Peter Hain has called upon Iain Duncan Smith to further reconsider the planned Housing Benefit reforms due to take effect next month.
The MP for Neath has reacted strongly to the announcement from the Department of Work and Pensions that parents of armed service personnel no longer stand to be penalised by the Government’s ‘Bedroom Tax’ whilst their children defend our country abroad.
According to the ministerial statement issued by the Secretary of Work and Pensions yesterday, the amendment will apply to those living in both social and private rented housing.
Furthermore, those who have registered to become foster carers or have fostered a child within the past twelve months will now also be made exempt.
Mr Hain comments, ‘That the Government ever even considered penalising those who help make such a positive contribution to our society is an utter disgrace. Although this u-turn is a step in the right direction, the ‘Bedroom Tax’ remains a matter of deep concern for many of my most vulnerable constituents, including those with disabilities or on a low-income.’
Latest figures show that approximately 1256 people in Neath will lose out due to the Bedroom Tax- many of whom will already be facing further hardship, confronted with severe cuts to their benefits and welfare against a backdrop of a flat-lining economy.
Mr Hain continues, ‘I only hope that this turnaround by Iain Duncan Smith indicates that he is at last waking up to the misery and distress that his ill thought-out scheme is causing people throughout our communities.’
Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab):What assessment he has made of the effect of changes to housing benefit rules on married disabled people living in specially adapted two-bedroom properties.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Esther McVey): When developing the social sector size criteria policy, we considered the impacts on disabled people, as set out in our impact assessment. We have added a further £30 million a year to the discretionary housing payments fund from 2013-14 aimed specifically at those in adapted accommodation and foster carers.
Mr Hain: Why will the Government not withdraw the housing benefit changes, which are having a devastating impact on disabled people, including my constituents, Mr and Mrs Harris of Seven Sisters, Neath, about whom I have written to the Secretary of State? They live in an adapted property. Mrs Harris cannot sleep at night, Mr Harris is a full-time carer for her and they need two bedrooms, but the draconian and oppressive changes the Government are implementing mean that there is funding for only one bedroom. There is a shortage of one-bedroom properties in Neath and they cannot afford the extra rent. It is time the Government withdrew these policies. Do they not understand that the changes will have a massive impact on the most vulnerable people in our society? The Secretary of State started off with the seemingly sincere motive of tackling poverty, but he has ended up by punitively and callously hitting the most vulnerable.
Esther McVey: That is not the case. An impact assessment has been done and £30 million of discretionary funds have been put in place for exactly the people the right hon. Gentleman is talking about. We have to do this in the round. There are a million spare rooms in the country and millions of people on waiting lists and in overcrowded homes, and we have to find properties for them, too. The case that he mentions, however, is precisely the sort the discretionary fund will be for.
Local MP has called for the Government to amend the Welfare Reforms on bedroom tax which would hit thousands in Neath. The bedroom tax will see social housing tenants have their housing benefit slashed by £494 every year if they are ‘under-occupying’ their property which Neath MP Peter Hain claims will push people into poverty.
Mr Hain has criticised the Government plans for cutting the incomes of some of the poorest in society without solving the under-occupancy problem. It is estimated that 1,156 people in Neath would be affected.
“The implications of the Bedroom tax will be disastrous for a large number of people who are already struggling to make ends meet” said Mr Hain. “In Neath it is not a case of tenants needlessly under-occupying larger properties but a lack of available smaller properties and tenants should not be penalised because of a gap in the market.”
Mr Hain has written to the Secretary of State for the Department of Work and Pensions urging a rethink.
“The current plans will simply lead to a cut in the incomes of some of the poorest people in the country and not solve under-occupancy at all. It would result in people being pushed into poverty through no fault of their own or out of social housing and into expensive private rented accommodation.”