The House of Commons Committee on Scottish Affairs has today published an interim report on the Bedroom Tax, which backs the calls made by Citizens Advice Scotland for certain vulnerable groups to be exempt from the policy.
CAS gave evidence to the committee in June, and specifically called for exemptions for disabled people, including those whose condition meant they needed more space, or whose homes had been adapted for their use. These calls have been echoed by the committee in their report today, along with suggestions we made for changes to the system for giving financial help to those most in need.
CAS Policy Manager Keith Dryburgh gave a second formal evidence session to the committee today at its meeting in Airdrie. Speaking before that session he said,
“The CAB service is in the front line of helping people cope with policies like this, so we are really the first nation-wide agency to see and report on their impact. We now have evidence from CAB offices all over Scotland on the first 8 months of the Bedroom Tax, as seen by those who are actually affected by it. It is very clear that this policy is causing real problems for many vulnerable families.
“In the evidence we gave to the committee in June we identified disabled people as a priority group who were being disproportionately hit by the policy. In our evidence paper we noted that ‘of the 105,000 households in Scotland affected by the Under Occupation penalty, 83,000 have reported an adult in the household with a Disability’ and we went on to call for specific exemptions for disabled people. We also reported seeing problems with the administration of Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs), which are supposed to alleviate the difficulties faced by vulnerable people, but which we found were not reaching those in need.
“We are pleased that the committee has accepted both of these points in their interim report today. They have not only endorsed many of the exemptions we called for, but have also urged action to make DHP system more efficient and effective.
“People who are hit by the Bedroom Tax can get free expert advice from their local CAB. We see our role not just in helping those individuals affected but in presenting our collective evidence to MPs, Ministers and Local Authorities so they can act to address any problems. From that case evidence, it is clear to us that this policy is causing real hardship and distress to many families. Not just disabled people but many others on low incomes as well.
“We hope the government will listen to the calls being made by the committee today, echoed by ourselves and many others. Exempting disabled people and improving the crisis payments system are not the only changes we’d like to see made to this policy, but they are the most urgent. By accepting these recommendations today, Ministers could go a long way to saving thousands of poor and disabled Scots from a miserable Christmas.”
Notes to editors - click to expand/collapse
The submission CAS made to the committee in June is available at: /publications/citizens-advice-scotland-response-bedroom-tax-inquiry
In addition to the calls for exemptions, it includes a number of case studies seen by Scottish CABs in the first few weeks of the Bedroom Tax.
Keith Dryburgh gave verbal evidence to the Scottish Affairs committee today, Monday 16th December (from 12.00pm). The report of that session will be available from the committee clerks in due course.