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Entries in housing benefit (2)


Housing benefit barrier to shared parenting

Research from the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning documents many of the issues faced by separated parents whose children live with them for less than half the time.  Parents who rely on housing benefit may only be able to take shared accommodation without bedroom space for their children to stay with them.

At present, people out of work or in low-waged jobs can claim housing benefit for up to 100 per cent of their rent. Most single people under 35 in the private rented sector are restricted to the shared accommodation rate (SAR); their housing benefit is set at a level to cover the rent on a room in a shared house. Before 2012, the SAR only applied to those aged 25 or younger. By increasing the SAR to age 35, the government increased the likelihood that non-resident parents would be included.

Key issues raised in the study included:
- Difficult behaviour of other housemates
- Children disturbing housemates
- A lack of space for children to sleep (often sharing the parent’s room)
- Substandard properties
- Landlord rules banning children from visiting properties or staying overnight

These problems have an impact upon children in these families. They are unable to have friends over when staying with their other parent. They may lack lack privacy with other unconnected adults in the accommodation. They may find their relationship with their non-resident parent damaged. The child’s resident parent is also likely to object even though the by doing so they will themselves be affected, with most or all of the overnight care falling to them.

The study suggest various changes in housing provision and benefits that would make things easier for so-called "non-resident parents" who have overnight childcare.

Although the Scottish Government moved to mitigate some of the effects of the bedroom tax many of the problems outlined in this study apply here. It is estimated that 5% of men aged 16-64 are fathers to non-resident children.

FNFS will suggest to the Scottish Government that more could be done to make shared parenting easier for people in rented accommodation or depending on housing benefit.


"Bedroom Tax" will damage overnight contact

Separated parents who have an extra bedroom so that children can stay overnight risk losing housing benefit once the "Bedroom Tax" is implemented this April. 

This isn't a new issue - we are often contacted by fathers who are having problems in getting accommodation big enough for overnight contact, but it makes the situation far worse.

The UK Government's plan to cut housing benefit for social tenants if there are unoccupied bedrooms in the property will make shared parenting more difficult for many families. 

Malcolm Chisholm MSP raised this issue in the Scottish Parliament recently, asking Housing Minister Margaret Burgess to look at this issue in the context of their family policy.

The Minister has urged councils and social landlords to consider all possible ways of avoiding evictions, and highlighted the example of Dundee City Council which is protecting tenants who cannot make up the shortfall in rent caused by the "bedroom tax".

Meanwhile Lord Freud, one of the main architects of the current welfare reform, commented on a phone-in that a separated father didn't deserve a bedroom for his three children to stay at weekends, suggesting they should share a sofa bed when they stayed with him.

Given the continuing poitical controversy, FNF Scotland suggests that parents faced by this problem should contact local and national politicians for support, and should also seek advice from bodies such as Shelter and CABx

Keeping up the pressure alongside the many other groups of people affected by this measure may lead to further compromises.