SIC ‘deeply concerned’ at impact of welfare reforms on cash-strapped households

The SIC says the UK government’s “sweeping” changes to the welfare system will heap financial strain on people already struggling to cope with rapid rises in the cost of living.

“Deeply concerned” council convener Malcolm Bell has written to Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael asking for an urgent meeting to discuss the “serious impact” the reforms are likely to have in Shetland.

Among those to be affected by cuts and changes to welfare payments are social housing tenants, people currently receiving disability living allowance and households in receipt of a raft of benefits due to be brought together under the umbrella of universal credit.

Mr Bell said: “The changes to the welfare system and the impact these will have on the people of Shetland are extremely concerning to us as a council.

“That is why I have written to our MP, Alistair Carmichael, to outline the particular challenges we will be facing because of our remote location and rurality. My colleagues and I are deeply concerned and have asked for a meeting at the earliest opportunity. We are calling for some support to mitigate the impact on those individuals and households affected as the reforms are rolled out.”

In the letter, Mr Bell points out that new under-occupancy rules – commonly referred to as the “bedroom tax”, though Mr Carmichael and his government dislike the term – will be “particularly challenging”.

Based on recent data, it is estimated that around 190 isles households will be affected. The loss will be between £8 and £20 a week.

“As with other areas, Shetland already has an insufficient number of one or two bedroom houses, making the choices for those who are deemed to be in accommodation which is too large even more limiting,” the convener writes.

The letter comes in the wake of February’s executive committee meeting, where councillors lined up to criticise the cuts and reforms to the benefits system.

At the time, Mr Carmichael defended his continued membership of the coalition and said the Liberal Democrats’ presence in government had managed to restrict the level of welfare cuts being pushed through by the Conservatives.

He accepted there “may need to be more flexibility” for rural areas when it came to the bedroom tax, given the limited range of options for people to move.

For full story, see Friday’s Shetland Times.


Add Your Comment
  • Peter Dodge

    • March 13th, 2013 20:36

    91% of the Scottish M.P.s voted against the bedroom tax as being iniquitous and particularly so for rural dwellers in Scotland. So has anybody got any info. as to how our Westminster, Con/Dem, whipping boy Carmichael voted?

  • Jane Leask - Clousta

    • March 14th, 2013 10:03

    I am concerned for the individuals who this will affect as those on benefit already are stuggling with inceasing food bills and fuel costs. As housing benefits will be paid directly to individuals rather than to the local authority then if someone cannot afford the additional cost they may not pay any rent leading to much increased arrears, this in turn impacts on the SICs income and the amount of staff time needed to try and collect those arrears. The pilot schemes where housing benefit has been paid directly show large increased in rent arrears (30% to 50% in one case). It just feels that the welfare reforms as a whole will be a lose/lose situation for those on benefit and the local authority.

  • Mike Grant

    • March 14th, 2013 12:50

    It was reported last month that the Knowsley Housing Trust has opted to reclassify 566 of their properties as smaller homes, to help tenants affected by the bedroom tax. E.g., they’re redesignating some of their two and three-bedroom homes as one and two-bedrooms respectively. Their chief executive said that some homes are currently classified as having more bedrooms than they actually have, because tenants are not using the extra rooms as bedrooms and are therefore paying too much rent. This is apparently totally legal, as the Department for Work and Pensions leaves it to the social landlords to decide what counts as a bedroom.

    In other words, there is NOTHING to stop the SIC doing exactly this to offset the impact of the bedroom tax.

  • Stewart Mack

    • March 14th, 2013 13:48

    I am sorry Mr Carmichael doesnt like the term “Bedroom tax” but since that is exactly what it is i’m afraid he better lump it. It would be interesting to learn how Mr Carmichael voted on this matter although i suspect the answer is all too clear. As Deputy Chief Whip it would have (presumably) been Alaistairs job to round up MP’s to vote in favour of this patently unfair tax- A Poll Tax for a new generation, Please rememeber his previous role as Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland should have had him ably equipped to be aware of the problems this brings throughout Scotland . There really is little by way of excuse here

  • Tom Hughson

    • March 14th, 2013 18:27

    Mr Carmichael did indeed vote in favour of the bedroom tax as can be seen from this website.

  • Jane Leask (Clousta)

    • March 15th, 2013 7:20

    Thanks for this information Mike – I have shared it on facebook so I hope that people pass it around and local authorities and other social housing providers will know there is something they can do to help their tenants. If they have this option and don’t use it then the public will be aware and can ask Why Not?


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