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Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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Rights to benefits

This opinion piece is about 10 years old

Bill Scott, policy director at Inclusion Scotland, argues that means-testing disabled people for discretionary housing payments has to end

Bill Scott, policy director, Inclusion Scotland
Bill Scott, policy director, Inclusion Scotland

The news that the UK government has granted the Scottish Government powers to lift the ceiling on the amount that councils can spend on discretionary housing payments (DHPs) should come as an enormous relief to the thousands of Scots affected by the bedroom tax.

However will all Scottish councils make full use of that extra funding or will some fail to support poor and desperate people in their area?

Disabled people are caught in a nightmare catch-22 situation

It may come as a shock but local authorities who have failed to support their tenants – and over a third of Scottish councils had spent less than half of the money allocated to them for DHPs by the end of February – will simply pocket the unspent money for use in their general funds.

Meanwhile some councils continue to discriminate against and refuse to help some of the most vulnerable people affected by the bedroom tax. Local authorities, including Edinburgh and Glasgow, have refused discretionary housing payments to disabled people hit by the bedroom tax.

Disabled people are caught in a nightmare catch-22 situation.

To become eligible for DHP, disabled people are asked to prove that they are in fact disabled.

The easiest way is to show that is receipt of disability living allowance (DLA) or the new personal independence payment (PIP). Yet when they do this they are then told that unless they can prove that they are spending their DLA or PIP responsibly (and can itemise how they are spending it) they are not eligible for DHP.

We would urge all local authorities to abandon the practice of counting DLA as income for DHP purposes. Otherwise when we reach the end of next year there again will be millions of mitigation funding left unspent and thousands of disabled tenants living in fear and misery.

Bill Scott is policy director at Inclusion Scotland.