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Bedroom tax fund breaks £25m barrier

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Over 70,000 Scottish households have been forced to apply for discretionary housing payment

The only sure way of preventing harm to tenants hit by the ‘bedroom tax’ is to repeal altogether the laws relating to under-occupation

Over £25 million worth of payments to mitigate the bedroom tax have been made to people on benefits this year.

The latest figures, released today, show local authorities made 70,211 discretionary housing payments in the period 1 April 2013 to 28 February 2014 totalling £25.1m.

That’s up just over £3m from the total of £21.9m that was awarded by the end of December.

However, the figure is still far short of the £50m that campaigners say individual housing benefit recipients have lost in the last year. At the start of the year, they successfully lobbied for the Scottish Government to increase DHP funding to £50m for 2014/15.

Commenting on this year's figures, Jeremy Hewer, Scottish Federation of Housing Associations’ (SFHA) policy advisor, said the association welcomed and appreciated the various interventions to try to reduce the impact in Scotland of some of the worst excesses of welfare reform but once again poured scorn on the tax.

“It should not be forgotten that these initiatives have had to be put in place in order to ameliorate an arbitrary and inept policy and can only go so far,” he said.

“The only sure way of preventing harm to tenants hit by the bedroom tax is to repeal altogether the laws relating to under-occupation.”

Between 1 April 2013 and 31 December over 56,000 struggling households were also helped by the Scottish Welfare Fund with a total of £18 million allocated.

Two recent SFHA research reports Cause for Concern? Early impacts of benefit sanctions on housing associations and co-operatives in Scotland and The Real Cost of the Bedroom Tax for Scottish Housing Associations and Co-operatives highlighted the devastating effects of welfare reform on tenants and in turn the problems it causes for their landlords.

SFHA suggested the tax would cost housing association around £80m over three years though lost rent, tenancy charges and hiring and retraining staff.