Charity campaigns to banish the bedroom tax 'monster'

Housing charity Shelter Scotland has launched a campaign to get the UK government's controversial bedroom tax abolished.

The charity's 'Banish the Bedroom Tax Monster' campaign calls on Scotland’s politicians in Westminster, Holyrood and in local authorities to do more to support households affected by the under-occupancy policy.

A Shelter survey found that nearly half of those in Scotland think the Scottish government should help households hit by the tax.

When asked if additional money should be provided to councils to help households who are struggling to pay their rent, 47% said the Scottish government should provide additional money, 32% felt it should not provide additional money and 21% were unsure or had no opinion.

Shelter's analysis shows that at current levels, the discretionary housing payment (DHP) pot available to councils can only help one in every 18 of the 82,500 households struck by the coalition's widely reviled levy.

But, according to the charity, if the Scottish government supported local authorities by making up to £20 million more available, they would have the means to help one affected household in seven - at least an extra 7,000 households - hit by the bedroom tax and many thousands more hit by other cuts.

Shelter is calling on members of the public and Scottish politicians to get behind the campaign and support a six-point action plan for countering the effects of the bedroom tax.

The plan includes calls for the UK government to introduce a new exemption from the policy for homeless people in temporary accommodation and for councils to support people who fall into rent arrears to move to cheaper accommodation.

Shelter's director, Graeme Brown, said: “It is telling that whilst, according to recent polls, many people may support the need for welfare reform, nearly half of the people in Scotland back the Scottish government to do more to support those affected by the bedroom tax.

“At Shelter Scotland, in the six months since the bedroom tax and other reforms became a reality, we have seen the problems it is creating for homeless people trying to rebuild their lives, for families trying to provide a stable home for their children and for disabled people whose needs are overruled by these arbitrary rules."

Other points from Shelter's action plan include:

  • Tenants with rent arrears should not be blocked from downsizing into more affordable properties.
  • Build more social housing to cut the benefit bill for the long term.
  • Everyone affected by benefit changes like the bedroom tax and the upcoming Universal Credit can access free, independent advice and advocacy.
  • Where possible, tenants should always pay their rent including any shortfall incurred through a bedroom tax deduction.

Graeme Brown added: “The bedroom tax looms large in the lives of those affected. For many it is like a monster living in their home.

“That is why we are launching our new campaign - Banish the Bedroom Tax Monster – which urges all of Scotland’s politicians to act now. Our six-point plan sets out six actions based on the first six months of this misguided and unworkable policy.

“The first opportunity to put this plan into action will be the upcoming Scottish Budget when John Swinney could lead from the front and start the ball rolling by committing £20m extra funding.”