a refund thanks to a Romford “hero” after he discovered that the government have wrongly assessed who is liable for the bedroom tax.

A conservative estimate puts the cost to the government at £26million.

Peter Barker, a freelance benefits specialist, of Hillfoot Avenue Romford, discovered the loophole in December but last week the Department for Work and Pensions confirmed his analysis.

By his estimations, up to 90 tenants in Havering could be eligible for an average refund of £770.

It has also been reported that the suicide of the woman from Solihull who, in a note, blamed her death on the financial strains aggravated by the bedroom tax would have been exempt and, if she was still alive, eligible for a refund.

Mr Barker, 53, spotted the oversight made by the DWP in legislation they drafted in 1996. Housing benefit regulations from 1996 were not updated when the coalition created the bedroom tax.

He said: “I just put my findings onto an online discussion forum. I just expected people to find it interesting but instead in went viral.

“There was such a twitter storm over this. Until December I had just one follower and that was my sister-in-law. Now I’ve got people contacting on me on there hailing me as a hero.”

He explained that the area of legislation had become far to overcomplicated and described it as “an accident waiting to happen”.

The bedroom tax sees working age council and housing association tenants with spare bedrooms lose up to 25 per cent of their housing benefits.

It affected 660,000 claimants meaning they either had to move homes, find a way to pay the deficit or downsize to a smaller property.

Peter Barker on his revelations BELOW

In December, I suggested that council and housing association tenants getting housing benefit for the same home since 1996 are exempt from the bedroom tax. Last week ministers acknowledged that my analysis is correct. Councils are now indentifying tenants eligible for refunds.

The refund is available to people whose housing benefit is reduced by the bedroom tax and who have been on housing benefit for the same home since January 1996 without a break. One break of up to four weeks is ignored and a longer break is ignored if you started work after being long term sick and then became sick again within 52 weeks.

In some cases, the exemption can be passed from one person to another.

Some councils are finding that their records as far back as 1996 are not easy to search and in some cases have been destroyed completely. So if you think you qualify for the exemption contact the council’s benefits department.

If the council does not agree that you qualify, you can appeal as long as the council receives it within 13 months of the original bedroom tax decision last year. For most people this will be around the end of March so there is still time.

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What do you do when you meet someone who is suffering from homelessness ?

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I always hear mixed responses to whether you should give homeless people money on the street. Some say it only fuels addiction. So what is the best way in your day to day life to help the homeless?

My answer was always the same “It’s your choice, but have the decency to look someone in the eye and acknowledge them.” That sounds simple, but the fact is, many people who are on the street are routinely ignored, sworn at, harassed, robbed and assaulted. Having someone look them in the eye and recognise them as a person can be very affirming.

Personally, I don’t give money frequently, but I do on occasion. Working in a big urban environment means that a walk could result in several encounters with people who are on the streets sleeping rough. I also prefer not to pull my wallet out in the middle of the street  not for fear but rather of an opportunistic thief so it will also depend if I have change in my pocket.

its really is a choice that you need to make for yourself. However, if you choose to give someone money, what that money gets spent on is no longer in your control. When I give a waiter/waitress a tip at a restaurant I don’t get to dictate that they should only buy food or pay for housing with it. The money is theirs and the spending choice is theirs.

If you’re worried about the money going to alcohol or drugs there are a few options:

Give the money to an organisation working with people experiencing homelessness.
Buy a street newspaper such as the ‘Big Issue’
Buy a small gift card – i.e. for a local coffee shop or fast food restaurant.
Use the money to donate food to a food bank.

Buying food instead of giving money is something that a lot of people ask about and it is going to come down to choice for the person on the street again. I’m the world’s pickiest eater; I would have a hard time trusting that the food someone hands me on the street is safe, edible and something I will like. Most of us like to have the ability to choose what we want to eat and when we want to eat it. Giving someone a coffee instead of cash may be your preference, but if it’s the fifth coffee they’ve been handed in 20 minutes, they may well refuse it.

One thing I hope you get from this post is its down to you but please acknowledge a homeless person because there human just like us and some of the most vulnerable people in the UK today.