I read the DWP evaluation report on the underoccupancy penalty or bedroom tax last week, but didn’t bother commenting on it because it didn’t seem to me to say anything new, and it didn’t say it at some length. It told us that
- the numbers of people affected have been falling (that follows from generally increased employment, reassessments and challenges)
- most people who have had the penalty imposed continue to be affected
- the policy has pushed people into debt, and most of those affected were in rent arrears
- about 20% of those no longer affected said they had found work or increased earnings (that is probably less than might be expected in the normal course of events)
- there has been a marked increase in the demand for downsizing, and some people are moving. The report has two inconsistent figures for moves – 45,000 from survey estimates but only 14,500 from CORE/SCORE, out of 178,000 affected. Most people have no prospect of moving and have to carry the financial penalty.
It seems, however, that the government is hailing the report’s findings as a triumph. Lord Freud made a point of it in the Lords yesterday, and Conservative Home is claiming that the policy “continues to deliver benefits” (which it does, just 14% or 25% less than the benefits were before). Ruth Lister commented in the Lords: “I think we read different reports”. I seem to have got hold of the same one that she did. If anyone comes across the other version, do please let me know.