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Wednesday 26th December 2012 | 12:25
Labour press release
Thousands of members of the Regular and Reserve Forces could be hit by changes to Housing Benefit which target under-occupancy in the
social housing sector.
From April 2013 one bedroom will be allowed for each working age claimant or couple living as part of the household. Tenants with a
‘spare’ bedroom will have their home deemed ‘under-occupied’ and will face a reduction in their Housing Benefit entitlement of 14%
for one additional bedroom and 25% where there are two or more additional bedrooms. Rooms being absent for 13+ weeks will lead to a
reduction in benefit.
There are many temporary absences mandated by being in the Forces, whether training or deployment, and many Service families living in
social housing could be caught by this and hit because their loved ones choose to serve their country.
There is an exemption for students, who are allowed to be leave absent rooms for 52 weeks before benefit payment is reduced. There is
similar protection for those who have been recently bereaved, who will not lose benefit for up to 52 weeks from the point of bereavement.
There is no such exemption for Armed Forces who are called away to serve.
How the Forces could he caught by the change:
· There are 96,000 members of the Regular Forces not living in Service Accommodation who could be affected.
· All Army recruits go through a 14 week phase 1 training course and so each could be caught by this if they lived in social accommodation. There were 7,780 Army trainees in the 12 months to 30th Sept 2012.
· Any service man or woman who goes on a full six month tour of duty could be caught, so the 9,500 in Afghanistan could be affected if they lived in social accommodation.
· Reservists will be the main people caught as they have no access to service accommodation and are therefore the most likely to be living in social accommodation. The Government are aiming for there to be 30,000 Reservists by 2018 and once every five years they will be asked to take more than 13 weeks off.
Jim Murphy MP, Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary, said:
“This looks like a penalty for patriotism.
“If you choose to serve you should be rewarded not penalised. Service families and parents or partners of Regulars or Reservists
could be hit because their loved ones choose to defend our country. Mandatory training or deployments overseas could see families having
to move house or pay more. People will wonder whether the Government has got its priorities straight.
“This must be looked at and similar exemptions to those which exist, for example for students, should be considered.
“This is yet another example of how this Government has not thought through its Reservists plan. There are disincentives for employers and families where incentives and motivation are required.”