Cash available for help with ‘bedroom tax’

Some help will go to disabled people.
Some help will go to disabled people.

COUNCIL tenants affected by the changes to benefits with the so-called bedroom tax are to receive some help from their local councils.

The UK government has changed the law, introducing a spare room subsidy which means that tenants on welfare who have an extra bedroom will be expected to pay for that room out of their benefits.

Some disabled people have claimed they use the spare room in connection with their disability: as an exercise room or storage space for a wheelchair or buggy.

East Renfrewshire council has set aside around £140,000 in discretionary payments for tenants who are being charged for what the UK government deems to be a spare bedroom.

Meanwhile, in Glasgow, some £6.5 million has similarly been set aside for these payments.

The funding is part of a package from the Scottish government and the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) which allow councils to make payments, at their discretion, to people finding difficulty with meeting payments – identified as the main cause of concern for people in receipt of benefits.

Glasgow city council has been given £3.5 million from the Scottish government and a further £3 million from the DWP.

However, with Glasgow’s claims for the unemployed in general expected to be around £10 million, there will be a shortfall of £3.5 million.

Councillor Matt Kerr, GCC’s executive member for social care, said it was only right the council should prioritise these payments.

He said: “We have been warning for some time how devastating welfare reform will be for Glasgow.

“Even when respite is being offered, it only goes to highlight the scale of the problems the city will face.

“Every case will be treated on its merits, but what is proposed is about protecting people with disabilities, people in crisis and young people.”

East Ren’s convener for corporate services, councillor Ian McAlpine, said: “This is good news for tenants – but the Scottish government has not committed sufficient funding to meet the cost of the bedroom tax for a full financial year and although the Scottish government has announced continued funding for next year, this again will not be sufficient to meet the cost in full.

“Government rules also prohibit the council from providing additional funds to help tenants affected by reduced benefit.

“East Renfrewshire council will lobby the Department of Works and Pensions to relax these arrangements and to provide additional funds to meet full costs of the bedroom tax in 2014/15.”

East Renfrewshire council are also keeping an eye out for those tenants who have set aside a room to cope with their disability, but that is not recognised by the UK government.

They are asking tenants in these circumstances to e-mail David Millar, head of revenue services at benefits@eastrenfrewshire.gov.uk, to request a benefit reduction.

Up to this time, ERC has made discretionary payments to 127 tenants affected by welfare reforms, the new funding is expected to help a further 401 tenants.