Scots who are sick and disabled are being hit harder than most by the Bedroom Tax – according to new figures published today (Thursday 14th November) by Citizens Advice Scotland.
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.”
Notes to editors - click to expand/collapse
Today’s CAS report is attached. It is the latest in our series of reports, Voices from the Frontline, which highlights the specific aspects of the UK government’s various welfare reforms and the impact these are having on people in Scotland. The full series of reports can be seen at https://www.cas.org.uk/publications?title=&spotlight=All&type=257
For interviews etc please contact Tony Hutson on 0131 550 1010 or 07774 751655. This number is for journalists only, for advice call Citizens Advice Direct on 0808 800 9060.
Our report today is based on real cases seen by Scottish CAB advisers. It describes a number of these cases, to illustrate the different issues we see, and the way vulnerable people are being impacted by this policy. These cases are given below. This is just a sample, but is representative of the sort of cases we have seen across the country in the last 6 months. The cases in the report are anonymous.
- A West of Scotland CAB reports of a 55year-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 MS 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.
- A North of Scotland CAB reports of a client who requires the extra bedroom for kidney dialysis. The client has a kidney condition that requires dialysis three to four times a day, with each session lasting around 90 minutes. The client uses her spare bedroom for dialysis which must be kept sterile and which contains specialist equipment. At the time of seeking advice, the client’s Discretionary Housing Payments had just run out and she was applying for a new payment.
- A West of Scotland CAB reports of a client who was given an adapted home due to her health conditions. The client is disabled and her husband is her carer. The tenancy has two bedrooms, which the client says that they need as her husband often needs to sleep in the other room. The client believes that there is little possibility of being allocated a one bedroom adapted property that is suitable for their needs.
- A North of Scotland CAB reports of a client whose disabled son requires an extra bedroom for his medical equipment. The client and her son live in an adapted three bedroom house, with the ‘extra’ bedroom used for her son’s two wheelchairs and other equipment. She works 16 hours per week. The client has been awarded Discretionary Housing Payments until September, but realises that this may only be a short-term solution.
- An East of Scotland CAB reports of a single parent of two young children who is affected by the Bedroom Tax. She 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 by himself after his son and daughters moved out. The client has disabilities, is deaf, and suffers from depression. The client has accrued £500 in rent arrears as he is required to pay £23 in rent each week due to the fact that he is under-occupying his tenancy. The client lives in a housing complex for people with disabilities, but they cannot offer any one bedroom accommodation. The client feels that his health would suffer if he had to move to another tenancy that wasn’t set up for a person with disabilities.
- An East of Scotland CAB reports of a client who has accumulated 10 weeks’ worth of rent of arrears due to the ‘bedroom tax’. The client lives in social rented accommodation. She has long-term health issues, including diabetes and arthritis, and has had strokes in the past. She requested a transfer to a smaller tenancy, but the landlord will not consider this as she is in rent arrears.