Ministers announce more funding to counteract bedroom tax in Scotland
Almost £58 million will be spent mitigating the impact of the UK government’s welfare cuts on households across Scotland, it has been announced.
And some £47m of this will be allocated to counteract the bedroom tax via the Discretionary Housing Payments fund.
The rest of the cash - around £10.9m - will help mitigate other UK government policies such as the benefit cap and local housing allowance rates.
Social security minister Jeane Freeman has written to all local authorities confirming their funding for the coming year.
She said: “We realise how damaging the UK government’s punitive policies are, particularly the bedroom tax. That is why we have taken action to ensure DHPs are available to all affected households so no one has to pay it and we are committed to abolishing it as soon as practically possible.
“These ill-thought reforms target the most vulnerable in society and the money we are making available is a lifeline for those people who are already struggling to make ends meet.
“We want to protect low income families and households across Scotland which is why we have increased the funding available in the first year we have had full responsibility for Discretionary House Payments. However we would much rather be using this money to positively lift people out of poverty.
“It is abundantly clear the approach the UK government is taking to welfare is causing real damage and pushing people into poverty. We will continue to stand up for families across Scotland fight any further damaging UK welfare changes.”
Scottish ministers have yet to reach an agreement with the UK government over a potential reduction in the benefits of claimants in Scotland when the Scottish Government abolishes the bedroom tax.
Not all young people have the option of living with their parents - Adam Lang
As part of new social security powers being transferred to Holyrood, the Scottish Government plans to abolish the hated tax by 2021 and reinstate housing benefit for 18-21 year olds, which the UK government plans to remove from April.
In a meeting with the Department of Work and Pensions last month communities, equalities secretary Angela Constance stressed that the abolition of the bedroom tax cannot be counted as benefit income when it comes to the UK government’s benefit cap as it will penalise people by having other UK benefit payments clawed back.
However, following the meeting between the two governments, Freeman said the Scottish Government has not been able to get agreement at Westminster for the benefit cap not to include a bedroom tax element.
Freeman said there is a “technical way” that both governments can adopt their “opposing commitments” but the UK government does not agree.
Commenting on the new regulations banning 18-21 year-olds from housing benefit, Adam Lang, head of communications and policy at Shelter Scotland, said:“We’re deeply concerned by the UK government’s plans to exclude 18-21 year-olds from receiving housing benefit at a time when rough-sleeping is on the rise and homelessness is far from fixed in Scotland.
“Not all young people have the option of living with their parents and for those in desperate or difficult situations and facing homelessness – housing benefit is a vital lifeline that helps put a roof over their heads and provide them with stability and security.
“Removing the safety net that protects some young people from having to choose a life on the streets is a disgrace and an attack on some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”