82,000 households in Scotland are affected by the ‘Under-Occupancy Charge,’ which forces them to move home or face a cut in benefits if they have a ‘spare’ bedroom. 80% of these people are disabled, and in many cases their homes have been adapted accordingly.
In the first six months since the measure was introduced in April, 1,600 Scots sought advice on the issue from their CAB. Across the country, we’ve seen a 29% increase in the numbers of Housing Benefit cases, and a 41% increase in the numbers of people in social housing reporting rent arrears (compared to the same period last year).
Analysis of our Bedroom Tax clients shows that:
- Two thirds are disabled
- A further 1 in 10 are caring for a disabled person
- The majority are aged between 45 and 60, live alone and are too sick to work
- Only 13% were in employment
- 1 in 9 are single parents
Publishing the figures today, CAS Chief Executive Margaret Lynch says,
“We have now seen over 6 months of the Bedroom Tax, so we have enough evidence to present a real picture of its impact. The first thing that is clear is that the majority of Scots affected are sick and disabled people who were already living on low incomes. So, like so many of the recent welfare reforms, this is a measure that is principally hitting the most vulnerable people in our society, making their difficult situations even worse.
“Most of the people we have seen are unable to work for health reasons, so were already living in poverty even before this measure came in. Many had already seen their income shrink over the last few years because of the harsh changes to disability benefits. With the Bedroom Tax, they are now experiencing a further cut of around £11 a week on average.
“The UK government has made an estimated £16.5m available for Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) this year in an effort to mitigate the problems. However Shelter Scotland estimate this will only cover 10% of the shortfall in Housing Benefit. DHPs are also designed to be a temporary measure, and so do not offer long-term security.
“So the Bedroom Tax in reality is having just the impact that many feared it would. It is causing huge distress and pain – principally with people who were already suffering severe hardship. Some people have come into the CAB with eviction notices, in great distress.
“We make a number of recommendations in our report today, and we hope Ministers will look at these. Because the picture we present here is not speculation or guess-work. This law is now here, and the cases we show are real people, whose are facing real distress and poverty.”