Citizens Advice Scotland has welcomed news that MPs have backed a bill that aims to exclude certain vulnerable groups from the ‘Bedroom Tax’ .
MPs have voted to give a second reading to a bill by Lib Dem backbench MP Andrew George, which would end the bedroom tax for disabled families. The vote does not mean the bill will become law but it does keep it alive, with a chance it could become law after future votes.
Citizens Advice Scotland’s Head of Policy Susan McPhee says,
“We have been working hard to convince Scottish MPs that this policy is causing great distress to many of the most vulnerable people in Scotland. Our evidence shows that around 72,000 sick and disabled families in Scotland were affected last year.
“These households were already struggling on very low incomes, and this policy has seen an average reduction in their housing support of around £11 per week. That’s a huge amount if you are on a tight budget. It amounts to a loss of £42 million annually across Scotland. In the first six months after the change, over 1,600 people sought advice on the issue at a CAB in Scotland, and that impact has continued into this year. Some of these cases are very distressing, and we have been presenting these to MPs as evidence that change is needed. (see case studies below)
“MPs have made the right decision today, and hopefully they will continue to back this bill and other measures that we have outlined. This policy has been very damaging to many vulnerable people and there are certainly further changes needed, but this bill at least is a step in the right direction.”
Notes to editors - click to expand/collapse
The attached CAS report was presented to MPs on the Scottish Affairs committee at the end of last year. It outlines the evidence we have gained from the cases of disabled Scots suffering under the Bedroom tax. It contains a number of case studies from Scottish CABs. These are pasted below. (They are all anonymous as none of these clients was willing to speak to media).
- A West of Scotland CAB reports of a client whose Housing Benefit has been reduced due to the Bedroom tax. She was given tenancy of her present home on medical grounds because of her debilitating conditions. At the time she was entitled to full Housing Benefit, however, she has now been asked to pay a contribution towards the weekly rent which the client cannot afford. Her husband is her carer, as she is disabled, unable to work and receives middle rate care DLA. The house is adapted for her needs and the possibility of being allocated a suitable one bedroom property is very small.
- An East of Scotland CAB reports of a client who suffers from osteo-arthritis and pernicious anaemia. He has undergone 52 knee operations and walks with an aid. Until recently he has been living with his mother as her carer in a two bedroom Council property. His mother has now been admitted to a care home and he is being charged for the extra bedroom under the ‘under-occupancy’ rules. Currently the property contains a stair lift which was originally installed for his mother’s care needs. As the client struggles to use the stairs he has asked to keep the lift but his request has been declined and the stair lift is due to be removed.
- A West of Scotland CAB reports of a client whose application for Discretionary Housing Payment had been refused. The client and her husband had a two bedroom housing association flat and were being charged for a spare room. However, the client has rheumatoid arthritis and receives the higher rate mobility component of DLA. Her husband has ME and is in receipt of higher rate mobility and middle rate care DLA. He also has the sleep disorder "restless legs syndrome" which affects his arms as well. Due to this condition, and her own medical problems, his wife is unable to share the same bed or room with him.
- An East of Scotland CAB reports of a client who lives with his wife in a three bedroom housing association bungalow. His wife has Multiple Sclerosis and they have to sleep in separate rooms due to the spasms she has overnight. They applied for Discretionary Housing Payment four months ago but it was refused.
- A North of Scotland CAB reports of a client affected by the ‘bedroom tax’ 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.
- An East of Scotland CAB reports of a client whose Discretionary Housing Payment application had been declined. The client is concerned as he and his wife are both disabled and need to have separate bedrooms as his wife needs a lot of equipment and is getting a hoist delivered soon. The client was concerned the Council did not understand his situation. When the adviser contacted the Council, they were told that there is no provision in law for them to do this at the moment but were sympathetic to the client’s position.
- A West of Scotland CAB reports of a client who has been homeless for a few months. He was given temporary homeless accommodation and has now been offered a permanent tenancy. He came in with a query about his final notice for the temporary accommodation, which contained rent arrears of £199.56. The adviser contacted the local authority who informed them this accrued from an under-occupancy charge of £23.28 per week.
- An East of Scotland CAB reports of a client who had received a letter from the council advising of rent arrears. The two bedroom property had been allocated to the single client by the Council as temporary homeless accommodation. When the adviser contacted the Council, they were informed that the arrears were as a result of the ‘bedroom tax’.
Other case studies from another CAS report:
- A North of Scotland CAB reports of a client affected by the ‘bedroom tax’ whose disabled son requires an extra bedroom for his 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 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’. 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 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 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.
The full CAS report is attached, as presented to MPs in December last year. NB It ends with a number of recommendations which are similar to those contained in the bill today.