Bedroom tax ‘iniquitous and inhumane’, say MSPs

The bedroom tax “is iniquitous and inhumane and may well breach tenants’ human rights”, according to a new report.

The bedroom tax “is iniquitous and inhumane and may well breach tenants’ human rights”, according to a new report published today by the Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee.

In calling on the bedroom tax to be abolished either by the UK government or, failing that, for the Scottish government and Parliament to be given the power to do so, the committee points to a sorry state of affairs in respect of the policy.

Among its key concerns include:

  • Many tenants are finding themselves “trapped’ into paying the ‘bedroom tax’” as a result of their not being sufficient numbers of smaller properties to move into.
  • “The level of Discretionary Housing Payments originally allocated by the Department of Work and Pensions to deal with the transitional problems” it argues, “does not match the scale of the problem.” In welcoming the Scottish government’s allocation of an additional £20 million for the payments for 2013-14 and 2014-15, the committee calls on the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to increase the level of such payments.

Declaring the policy to be unacceptable, Committee convener Labour MSP Michael McMahon said:

“Treating people’s homes only as bricks and mortar, homes of around 65,000 disabled people and 15,000 homes with children, is simply not acceptable in this day and age.

“Smaller properties just aren’t available because we spent years developing our housing stock to offer homes people could grow their families in, so they could set down roots and establish communities.

“The reality for many is they cannot pay, and they cannot move.

“And to make the situation even more frustrating, it is entirely possible it is costing the public purse more to implement than it is saving.”

He continued:

“The only conclusion the majority of the committee could come to, when faced with the evidence and research we have seen, is to call for the UK government to abolish the ‘bedroom tax’ with immediate effect. And if they won’t do that, to give the Scottish Parliament the powers and resources to do so.”

Responding, a spokesperson for the DWP sought to defend the tax by arguing that “Britain has a very strong housing safety net” for vulnerable tenants. “Reform of the spare room subsidy is absolutely necessary to make a better use of our social housing when thousands of Scots are living in overcrowded homes”, the spokesperson said.

The report comes shortly after Scottish Labour and the SNP pledged to work together to fight the tax.

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