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Welfare ‘Reforms’ & Bedroom Tax Having a Devastating Impact on Housing

National Statistics (1)Scotland is paying out millions of £s in Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) mainly because of the effects of the Bedroom Tax. Welfare ‘reforms’ by the UK Government including the Bedroom Tax are plunging more and more people into hardship. In Scotland help can be provided via the DHP which the Scottish Government finances and which is administered by local authorities.

What is the Bedroom Tax?

If you have a spare bedroom and you’re renting from the council or a housing association and getting housing benefit, then the amount of benefit you receive may be reduced. This is commonly known as ‘the bedroom tax’.” Shelter Scotland

The Bedroom Tax was included in the Welfare Reform Act of 2012 – a huge change to the UK’s social security system brought in by the Liberal Democrat/Tory Coalition Government. Universal Credit, now rolled out across Scotland, replaced a range of benefits and tax credits.

Discretionary Housing Payments in Scotland

The latest report from the Office of National Statistics covers the period 1st of April 2018 to 30th September 2018. [Discretionary Housing Payments in Scotland: as at 30 September 2018]

DHPs are paid when people require additional help with their housing costs. Its funding comes from the Scottish Government.

DHP 2018 Discretionary Housing PaymentsThe Bedroom tax penalises people on benefits who have an extra bedroom. An extra bedroom could be for storing mobility equipment or when a person comes to stay over for a visit – for example a single father having time with their child. The Scottish Government decided this was unfair and pay ,through local authorities, to mitigate this tax.

Local authorities in Scotland made 100,635 DHP awards, with an average award value of £565 per claimant.

The total value of awards across Scotland was £56.9 million.

DHP estimated spend 2018

Proportion of estimated 2018/19 DHP funding spent as at 30th September 2018

As these latest figures are up to 30th of September some local authorities have not spent their allocation but 8 have already exceeded it.

What happens in England and Wales?

The latest figures for England and Wales for DHP are for the period April 2017 – March 2018. In total UK Government funding was £166.5million. The majority of Local Authorities in England and Wales either spent less or equal to the amount they were allocated by the UK Government. DWP Discretionary Housing Payments

This table gives you an idea of the payments made since the welfare ‘reforms’ and the Bedroom Tax came into force.

DHP Govt funding

DHP UK government funding (£million)

If you consider that the total figure for GB was £150million before it was devolved and now take into account that Scotland in 2018 has allocated £56.9 million you can work out for yourselves that in England and Wales people are not being provided with the same help as in Scotland.

The austerity agenda implemented by successive UK Governments since 2010 was condemned by the UN rapporteur on poverty, Prof Alston. You can read more about that here:

 “Poverty is a Political Choice”the Alston United Nations Report on Poverty in the UK.

The Bedroom Tax (RSRS) was brought in by the Liberal Democrat/Conservative coalition Government.  It is penalising people in the most mean and miserly way.

Scotland is trying to mitigate the worst effects of these welfare policies but finances are limited and stretched. Scotland does not have control over all the levers of its economy and spending therefore is limited to the few powers it has.

Scotland has a different approach to rUK on Social Security  with a new system built on a foundation of respect and dignity. Scotland is having to pay increasing amounts to mitigate the effects of UK welfare ‘reforms’ which are hitting the most vulnerable – those who can least afford it. Add in increases in rent, electricity and food – the basics of living – zero hours contracts and a low wage economy then for many people the DHP is a lifeline.

You can read more about the Scottish Government’s actions to mitigate UK Government welfare reforms and its effect on housing here:

Annual Report on Welfare Reform/Housing and Social Security, May 2018

For further information on Discretionary Housing Benefit please click on the link: Shelter Scotland Discretionary housing payments

Reporter: Fiona Grahame


 

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