How best should Scotland deal with the bedroom tax?
I've been around social policy debates for a while but I really cannot think of anything that defies evidence quite so much as the bedroom tax (or the "spare room subsidy", as UK ministers have now decided to call it).
It is a policy which asks people on the lowest incomes to pay more money - which they don't have - towards rents, or move to smaller homes which, largely, are not there. Some choice!
Because of this Shelter Scotland has launched a Banish the Bedroom Tax Monster campaign to highlight the plight of the 82,500 households in Scotland who face that choice.
The monster must be pretty scary (or possess impeccable logic) as Finance Secretary John Swinney made respite from the bedroom tax one of his headline announcements in his draft budget that came out in imid-September.
Mr Swinney allocated £20 million this year to top up fully so-called "discretionary housing payments" (that is, extra help which councils can give to any tenants, private or public who are struggling with their benefits not meeting housing costs).
That £20m is very good news. And the Scottish Government has already moved quickly to allocate that pot of money, a move which means that local authorities across Scotland will be able to help at least one in seven families and households affected by the bedroom tax.
The challenge now is for local authorities to act promptly and get the money to tenants to help them pay their rent. All local authorities must make sure that struggling tenants know that more help is at hand and do all they can to help the maximum number of people this year.
I encourage anyone who is struggling with their rent as a result of the bedroom tax to apply for discretionary housing payments.
For those who applied and were turned down before this money was made available, they should reapply.
But the monster cannot retire yet - £20m won't help all tenants. It simply represents the maximum amount the Scottish Government is allowed to add to what the Department for Work and Pensions gives to councils.
The cost of the bedroom tax in Scotland is up to £50m. That is what may be lost in rents if tenants cannot find extra money or cannot move to a smaller home. That potential lost income is not good news for landlords providing services or seeking to invest in new homes.
And what of those tenants who fall through the net; who accumulate rent arrears for no other reason than their housing benefit has been slashed by up to 25%? I cannot imagine how it could ever be right to evict someone in that position.
So I welcome those social landlords who have adopted no-eviction positions. I understand the reasoning behind a proposed draft Bill in the Scottish Parliament to take bedroom tax arrears out of the eviction equation.
I do appreciate the concerns that some landlords have about mounting rent arrears. But I want to acknowledge the huge effort that almost all landlords have made in the past five years to reduce evictions as a result of rent arrears and I'm confident that they'll manage to navigate this new challenge with the same commitment.
There is a lot more to do still: making sure homeless people living in temporary housing don't get the bedroom tax added to their crisis, for example; or changing the rules for people who move between social homes to reflect the new reality of the bedroom tax.
But the real answer is for the bedroom tax to be scrapped. I know that there are MPs, of all hues, who are deeply troubled by the consequences of this policy. It takes political courage to acknowledge that the wrong path was taken, but better that than ploughing on regardless.
Until that day, Scottish politicians and practitioners alike need to do what they can to take the sting out of the bedroom tax. And let the monster rest.
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