Bedroom tax will hit disabled Scots hardest


  By a Newsnet Reporter

New analysis carried out by the Scottish Government has revealed that eight out of ten households in Scotland, which are set to be hit by the bedroom tax, include at least one adult with a recognised disability.

According to the analysis, of the 105,000 households that are affected by the under-occupancy penalty, 83,000 (79%) of these properties report an adult in the household with a disability that is recognised by the Disability Discrimination Act.

The UK Government’s welfare reforms will cut the amount of benefit that people can get if they are deemed to have one or more spare bedrooms in their council or housing association home.  This measure will apply from April 2013 to all tenants of working age.

The 79% of Scotland’s ‘under-occupiers’ reporting a disability is far more than the 63% for UK under-occupiers identified in analysis carried out for the DWP.

In a letter sent to the UK Government, SNP MSP Margaret Burgess has highlighted the disproportionate effect on disabled people.  The Scottish Housing and Welfare Minister has urged the coalition to rethink the policy which she has warned will have an “appalling impact”.

UK Government Welfare Secretary Iain Duncan Smith is believed to have now instructed officials to “look again” at how the bedroom tax will affect disabled people.

Mrs Burgess said: “I cannot overstate the appalling impact that this bedroom tax will have on people in Scotland. For example, eight out of ten households that will be hit include an adult with a disability.

“This is compelling evidence that the UK Government must take into account as it looks again at how the bedroom tax effects disabled people.

“It is deeply worrying that we have got to this stage, with the policy about to implemented in April, and the UK Government only now seem to be waking up to its potentially damaging and disproportionate effect on disabled people.

“And this is not just about one group – a whole range of people, including foster parents, single parents who live away from their children and members of our armed forces are all likely to be hit.”

From April, all claimants who are deemed to have at least one spare bedroom will be affected by the new legislation.  The Scottish Government has identified other groups which are affected unfairly, including:

• tenants who are willing to move to a smaller property and are waiting for one to become available;
• separated parents who share the care of their children and who may have been allocated an extra bedroom to reflect this. Benefit rules mean that there must be a designated ‘main carer’ for children (who receives the extra benefit);
• couples who use their ‘spare’ bedroom when recovering from an illness or operation;
• foster carers because foster children are not counted as part of the household for benefit purposes;
• parents whose children visit but are not part of the household;
• families with disabled children;
• disabled people including people living in adapted or specially designed properties.

Mrs Burgess added:

“The options suggested by the UK Government for affected households are often impractical. It is simply not appropriate in many cases for families containing vulnerable people, particularly children, to take in a lodger. Many disabled people are unable to work and cannot increase their income in order to make up shortfalls in rent.

“Ultimately I want this policy reversed. However, this just demonstrates that Scotland cannot possibly mitigate the impact of all the UK Government’s unfair welfare cuts. It would be far better to control the system ourselves, as would be the case under independence and ensure that unfair policies like the bedroom tax never see the light of day.”

Capability Scotland campaigns with, and provides education, employment and care services to more than a thousand disabled children and adults across Scotland each year.

Dana O’Dwyer, Capability Scotland’s Chief Executive said:

“It is a disgrace that many disabled people, and parents of disabled children, face having to pay between 14 and 25 per cent of their rent themselves from April simply because of a disability. It’s not benefit cheats who are being targeted; it’s those who need a room for specialist equipment or whose severely disabled child must sleep separately from their siblings.

“The policy will also affect those whose home has a spare room simply because it was the only fully accessible property available to them following an accident or illness.

“Capability Scotland, along with many other disability organisations, has made the failings of this approach abundantly clear to the UK Government.  We welcome the Scottish Government’s latest analysis and call on the UK Government to address this blatantly unfair policy immediately.”