Ahead of a Westminster debate on the Bedroom tax today the SNP are calling on the UK Government to rethink its plans claiming comments from the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith betrayed his deep unease with the devastating impact of the policy.
Last Thursday, the former Conservative party leader confirmed he had instructed his officials to “look again” at how the benefit cut would affect disabled people, after the Chief Executives of seven charities wrote an open letter to Mr Duncan Smith and George Osborne outlining their concerns. However, within hours of his statement, Mr Duncan Smith’s own department had ruled out any changes.
Figures released over the weekend by the Scottish Government estimated that eight out of ten households set to be affected by this benefit cut in Scotland are occupied by a person with a disability.
The SNP are now demanding that Iain Duncan Smith “get a grip” on his department and order them to review the policy as he had wanted.
Commenting ahead of the debate – led jointly by the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party – SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford said:
“We know that over 80% of Scotland’s MPs at Westminster are totally opposed to this iniquitous measure. On Wednesday we have an opportunity to reflect the deep and genuine worry about the Bedroom tax. We know that about 100,000 households are going to be hit by this policy and we know from our mailbags and surgeries that there is huge concern about how this new tax is going to hit the most vulnerable in our communities.”
Ms Whiteford claimed that the Department for Work and Pensions were engulfed in “confusion and panic” and added:
“Last week the Secretary of State Iain Duncan Smith ordered his officials to ‘look again’ at how this measure will affect the disabled following an approach by the Chief Executives of seven charities concerned about it. Now we are told there will be ‘no u-turns’ and it is full steam ahead for implementation in full.
“We know that many elderly people are also worried about what this benefit cut really means for them. There is widespread alarm about the way this Government’s incompetence now extends to communicating how this new measure is actually going to work.”
Recent analysis carried out by the Scottish Government revealed that 83,000 (79%) of the 105,000 households affected by the changes reported an adult with a disability that is recognised by the Disability Discrimination Act.
Commenting on the parliamentary debate and the growing concern about the Bedroom tax, a spokesperson for Age Scotland said:
“Age Scotland is very concerned about the impact the proposed changes will have on some older households – not just in terms of the financial pressures but also the impact on their health and wellbeing . It will increase pensioner poverty and could force people to use their retirement savings to support younger partners or relatives, putting undue pressure on family relationships
“There is also a real lack of clarity with pensioners being told by the Coalition Government that they won’t be affected by the changes. However, once Universal Credit is introduced in October 2013, ’mixed-age’ couples will be affected, and Age Scotland is already receiving calls from anxious couples worrying about how they will be expected to pay their rent.”
Inclusion Scotland, the consortium of disability organisations and social partners who share their aims said:
“Inclusion Scotland are extremely concerned about the potential impact on disabled people’s ability and right to live independently. The Under Occupation Rule or “Bedroom tax” discriminates against disabled people in that it has a totally disproportionate impact on disabled people and their families. The Government’s own Equality Impact Assessment showed that two thirds of the households affected by the Bedroom Tax would contain a disabled person yet they pushed through the legislation virtually un-amended.
“Disabled people who use spare bedrooms to store equipment, wheelchairs and oxygen tanks have been informed that they will be penalised by the Under Occupation Rule as will couples forced to sleep apart because their very lives would be endangered through having to share a bed. We are appalled at the inhumanity and basic contempt for human rights that this Government are displaying in their attempt to make disabled people pay for a financial crisis brought on by millionaire bankers”
Ms Whiteford continued: “It’s time for Mr Duncan Smith to get a grip of his own department – and look again at this policy as he wanted. When they do, the devastating impact on some of the most vulnerable people in our society will become quite clear.”
“We are listening. We are listening to the charities and civic bodies. We are listening to individuals who are shocked at the confusion and shambles and we are listening to those who understand that the new Bedroom tax will hit the vulnerable, the disabled and those in greatest need of support. Iain Duncan smith is not listening. He needs to come to the House of Commons urgently and tell us all what he is doing to take account of all of these concerns.”
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