Under-occupancy Penalty (Disabled People)

Women and Equalities – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 27th November 2014.

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Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 9:30 am, 27th November 2014

What assessment she has made of the effects of the under-occupancy penalty on disabled people.

Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper Minister of State (Department for Work and Pensions) (Disabled People)

The removal of the spare room subsidy is just making sure that the same rules apply in the social housing sector as apply in the private sector, as implemented by the previous Labour Government. To deal with difficult cases, the Government have made available a significant amount of discretionary housing payment to give local authorities the flexibility they need to deal with cases where disabled people need more support.

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

According to the Government’s own evaluation, 68% of those hit by the bedroom tax are themselves disabled or have someone in their household with a disability. Is the Minister not ashamed of that figure? When will the Government scrap that cruel and unfair tax?

Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper Minister of State (Department for Work and Pensions) (Disabled People)

I note that the right hon. Gentleman did not deal with the point that I made. We are treating people in the social housing sector in exactly the same way as the previous Government treated them—[Interruption.] I hear someone heckling on the Labour Benches. Disabled people do not get a spare room subsidy in the private sector. Those rules were implemented by the previous Labour Government. This is a matter of fairness. The £345 million we have made available to local authorities over the past two years for discretionary housing payment gives them the flexibility they need to deal with individual circumstances.

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

Will the Minister name and shame the five worst local authorities that have the largest number of disabled people who are affected by the spare room subsidy removal but are not using the discretionary funds that the Government have given them?

Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper Minister of State (Department for Work and Pensions) (Disabled People)

I am afraid that I cannot satisfy my hon. Friend on that this morning, but it is a very good idea. I will write to him with the information and put a copy in the Library of the House.

Photo of John Leech John Leech Liberal Democrat, Manchester, Withington

I was going to ask exactly the same question as Mr Hollobone. Will the Minister name and shame all local authorities that are failing to provide discretionary housing benefit for people who are being penalised as a result of their disability?

Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper Minister of State (Department for Work and Pensions) (Disabled People)

We do have records of the amount of money that the Government make available to local authorities. In the interests of transparency, I will put in the Library details of the money made available by the Government and the extent to which local authorities take up that generous allocation of funding.