With Scotland’s greater disability history, cuts and caps take their toll
Despite devolution, welfare benefits in Scotland are still run from London
People will spend months appealing the changes before they know for certain how much they will be affected. “There is probably a six-month period where people are still in a state of confusion where the fog is so thick. People are scurrying around trying to sort things out. It will be nine months time before we will start to realise what the real position is.”
Disabled people with live-in carers had believed they would not be affected, following a statement by prime minister David Cameron to that effect, only for it to emerge that he meant that they were more likely to qualify for discretionary benefits.
The difficulty here is that the new payment is exactly that: discretionary and time-limited, leaving the disabled in a state of perpetual anxiety that their benefits could be changed, according to Motor Neurone Disease Scotland.
Citizens Advice Scotland says the bedroom tax will affect 4,600 households in Scotland, including 10,000 children. More than half of those households will lose £50 a week, while a quarter will lose £100.
“They will either have to cut back on rent, food or fuel,” says CAS chief executive Margaret Lynch. “That’s the reality of this benefits cap. Families with children will face eviction, poverty, hunger and cold.”
Welfare benefit cuts have been popular, however, as Richard Hamer concedes. “The Westminster government has done a stunning job at making out that claimants are scroungers, but the bedroom tax is one where people are generally not supportive.”
Meanwhile, there is the matter of London rule, since the Scottish government is in control of housing policy, but not, in the case of local authority tenants, in charge of the funds that are needed to make it operate.
Series of moves
So far, the bedroom tax is the only one of the series of moves put into force by Duncan-Smith – benefits caps, cuts in housing benefit, and so on – that the Scottish National Party has said it would reverse.
Within months, people will face rents they cannot pay, but yet be unable to move to smaller properties, Hamer warns.
“Twenty years ago, a previous Tory government brought in discrimination laws that say that you can’t do things that impact worse on disabled people than others. Now they are doing things which they acknowledge themselves are doing exactly that,” he says.