Citizens Advice Scotland have called on Scottish and UK governments to work together to help those affected by the Under-Occupancy Charge (or ‘Bedroom Tax’).
The call comes as the Scottish Government says it is writing to the UK government in a bid to increase the amount of money it spends on the issue in Scotland.
CAS Policy Manager Keith Dryburgh says,
“Over 80,000 households in Scotland are affected by the Bedroom Tax, which we believe is causing many of them huge distress. Those worst affected tend to be people who are already very vulnerable and need all the help they can get to cope with the impact of the change.
“Across Scotland, CAB advisers are seeing lots of people every week who are being hit by the Bedroom tax. In the evidence we have published so far we have highlighted the impact on specific vulnerable groups like disabled people, families with separated parents and people in rural areas who find it hard to move to alternative accommodation.
“We believe that these groups should be exempted from the policy altogether. But in the meantime anything that can be done to mitigate the impact of the policy on these groups is to be welcomed. It’s important that governments work together – and with local Councils, landlords and charities as well – to help people avoid falling into crisis.”
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CASE STUDIES – BEDROOM TAX
These cases below are all from Scottish CABs over the last few months. Please note these are all anonymous as CAB client data is always treated as strictly confidential unless the client indicates that they are willing to talk about their case. We do not currently have any clients who are willing to be identified or interviewed, but these cases are a good representative sample the sort of issues that people are dealing with through this policy.
- A West of Scotland CAB reports of a 55 year old client who moved into a two bedroom tenancy a year ago that allows her to have her carer stay every second night as she has severe health issues. These include lung disease, liver disease, anaemia, and psychosis. She has now been told that she is under-occupying her tenancy. The client does not leave the house other than for hospital visits, and her carer visits every day.
- A South of Scotland CAB reports of a client with Multiple Sclerosis who lives in a housing association tenancy with two bedrooms. The client states that she needs an extra bedroom as she needs someone to stay overnight – either a friend or her brother stays at the weekend and her parents are there during the week. However, she has been told that she is under-occupying her tenancy. The client has poor balance and mobility and has to use a wheelchair at times. Her brother comes in to cook her evening meal as she burnt herself last year. The client is upset about the situation and feels that this is having an adverse effect on her health.
- An East of Scotland CAB reports of client and her husband who are both registered disabled and live in a two bedroom home that has been adapted for them. They have been advised by the local authority that they will have to pay £56 per month in rent as they are under occupying their home. The client is registered blind and expects to be given a guide dog in the next few months. The client had a letter from her GP confirming her requirement for “a second bedroom for her own personal medical reasons”. The bureau helped the client to apply for a DHP.
- An East of Scotland CAB reports of a client who had received a letter from his housing association regarding changes to Housing Benefit. The client lives in a two bedroom house with his wife, but will receive less benefit as he is considered to be under occupying his tenancy. The client sleeps separately from his wife because of a medical condition which resulted from a stroke some years previously.
- An East of Scotland CAB reports of a single parent of two young children who is affected by the ‘bedroom tax’. The client lives in a three bedroom tenancy with her six year old son, who has autism, and her daughter who is five years old. The client was allocated the property on medical grounds due to the disruption caused to the client’s daughter when she is sharing a room with her brother. The client receives carers allowance and DLA to look after her son.
- A West of Scotland CAB reports of a client who lives in a two bedroomed tenancy as his son stays with him two nights per week. He has been advised that he is under occupying his tenancy and that this will leave him needing to pay £8 per week, which he cannot afford. The client’s son is 11 and has become much closer to the client since he has been coming to stay with him. The client is worried that he will be forced to move to a one bedroom flat and his son will no longer be able to spend nights with him.
- A West of Scotland CAB reports of a client who was homeless and on the waiting list for a one bedroom flat. After his son was born six months ago, his girlfriend wrote a letter to the local authority asking for the client to be allocated a two bedroom house as he would be caring for the child for part of the week. The client now lives in a two bedroom tenancy with his son staying with him for 4 days a week. His Housing Benefit notification shows that he now has a reduction of 14% and must pay almost £10 per week in rent. The client is in receipt of ESA and cannot afford the additional amount.
- A Central Scotland CAB reports of a 59 year old client affected by the under occupancy changes who has lived in the same house in a village for 51 years. The client has received a letter from the local authority stating that she will have to pay 25% of her Housing Benefit, amounting to £16 per week. The client has lived in the village all her life and considers her neighbours to be her family. There are no one bedroom houses in the village so she will have to leave, which she is finding very upsetting. The bureau calculated that the change would leave the client £25 a week for food and travel after essential costs.
- A West of Scotland CAB reports of a client who was in tears in the bureau as a result of the impact of the ‘bedroom tax’. The client claims JSA and lives alone in a three bedroom council tenancy. After the additional £34 she is paying in rent per fortnight, plus her gas/electricity charges, she is only left with £10 to live on, some of which must be used to pay for bus fares to the Jobcentre. The client was very upset about the whole issue and was desperate for some sort of help. She claimed not to have been able to afford to eat for the past five days because of the new ‘bedroom tax’ draining her resources. However, the client does not wish to move home as she feels that if she left the village she would never see her grandchildren again, as her son died in 2007 and she is trying to maintain contact.
- A West of Scotland CAB reports of a client who is struggling to afford food as a result of under-occupancy changes. The client is in receipt of ESA and DLA. She has paid £62 towards her rent this month which is now the difference between her Housing Benefit payments and her rent. As a result, the client is left with no money and will not receive another payment for several days. The client has unsuccessfully applied for Discretionary Housing Payment. The client states that she has no money for food and asked for advice on receiving a food parcel. The client now has a food parcel that will last a week and the bureau has set up fortnightly payments so the client won’t be left without any funds. However, the client is still likely to struggle with her finances.