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Manchester Institute of Education

Removal of spare bedroom subsidy: impacts on children, schools and children’s services

The Coalition government has introduced a series of major changes to housing subsidies in the UK, with reforms that affect both private renters and social housing tenants.

One of these is the 'bedroom tax' from April 2013, renters in social housing get a reduction in Housing Benefit if they are deemed to have more space than they need. The effects of 'the bedroom tax' are greatest in northern cities. An estimated 45,000 households are affected in Greater Manchester (New Economy 2013).

This pilot research project seeks to identify implications for children and schools of the ongoing reforms to UK housing welfare, including the removal of the bedroom tax.

Our exploratory research is investigating the impacts of this change on children, and on their schools and other children’s services; about one-third of affected households have children. We will be looking at the effects on children’s well-being, family life, social support and access to schooling for those who move to smaller properties, as well as the strategies that families adopt to avoid moving, such as cutting back on food, fuel or other household expenditures, or increasing working hours. Schools and children’s services may also be affected, through changing rolls or increasing demands.

The research is a pilot project within Greater Manchester, which will explore:

  • The scale of the issue and its spatial distribution, including the potential implications for school rolls.
  • The ways in which individual families are responding to the changes and their implications for children, with particular attention to how their strategies evolve over a six month period, through five family case studies in each of two affected neighbourhoods (across high & low cost rental), which from our preliminary investigations are likely to be Moss Side and Wythenshawe. The families will probably be identified and accessed through Housing Associations, and interviewed at two time points six months apart.
  • The range and volume of agency and professional interventions prompted by the reforms, as indicated through interviews with key agencies/professionals in the two case study areas.

The research will cover the housing welfare reforms in general, however, we expect that the main focus will be the 'bedroom tax', since this is having the widest impact in Greater Manchester.

The immediate outcome of the work will be empirical evidence on current impacts as indicated from these area and family case studies, which will be of direct relevance to policy and practice stakeholders in the city, for example, housing associations, local authorities, schools, third sector organisations.

It is also intended to establish the case for a more substantial and wide-ranging funded project.