COMMONS

Evidence requested: bedroom tax and other changes to housing benefit

08 May 2013

In 2011, the UK’s Coalition Government launched a programme of welfare reform, including reform of the Housing Benefits system.

Changes to the housing benefit system announced by the Government include:

  • The introduction of the Housing Benefit Cap or "bedroom tax" which means a reduction in benefit for anyone with a "spare" bedroom
  • changes to how the rate of housing benefit is set
  • changes to the way the Local Housing Allowance is set
  • increasing non-dependent deductions
  • reforms to social housing

It has been estimated that the bedroom tax will affect 105,000 households in Scotland, 79% of which “under-occupy” by one bedroom and so will likely have their housing benefit reduced by 14% of their eligible rent, and 21% of which “under-occupy” by two bedrooms or more and so will likely have their housing benefit reduced by 25%. Of these 105,000 households, 79% have at least one adult with a recognised disability.

The Committee is inquiring into how the changes and especially the “bedroom tax” will affect people in Scotland.

In Scotland, housing policy is devolved but control over benefits, including housing benefit, is not. The Committee is looking at what impact the reforms will have on households and families in Scotland, and also what powers the Scottish Government, local authorities, social landlords & others have to mitigate these impacts and how effectively they are being used.

The Committee is calling for evidence on several key topics:

  • the impact of the housing benefit reforms in  Scotland
  • whether the housing benefit policy is coherent and enables access to homes in Scotland
  • what powers the Scottish Government, Councils, social landlords and others have to mitigate the impact of the reforms, and whether these are being used effectively
  • whether benefit reform is in danger of driving private landlords out of the low income rental market, thereby increasing shortages of rented accommodation.

Ian Davidson MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

"The impact of these reforms, and especially the significant reduction in help with rent, has yet to be felt in Scotland but we are concerned that there will be a negative impact on families and individuals who are, by definition, already struggling to make ends meet. We want to hear from the people who will be affected as to what difference this will make to them and the cash they have to live on.

There seems to be something rather arbitrary about a blanket cut based on whether you have a spare room or not.

We want to know what can be done in Scotland to assess people’s circumstances and mitigate the effects on a more individual basis - especially when you consider that the vast majority of the households that will be affected include a disabled person.

What powers are already available in Scotland to deflect the impact of these changes, and how effectively are such powers being used?

We would appreciate submissions from people and groups directly affected as well as from organisations who are now required to operate within the new rules."

Notes:

The Committee asks for written submissions on this issue in accordance with the guidelines stated below.

The deadline for written submissions is Monday 3 June 2013. Evidence sessions for this inquiry will begin in the New Year. Witnesses will be announced in due course.

Submissions should be in Word or rich text format and sent by e-mail to scotaffcom@parliament.uk. Do not send in PDF format. The body of the e-mail must include a contact name, telephone number and postal address. The e-mail should also make clear who the submission is from.

Submissions must address the terms of the inquiry and should not, as a rule, exceed 2,000 words. Paragraphs should be numbered for ease of reference, and the document should include an executive summary.

Further information:

Guide for witnesses (PDF PDF 431 KB)Opens in a new window

Provides detailed guidance for individuals and organisations giving written or oral evidence to a House of Commons select committee.

Image: iStockphoto

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