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Citizens Advice warns 'upside down' housing benefit changes are adding stress to families

18 Medi 2013

The Chief Executive of national charity Citizens Advice has warned that the Government's "upside down approach" to housing benefit is failing to solve housing problems in the UK, as new figures from the National Housing Federation show the impact of the under-occupancy charge.

Gillian Guy said:

"The under-occupancy charge is an upside-down approach to policy-making which does little to tackle the high cost of housing benefit, but penalises households who often cannot move house due to the chronic lack of small, affordable homes.

"Charging people for having an extra bedroom forces some of the poorest homes to bear the burden of years of failed housing policy, which has resulted in 1.8 million households being stuck on social housing waiting lists. Whilst there remains such a glaring lack of affordable, alternative homes, ministers cannot realistically call this policy an incentive to downsize.

"For many sick and disabled people and carers, a second bedroom is not a luxury but is fundamental to their independence. Ensuring good value for taxpayers is of course right but ministers must prioritise increasing the stock of available affordable social housing.

"The under-occupancy charge is simply a sticking plaster which does not solve long-standing problems and is increasing stress for many people facing hard times."

Notes to editors:

  1. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local bureaux, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  2. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  3. To find your local bureau in England and Wales, visit You can also get advice online at
  4. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers
  5. Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2.3 million clients on 5.4 million problems from October 2013 to September 2014. For full 2013/2014  service statistics see our quarterly publication Advice trends
  6. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 3,000 service outlets across England and Wales.