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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Disabled turned away from bedroom tax fund

This news post is about 10 years old

Disabled people are being turned down for discretionary housing payments, despite being given priority status

Disabled people forced to pay the bedroom tax are missing out on support because councils expect them to use disability benefits to pay their rent.

TFN has learned that some councils are discriminating against disabled people applying for discretionary housing payments (DHPs) by refusing them support because they receive disability benefits.

Inclusion Scotland, one of the country’s leading disability organisations, claims that councils are taking into account disabled people’s benefits – such as Disability Living Allowance (DLA) – to means testing whether they are eligible for support with their housing costs.

DLA is not paid to disabled people to meet rent costs - Bill Scott

It highlighted people on disability benefits were turned down for DHPs last year in several councils, including Edinburgh and Glasgow.

This was despite the fact that as a whole councils had only spent £25 million of the £40m allocated to the fund by the end of February.

Therefore, despite the Scottish Government's recent announcement that it will increase the DHP budget to £50m to fully cover Scotland’s bedroom tax bill, the charity fears many disabled people on benefits will still lose out.

Disabled people who apply for DHPs are being asked to account for how they spend their DLA and refused help based on their responses.

Bill Scott of Inclusion Scotland said the situation was discriminatory and heaping misery on those who were needed support most.

DLA and PIP should be disregarded by local authorities when assessing a claimants entitlement to a DHP - Steven McAvoy

“DLA is not paid to disabled people to meet rent costs,” he said.

“Instead it is provided to meet the additional costs arising from their disability.

“Moreover around a third of those receiving DLA have learning difficulties and/or mental health issues.

“How realistic or fair is it to expect them to be able to account to the last penny how they have spent their DLA?”

The practise is putting disabled people in a catch 22 position, said the charity. On the one hand, they are being asked to prove they have a disability by highlighting that they receive disability benefits, also including personal independence payments (PIP), but then councils are refusing them help because of these benefits.

Steven McAvoy, welfare rights advisor for Enable Scotland, said councils were being over-zealous in their approach.

“DLA and PIP should be disregarded by local authorities when assessing a claimants entitlement to a discretionary housing payment,” he said.

“Disregarding this income would be in line with other means tested benefits where DLA and PIP is ignored.”