Edinburgh bedroom tax policy ‘unfair on disabled’

George Lamb.  Picture: Neil Hanna
George Lamb. Picture: Neil Hanna
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ANTI-bedroom tax campaigners have accused the city council of “unfairly discriminating” against disabled people when assessing emergency hardship payments.

City chiefs currently include disability living allowance (DLA) and Personal Independence Payment (PIP) as income when calculating discretionary housing payments (DHPs) to cover a benefits shortfall.

This, however, is completely at odds with Glasgow council which doesn’t weigh up such money as income.

Disabled campaigners have slammed the city council, saying it must fall in step with the neighbouring authority and help protect some of the most vulnerable residents.

Mike Valance, of the Lothian Federation of Anti Bedroom Tax Groups, said: “Edinburgh council is attacking people with severe disabilities by unfairly denying them discretionary housing payments. This is completely wrong. DLA and PIP should be completely disregarded as available income, because it is paid to cover the substantial extra costs incurred by people with severe disabilities.”

This was echoed by Bill Scott, manager of disabled charity Inclusion Scotland, who described the policy as “plainly discriminatory”.

He said: “The council needs to reverse this system. The whole picture is very inconsistent across Scotland. It’s only right that DLA is disregarded otherwise it results in those who most need help getting into rent arrears and debt.”

In Scotland an estimated 105,000 people will be affected by the bedroom tax, roughly 20 per cent of all social tenants, and Cosla estimates that 40 per cent of those will fall into rent arrears.

In the first two months of the bedroom tax, 2216 DHP applications were received by the city council, compared with just 724 in the same 
period in 2012.

Leith resident George Lamb, who lives in a two-bed property with his wife and full-time carer, is one of those affected. The 49-year-old, who is wheelchair bound, said: “I use the second bedroom on frequent nights when I’m in pain or if I’m tossing and turning.

“As a result of the bedroom tax we’re now £14 a week worse off. We’re managing the rent at the moment but we can’t sustain it. We will have to apply for a discretionary housing payment eventually and when we do my DLA will be counted as income.”

Last week, the News revealed how council tenants affected by the bedroom tax are being told to quit luxuries such as cigarettes and alcohol – or face being denied 
payments. City chiefs are advising people to cut back on “non-essential items” such as booze before asking for DHPs.

It was only when faced with a legal challenge by disabled claimants, that Glasgow City Council decided to change its stance and disregard DLA in DHP cases. However the city council has stated it has no plans to follow Glasgow’s lead.

City housing vice-convener Councillor Cammy Day said: “Unfortunately we only have a limited annual fund to provide discretionary housing payments and have to carefully consider each application on a case-by-case basis. We make these decisions based on a number of factors, including the overall income of applicants.”