So here it is, sneaked out on the last day of the parliamentary year: the independent evaluation of the bedroom tax (or removal of the spare room subsidy).
This is the final report to complement the interim evaluation that the DWP just happened to publish on the day of the Cabinet reshuffle in July 2014. Its conclusions were subsequently used by the Liberal Democrats to withdraw their support from the controversial policy under the coalition.
The evaluation was only commissioned in the first place to comply with a House of Lords amendment to the Welfare Reform Act. This final report covers the first 20 months of the policy up to November 2014, making me wonder just how long the DWP has been sitting on it.
Here are 10 of the main conclusions:
- The number of households affected fell from 547,000 to 465,000 between 2013 and 2014. Almost half of them said this was because of a change in their household composition or children’s ages. One in five had found work
- The vast majority (83%) who were affected in Autumn 2013 were still affected in Summer 2014. Only 29% of them had applied for a discretionary housing payment though awareness of DHPs had increased
- The number of affected claimants who have paid none of their shortfall fell from 20% to 10% but that still represents almost 50,000 households. Half those affected had paid all of their shortfall
- They had paid their rent by using savings, borrowing or running up debt and cut spending on energy (46%), travel (33%), food (76%) and leisure (42%)
- Overall 55% of affected tenants were in arrears in Autumn 2014, up from 43% before the introduction of the bedroom tax
- Around 45,000 affected claimants had downsized within the social rented sector by Autumn 2014, up from 24,000 in Autumn 2013. Some 16% were registered for downsizing, down from 19%. Around 12,000 are estimated to have moved to the private rented sector
- 42% of landlords reported difficulties letting some properties because of the bedroom tax but there was no statistically significant evidence of an increase in voids.
- There was no significant change in arrears between 2013 and 2014 and no discernible increase in evictions. Landlords reporting that they consider the affordability of the rent for prospective tenants before letting. Advice agencies were worried about the cumulative impact of welfare reform.
- The proportion of affected claimants in arrears fell from 47% to 40%
- The bedroom tax has had some impact on homeless families in temporary accommodation, making it easier for families to move to larger homes freed up by downsizing but harder for single people who are now competing with downsizers. Some homeless families in low demand areas were being allocated temporary accommodation that was too big for them and subject to the bedroom tax.