Peer calls for disabled exemption to bedroom tax
A Labour peer has called for thousands of disabled people to be exempt from the bedroom tax.
Baroness Patricia Hollis tabled an amendment to the Local Government Finance Bill which would exempt people living in properties which have been moved down a council tax band due to adaptations for disabled people.
Currently homes which have been significantly adapted can qualify for a reduction in council tax band, so disabled people are not penalised by having to pay more tax. However, the bedroom tax, under which households with spare rooms have their benefit slashed, does not exempt disabled people.
Speaking in the House of Lords yesterday Baroness Hollis said: ‘Under the new housing benefit rules, those 2,500 disabled families with a reduced council tax benefit because, according to the Communities and Local Government department, they need that extra space, could still be hit by the bedroom tax contrived by the Department for Work and Pensions, which says that they do not need that extra space, at a cost to them of between £15 and £20 or more.
‘This amendment would simply allow those with a reduced band by virtue of their disability, as recognised by one part of government, to be exempt from the bedroom tax imposed by another part of government.’
However, Baroness Joan Hanham, parliamentary under-secretary of state at the CLG, said the amendment would re-open matters already debated during the passage of the Welfare Reform Act.
She said: ‘I appreciate that the noble Baroness has now reduced this exemption to thousands of people rather than tens of thousands, but the fact of the matter is that it reopens something which I do not think we can reopen here.
‘Blanket exemptions can also be an inefficient and complex way of targeting resources, so the government favour discretionary housing payments to help meet any shortfalls between a person’s rent and a housing benefit award.’
Baroness Hollis withdrew the amendment but vowed to raise the issue again during the bill’s third reading.
The Children’s Society, Citizens Advice and Disability Rights UK also released a report today saying 100,000 households with children could have incomes reduced by up to £28 a week under the coalition’s universal credit.