A key part of the Department for Work and Pensions’ welfare programme, Housing Benefit aims to help those on benefits pay for rented accommodation.
It is currently one of the most hotly debated and polarising benefit payments in the UK, and is constantly the subject of major reform plans.
At a cost of around £24 billion per year, it is estimated that Housing Benefit is the biggest single expenditure for the UK taxpayer, taking up around 30% of the welfare budget. With the new government attempting to limit their expenditures, it is unsurprising that Housing Benefit has been one aspect of their operations that has been most actively targetted.
The main change made to Housing Benefit legislation in recent years has been the addition of the Underoccupancy Charge – better known as the Bedroom Tax. Those that are deemed to be living in properties too large for their current needs have their housing benefit reduced in an attempt to encourage claimants to inhabit suitable properties.
Critics of changes to Housing Benefit have noted that changes like the Bedroom Tax have been purely as a means of attempting to force people off welfare, regardless of circumstances. Those in favour of the changes argue that these moves are necessary in order to pay off the national debt, regardless of the damage it may do to vulnerable members of society.