Holyrood is seeking assurances from the UK Government that Scottish families who are protected from the “abhorrent” bedroom tax will not then find themselves falling into the benefit cap trap, it has been reported.
The Scottish Government wants to axe the bedroom tax, but fears the extra cash in families pockets could then be counted as benefits income as push them above the benefit cap threshold.
It is estimated that around 70,000 households in Scotland have benefitted from the Scottish Government’s decision to mitigate the bedroom tax, Third Force News reports. The Scottish Government now want to scrap the cruel policy entirely.
The maximum amount a household can receive in certain state benefits, including housing benefit and tax credits, was lowered in November 2016 from £26,000 to £20,000 a year outside of London.
The GMB union warned at the time that the lower cap “risks shattering the life chances of children up and down our country”.
Gingerbread, a charity that supports single parents, added it will “drive more single parents into poverty”. But the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) defended the move, arguing the new lower cap would serve as “a clear incentive to move into a job“.
An additional 5000 households in Scotland have been affected by the lower cap, but this number could rise further if abolishing the bedroom tax results in benefits income exceeding the maximum amount allowed under the benefit cap.
Scotland’s Social Security and Equalities Secretary, Angela Constance, raised her concerns during a meeting with the DWP on Monday.
“The bedroom tax is an abhorrent charge which makes the lives of those already struggling to make ends meet even harder – there’s no place for that in a modern Scotland”, says Constance.
“I make no secret of the fact we want to abolish it but what we also don’t want to see is anyone’s benefits being reduced again because by abolishing bedroom tax they end up over threshold for the UK benefit cap.
“It is not acceptable for the Scottish Government to give with one hand only for the UK government to take away with the other – when these powers were transferred to Scotland there was a commitment there would be no claw back of benefits as a result of payment or eligibility decisions made by the Scottish Government.”
She added: “We need cast iron commitments from the UK government that they will abide by those principles and that people won’t be penalised further.
“This issue has been raised with UK ministers on a number of occasions and I look forward to discussing this further at Monday’s meeting.”