By a Newsnet reporter
The revelation that kinship carers in Scotland may be set to be hit by the Bedroom Tax while similar carers south of the border are to be exempt has sparked urgent demands for Westminster to address this discrepancy.
In a joint letter to the Welfare Reform Committee, Children 1st and Citizens Advice Scotland have highlighted that because of differences in the way kinship carers are classified in Scotland and England, carers south of the border are set to be exempt while those in Scotland may not be.
In England a family member or friend who cares for a child is approved by a local authority as a ‘family and friends foster carer’.
In a late concession, Iain Duncan Smith agreed to exempt approved foster carers from the Bedroom Tax, meaning that they will not face the unjust charge. However, despite going through a similar assessment in Scotland, such carers are referred to as a ‘kinship carer’, and these leading organisations have warned that as such they may not be covered by the exemption.
In their letter, CAB Scotland and Children 1st write:
“In England, when a child can no longer live at home and is accommodated by the local authority, a family member or friend who wishes to care for the child must be approved by the local authority as a ‘family and friends foster carer’. In Scotland however, a family member or friend seeking to take on the care of a child, is assessed by the local authority in a similar way but is referred to as a ‘kinship carer’. It is therefore clear to see that the exemption will extend to kinship carers south of the border, but due to the wording, not those in Scotland.”
The organisations have also warned that contradictory advice from the DWP may also make it difficult for kinship carers to demonstrate that they are responsible for a child, putting them at risk of not being able to demonstrate that a child they care for is using a room.
Supporting the call from CAB Scotland and Children 1st, the SNP have called on the Westminster Government to urgently address this glaring inconsistency and ensure that the exemption for foster carers extends to kinship carers in Scotland.
Commenting, SNP MSP Jamie Hepburn who is the Deputy Convener of the Welfare Reform Committee said:
“The Bedroom Tax in itself is completely wrong, but if kinship carers are to be made to pay the price while their counterparts south of the border are exempt then that would truly be beyond the pale.
“These organisations are right to sound their alarm at what is happening and Westminster must move swiftly to ensure this glaring inconsistency is addressed as quickly as possible.
“The Bedroom Tax is an utterly unjust policy that should have died on the Tories’ drawing board instead of us being just days away from it hammering household budgets.
“Instead of Scotland being left trying to convince Westminster to overcome its indifference and recognise how wrong this policy is, we should be making decisions on tax and welfare for ourselves in Scotland.
“There is no place for the Bedroom Tax in Scotland and the only way to ensure that such disgraceful policies are not imposed by Westminster again is with a Yes vote in next year’s referendum for an independent Scotland.”