Shelter calls for tax plan funding

A housing charity wants £50 million from the Scottish Government to tackle the impact of the so-called bedroom tax.

Shelter Scotland’s call is part of a three-point plan it wants to discuss in an “emergency summit” of social landlords.

The charity is concerned about UK Government welfare changes, including housing support.

Under the reforms, tenants will lose a portion of their benefit if they are deemed to be under-occupying their home.

Shelter director Graeme Brown called for the Scottish housing and welfare minister, Margaret Burgess, to set up the summit.

“We agree with the Scottish Government that the UK Government must reverse these cuts and that Scottish ministers are not able to mitigate all the impact of these reforms,” he said. “But Scottish ministers are not powerless to act to protect council tax payers who will have to foot the bill of increased homelessness or those vulnerable tenants at risk of losing their home. That’s why we think the Scottish Government should make up to £50 million available to help mitigate the impact of the first year of the bedroom tax and give practical help to all set to lose out.”

The reform will hit almost 100,000 households from April, the charity warned. The three-point plan also calls for a guarantee that no-one should be evicted for bedroom tax arrears or deemed intentionally homeless if they are evicted for that reason.

Shelter’s approach comes as the Scottish Government calculates that eight out of 10 households to be hit by the change include an adult with a recognised disability.

Ms Burgess raised her concern with UK Government welfare secretary Iain Duncan Smith. She said: “This is compelling evidence that the UK Government must take into account as it looks again at how the bedroom tax effects disabled people. It is deeply worrying that we have got to this stage, with the policy about to implemented in April, and the UK Government only now seem to be waking up to its potentially damaging and disproportionate effect on disabled people.”

The housing support provisions of the UK Government’s Welfare Reform Act affect working age tenants renting from a local authority, housing association or social landlord. Housing benefit will be based on the “need” of the household, assuming one bedroom for each person or couple. Exceptions include children of the same gender under 16, who are expected to share, and disabled tenants or partners who need a non-resident overnight carer. People with one extra bedroom will have a 14% cut while those with two or more extra bedrooms will have a 25% cut.