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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

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They huff and they puff but don’t blow over the bedroom tax

This opinion piece is over 10 years old

It's official: the bedroom tax is unworkable, probably costs more than it sets out to save and hits the most vulnerable hardest.

So says the Scottish Parliament’s welfare reform committee after listening to months of evidence and first-hand accounts from those most affected.

What’s most striking about the committee’s finding is how far reaching the tax is. Local authorities, housing associations, welfare rights and advice charities and of course benefits claimants themselves are all being hit.

The wider impact is huge. Some 80,000 households are affected, many with children, many of them including someone with a disability.

Meanwhile councils and housing associations face the prospect of soaring rent arrears, threatening cuts to other council services and undermining housing associations ability to borrow and build.

While Westminster is unlikely to take much notice of this Scottish Parliament committee’s findings, it also puts pressure on the Scottish Government to take more responsibility to mitigate the tax, above and beyond the measures currently being taken.

The SNP say it will axe the tax should the country vote yes in this year’s referendum but there’s no contingency in place should the country vote no.

80,000 households are affected, many with children, many of them including someone with a disability.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Government has provided local authorities with additional funding to increase the amount available for Discretionary Housing Payments. It was announced in October that an extra £20 million would be allocated by the Scottish Government in 2014/2015 to help those struggling with the bedroom tax.

But, as the committee stated, this alone is not enough. People are still building up arrears, cutting back on basics, such as food and energy, and struggling to make ends meet.

While the Scottish Government has been commended for injecting extra cash to mitigate its effects, there is growing pressure from politicians and campaign groups for a one-off cash injection to mitigate its effects across the board.

A temporary fund, as suggested by the campaign group No2BedroomTax, could be put in place to ensure no-one is evicted through rent arrears and that social landlords are not forced to increase rents to cover the debts being accrued.

Tenants should not have to wait for the votes to be counted in the referendum or the next general election before action is taken to get rid of the bedroom tax.

This tax is not the making of the Scottish Government. But the tact of continually blaming the coalition government is wearing thin when a solution does in fact rest with the Scottish Government.