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  By Lynn Malone
 
A leading charity has expressed its hope that a visit by a UN watchdog investigating the hated Bedroom Tax, will shine a "global spotlight" on the legislation and force Westminster to scrap it.
 
The controversial Bedroom Tax is being investigated by United Nations expert Raquel Rolnik who is charged with assessing whether member states have delivered on the right to adequate housing.  During her visit Ms Rolnik will hear from those affected in Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Her visit will take in Edinburgh and Glasgow where she will meet with government officials, NGOs, housing associations and individuals affected by it.

Benefit cuts imposed due to the Bedroom Tax have already led to some disabled people in Scotland going without basic essentials such as food, heating and clothes, according to Capability Scotland.

Richard Hamer, Director of External Affairs, at the charity said he hoped the UN watchdog would take this into account and help scrap the tax.

He said: "Capability Scotland hopes that when Raquel Rolnik is in Scotland she will take the opportunity to speak to the many disabled Scots who have been affected by 'bedroom tax'. 

"A recent Capability Scotland survey showed that disabled people in Scotland are being forced to go without essentials such as food, heating and clothing to make up for the shortfall in benefits income caused by the tax.

"There is no doubt that disabled people have been disproportionally affected by the 'bedroom tax' and Capability Scotland is currently in discussion with legal experts to see whether it is possible to raise a legal challenge against it in Scotland. 

"We welcome the investigation by the United Nations as there is no doubt that 'bedroom tax' is impacting greatly on disabled people's human right to enjoy an acceptable standard of living in a home that meets their needs.  Hopefully this visit will shine a global spotlight on the issue and provide further evidence to the UK Government that they need to abandon this ludicrous 'tax' once and for all."

SNP MSP Linda Fabiani, who was a former Director of East Kilbride Housing Association, said she hoped the visit will also show the world the way Scotland is being treated by Westminster.

"I am glad that the UN representative is visiting Scotland, even if that does no more than just raise awareness internationally of the way Scotland is treated by the Westminster Government.  As so often happens, a policy designed to tackle the overheated economy in the South East of England, is implemented here." She told Newsnet Scotland.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur's inspection begins tomorrow and will finish on the 11th September.  Ms Rolnik will assess the policies and programmes for social housing, affordability, discrimination and other issues related to the right to adequate housing.

In a statement, she said: "The UK has voiced its commitment to human rights on repeated occasions, and this mission will give me an opportunity to assess in-depth to what extend adequate housing, as one central aspect of the right to an adequate standard of living, is at the core of this commitment."

Ms Fabiani said everyone in Scotland had a right to a spare room and expressed her own hopes that the UN expert recognises how unfair the legislation is.

She added: "We have a different ethos in Scotland when it comes to what gets labelled 'social housing' – Councils and Housing Associations in Scotland have built homes for life.  Not only do we not have one-bed roomed properties available to move people too, we recognise that someone in a rented property is just as entitled to a 'spare room' as anyone else.

"It angers me greatly that the likes of Ian Duncan Smith or Lord Freud reckon that someone can pay rent for decades, and then if they hit hard times be told that they are no longer entitled to a bit of help to stay in their home.  And then of course there is the blatant discrimination against those with disabilities.

"I sincerely hope that the UN rep will recognise the inherent discrimination and unfairness of the bedroom tax when assessing the policies and programmes for social housing.  I hope that she will recognise that Scotland's particular circumstances are such that tenants here are facing particular hardship.  Surely she will find against this inflexible and uncaring Conservative and Liberal Democrat UK Government." She said.

Councils are able to cut the housing benefit of people with a spare bedroom by 14 per cent and 25 per cent for those with at least two spare bedrooms.

Newsnet Scotland recently reported on severely disabled single Mum of two, Lorraine Fraser, 46, who is facing eviction because she owes £248 to Labour run North Lanarkshire Council.

And in a letter to the Herald this week housing associations across the west of Scotland joined forces to call on all political parties to mobilise against the Bedroom Tax.

It is estimated 80,000 households in Scotland are affected by the bedroom tax with the average loss per household of £620 a year.

Comments  

 
# jdman 2013-08-28 20:07
Lets see these people justify this disgusting policy to the UN,
this could be interesting
 
 
# WRH2 2013-08-28 21:39
Linda Fabiani is absolutely right when she says everyone is entitled to a spare room. I think it is ridiculous that we have pensioners' housing built with only one bedroom. How are their families supposed to visit and provide some much needed company occasionally? Disabled and housebound people also have the same need for company. The bedroom tax just makes these problems worse and should be scrapped ASAP.
 
 
# willie boy 2013-08-28 23:32
The UK should be a First World country with First World valid but instead it is a country moving towards Third World inequality.

Of course in absolute terms and not per capita, Britain has the fourth highest alleging in military assets in the planet.

Puts it into perspective and confirms why we need to say yes.
 
 
# weegie38 2013-08-29 16:22
Another 4th place for the UK is in the inequality rankings: the UK has the 4th-highest levels of inequality on Earth.

An important part of winning the independence campaign will be to 'de-normalize' the UK. Average people are not really aware of how unusual the UK is in global terms. A vicious attitude towards the poor, astronomical university fees (in England, anyway), a grossly oversized military, an astonishing level of cultural arrogance. Most of the world views the UK as fundamentally weird, and often unpleasant.
 
 
# macdonald88 2013-08-31 19:47
A 'vicious attitude towards the poor'?! You must be joking. Welfare spending in the UK is totally out of control. A 'grossly oversized military'? And the SNP promise to make it larger, bringing back all those disbanded regiments!
The key inequality is between those who are prepared to work hard and the workshy who won't work but expect lifelong handouts. Unpleasant? No. Ridiculously generous? Yes.
 
 
# Ready to Start 2013-08-29 07:15
Good article in Wings in response to Daily Record article on Bedroom tax pointing out that

both the Work Capability Assessment programme, and the hiring of Atos Healthcare to implement it, were policies instigated and carried out by Gordon Brown’s Labour government in 2008, as a consequence of the 2007 Welfare Reform Act which also brought in the original “bedroom tax”.

wingsoverscotland.com/.../
 
 
# hetty 2013-08-29 10:39
Remembering that this has always been the case for private let tenants. If you have any room at all that is not occupied, then housing benefit is reduced accordingly. Some private tenants live in pretty appalling accomodation through not fault of their own and with no alternative. Housing benefit is also reduced by £13.90 per week when a child reaches 20, unless they are a student. This has to come out of their job seekers or ESA, and if they have a disability they are much less likely to be in education, employment or have the opportunity to leave home and live independently. So this means that the disabled and their carers are really suffering as a result, and they then struggle with basic living costs such as food and bills. Bills can be much higher for people with disabilities, a double wammy. Roll on 2014 for a YES vote.
 

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