The UK Government's Welfare Reform plans will rob Scotland of over £54 million a year, new analysis has confirmed, Housing Minister Keith Brown claimed today.
The Westminster Bill will reduce the amount of housing benefit support that can be given to tenants in the social rented sector by introducing new size criteria for working-age Housing Benefit claimants, who have extra bedrooms.
People who are judged to be "under occupying" their home by one bedroom will have their housing benefit slashed by 14%. Where they are under occupying by two or more bedrooms the deduction is 25%.
The new criteria for under occupation could mean that ill or disabled people, who use a spare bedroom for medical equipment, may all be affected.
The House of Lords has already debated the Bill. At that point an amendment laid by Lord Best would allow the two bedroom deduction to stand, but require that the one bedroom deduction should only apply where suitable alternative accommodation is available to the tenant.
Speaking today, ahead of a debate in the House of Commons, which will consider the changes proposed by the House of Lords, Housing Minister Keith Brown said:
"The Scottish Government is calling today for the UK Government to see sense and look again at the impacts of their proposed under occupancy measures.
"The UK Government's proposals amount to a bedroom tax that will remove £54.4 million annually from the Scottish economy piling untold misery on the lowest income families.
"The House of Lords has proposed a sensible, common-sense compromise, which I would urge the UK Government to accept."
Graeme Brown, Director of Shelter Scotland, said:
"As a charity that works to help people avoid homelessness, we are extremely concerned that these penalties for under occupation could force vulnerable people into a spiral of debt and out of the family home.
"At a time when Scotland doesn't have enough one bedroom homes to re-house those affected, the refusal by the UK Government to grant exemptions where there is no suitable alternative is grossly unfair.
"Punishing tenants at the same time the Government is cutting the capital budget that could help build the homes they need is simply wrong."
David Ogilvie, Policy & Strategy Manager with the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations said:
"The SFHA has campaigned hard against the ‘bedroom tax' which will unfairly penalise social housing tenants who are already struggling financially. We're pleased to add our voice to the Scottish Government's call for the Coalition Government to see sense.
"These proposals are short-sighted and fail to recognise that there is a chronic shortage of one-bedroom properties - 44% of working age housing association and co-operative tenants need a one-bedroom property but only 24% can get one.
"That's why we have written to all Scottish MPs reminding them of the devastating impact that this new measure will have upon 70,000 of Scotland's poorest households, many of whom are disabled or otherwise vulnerable.
"If they struggle to find alternative accommodation they could be left facing homelessness."