Angus MP Mike Weir has called on the UK Government to rethink its plans after comments from the Work and Pensions Secretary betrayed his deep unease with the devastating impact of the policy.
Last Thursday, Iain Duncan Smith said that he had instructed his officials to “look again” at how the benefit cut would affect disabled people, after the Chief Executives of seven charities wrote an open letter to Mr Duncan Smith and George Osborne outlining their concerns. However, within hours his own department had ruled out any changes.
Figures released over the weekend by the Scottish Government estimated that eight out of ten households set to be affected by this benefit cut in Scotland are occupied by a person with a disability.
The SNP group at Westminster scheduled a debate in Parliament on Wednesday in one of their rare “opposition days” to demand that Iain Duncan Smith get a grip on his department and order them to review the policy as he had wanted.
Commenting ahead of the debate – led jointly by the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party - Mr Weir said :“We know that over 80% of Scotland’s MPs at Westminster are totally opposed to this iniquitous measure. This debate is an opportunity to reflect the deep and genuine worry about the Bedroom tax.
“Angus Council have estimated that over 600 tenants in Angus will be hit by the changes, which could also lead to a considerable loss of income to the council.
“I know from those coming to see me in my surgeries throughout Angus that there is a great deal of worry about this issue and how it will affect people. It is utterly ludicrous that a couple, one of whom is disabled, who are living in a specially adapted house may find themselves faced with moving to a smaller property, which may then have to be adapted to meet their needs. This is simply daft and is likely to cost more money in the longer term rather than save money.
“Now we see the confusion and panic at the Department for Work and Pensions. Last week the Secretary of State Iain Duncan Smith ordered his officials to ‘look again’ at how this measure will affect the disabled following an approach by the Chief Executives of seven charities concerned about it. Now we are told there will be ‘no u-turns’ and it is full steam ahead for implementation in full.
“We know that many elderly people are also worried about what this benefit cut really means for them. There are some elderly people who would be happy to move into smaller accommodation, but the properties simply are not available. I have had cases where someone has wanted to move but they would only be offered somewhere far from where they have lived their whole lives. Such a policy undermines communities.
“There is simply not the number of properties available to meet the demand that will follow from this policy.
“There is widespread alarm about the way this Government’s incompetence now extends to communicating how this new measure is actually going to work.
“Iain Duncan Smith is clearly concerned about the impact of this policy – yet he appears to have been silenced by his own department. It’s time for Mr Duncan Smith to get a grip of his own department – and look again at this policy as he wanted. When they do, the devastating impact on some of the most vulnerable people in our society will become quite clear.”