Ahead of a Westminster debate on the Bedroom tax today (Wednesday) the SNP have called on the UK Government to rethink its plans after comments from the Work and Pensions Secretary betrayed his deep unease with the devastating impact of the policy.

Last Thursday, Iain Duncan Smith said that he had instructed his officials to “look again” at how the benefit cut would affect disabled people, after the Chief Executives of seven charities wrote an open letter to Mr Duncan Smith and George Osborne outlining their concerns. However, within hours IDS’s own department had ruled out any changes.

Figures released over the weekend by the Scottish Government estimated that eight out of ten households set to be affected by this benefit cut in Scotland are occupied by a person with a disability.

The SNP have now demanded that Iain Duncan Smith get a grip on his department and order them to review the policy as he had wanted.

Commenting ahead of the debate – led jointly by the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party – SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford said:

 ‘’We know that over 80% of Scotland’s MPs at Westminster are totally opposed to this iniquitous measure.  On Wednesday we have an opportunity to reflect the deep and genuine worry about the Bedroom tax. We know that about 100,000 households are going to be hit by this policy and we know from our mailbags and surgeries that there is huge concern about how this new tax is going to hit the most  vulnerable in our communities.

  “Now we see the confusion and panic at the Department for Work and Pensions. Last week the Secretary of State Iain Duncan Smith ordered his officials to ‘look again’ at how this measure will affect the disabled following an approach by the Chief Executives of seven charities concerned about it. Now we are told there will be ‘no u-turns’ and it is full steam ahead for implementation in full.

 “We know that many elderly people are also worried about what this benefit cut really means for them. There is widespread alarm about the way this Government’s incompetence now extends to communicating how this new measure is actually going to work.


 “Iain Duncan Smith is clearly concerned about the impact of this policy – yet he appears to have been silenced by his own department. It’s time for Mr Duncan Smith to get a grip of his own department – and look again at this policy as he wanted. When they do, the devastating impact on some of the most vulnerable people in our society will become quite clear.”

 ”We are listening.  We are listening to the charities and civic bodies. We are listening to individuals who are shocked at the confusion and shambles and we are listening to those who understand that the new Bedroom  tax will hit the vulnerable, the disabled and those in greatest need of support. Iain Duncan smith is not listening. He needs to come to the House of Commons urgently and tell us all what he is doing to take account of all of these concerns.”



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Notes to Editors

1/Details of the IDS’s indication that he would ‘look again’ at the policy, and the subsequent denial by the DWP –


 2/Inclusion Scotland, the consortium of disability organisations and social partners who share their aims, commented on the news of the parliamentary debate, quote from spokesperson :

 ”Inclusion Scotland are extremely concerned about the potential impact on disabled people’s ability and right to live independently. The Under Occupation Rule or “Bedroom tax” discriminates against disabled people in that it has a totally disproportionate impact on disabled people and their families.  The Government’s own Equality Impact Assessment showed that two thirds of the households affected by the Bedroom Tax would contain a disabled person yet they pushed through the legislation virtually un-amended.

”Disabled people who use spare bedrooms to store equipment, wheelchairs and oxygen tanks have been informed that they will be penalised by the Under Occupation Rule as will couples forced to sleep apart because their very lives would be endangered through having to share a bed. We are appalled at the inhumanity and basic contempt for human rights that this Government are displaying in their attempt to make disabled people pay for a financial crisis brought on by millionaire bankers”

 3/ Commenting on the parliamentary debate and the growing concern about the Bedroom tax, a spokesperson for Age Scotland said:

” Age Scotland is very concerned about the impact the proposed changes will have on some older households – not just in terms of the financial pressures but also the impact on their health and wellbeing . It will increase pensioner poverty and could force people to use their retirement savings to support younger partners or relatives, putting undue pressure on family relationships

”There is also a real lack of clarity with pensioners being told by the Coalition Government that they won’t be affected by the changes. However, once  Universal Credit is introduced in October 2013,’mixed-age’ couples will be affected, and Age Scotland is already receiving calls from anxious couples worrying about how they will be expected to pay their rent.”

4/ There is also widespread concern in Scottish Housing Associations, as we have seen in their representations to the Westminster Government , including the excerpt of the letter below from the Chief Executive of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations  Dr Mary Taylor to the junior Minister at the Scotland Office , David Mundell: 

“We remain very concerned about the under-occupation issues, not least given the escalation of rhetoric about non-payment of the Bedroom tax, so called purposely to resonate with the Poll tax, a debacle which left councils with a trail of debts only now being resolved only now being resolved in your own constituency. In addition there are not sufficient smaller properties to meet demand, which effectively penalises those people on low incomes who cannot move to smaller properties, and we remain even more concerned about the absence of safeguards to protect landlords’ finances. As Universal Credit is due to be implemented from October, such safeguards are not evident at present and may not be in place for several months according to DWP personnel.