Emma raises Bedroom Tax injustice at Prime Minister’s Questions

May 16, 2014

130717 Lewell Buck 2At Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday Emma raised the case of Mr Darren Lugg from South Shields, who has been unfairly hit by the Bedroom Tax.

Emma asked the Prime Minister:

“My constituent Darren Lugg’s disability means that he needs a specially adapted bed so he cannot share a room with his wife, but still they are hit by the bedroom tax. Can the Prime Minister explain why this Government are punishing him for his disability?”

The Prime Minister replied:

As the hon. Lady knows, we have discretionary housing payments for exactly this sort of case, and the money has been topped up, so there is no reason for people to be disadvantaged in the way she suggests.”

But as people hit by the Bedroom Tax know, this does not tell the whole story.  Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) are supposed to be a temporary measure to help people while they look for a new home; they are not a long term solution for people who – like Mr Lugg – live in specially adapted properties and are unlikely to find another suitable home to move to.  And with the policy currently only funded until 2016, there is no guarantee that people like Mr Lugg will continue to receive funding in the future.

Even now DHP does not cover the full impact of those hit by the Bedroom Tax – the Citizens Advice Bureau estimates that in 2013-14 the amount of DHP available was equal to just 7 per cent of the total cuts to Housing Benefit.  The cross-party Work and Pensions Committee recently said the Government should review DHP and “increase the funding for it, if necessary, to a level which is effective in preventing hardship to vulnerable people.”

Labour has pledged that it will abolish the Bedroom Tax if elected in 2015, putting an end to the hardship this policy has created under the Coalition.

Emma was not satisfied with the Prime Minister’s answer, and will be writing to him asking him to justify the effect the Bedroom Tax is having on vulnerable people.

Emma said:

“The Prime Minister’s answer misses the point and shows just how out of touch he is.  The Bedroom Tax hits hundreds of thousands of people who simply could not move home even if they wanted to – two-thirds of households affected include a disabled person.

“What David Cameron didn’t say was that Discretionary Housing Payments are supposed to be a short-term solution while people find a new property to move to.  But what about people with long-term needs like Mr Lugg, who live in specially adapted properties and can’t move home?  These people need their extra bedrooms, and making them go through the stress of applying for Discretionary Housing Payment – with no guarantee they will get it – is cruel and unfair.

“The Bedroom Tax doesn’t address the under-occupancy issue it was supposed to solve, and at the same time it pushes some of our most vulnerable residents into poverty.  It is a disastrous policy from an uncaring Tory-led Government, and I am proud that Labour has pledged to scrap this unfair tax if elected in 2015.

“In the meantime I am not accepting the Prime Minister’s poor response, and I will continue to fight for justice for Mr Lugg.’’

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