Clause 24 — Universal credit: costs of claimants who rent accommodation

Part of Scotland Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:00 pm on 30th June 2015.

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Photo of Tommy Sheppard Tommy Sheppard Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office) 4:00 pm, 30th June 2015

I am happy to have a debate; I just do not want to have it with the right hon. Gentleman by himself. It is a matter for assessment: we will have to sit down and work out exactly how much more will be required. The question here is: who should make the assessment—should it be the representatives of the people in the Scottish Government, or should it be someone else?

I want to talk about the bedroom tax, which has been mentioned several times. I will give one example of a human story, rather than the statistics that people have thrown around the Chamber. I have a 62-year-old constituent, who has lived in the area for 30 years in the same two-bedroom house. She has brought up her family, who have now left home. She now suffers from chronic angina and arthritis, and she can barely leave the house, never mind go into employment. She is probably not going to work again. The question is: what type of social protection do we offer someone in that position?

When I came across my constituent last year, she was running up against the spare bedroom subsidy regulations. She was told that she would either lose £14 a week off her benefit, or she would have to move house. Not having £14 to lose, she inquired about where she should move to. The only options given to her were five miles away, in an estate with a number of social problems that hers did not have, with no support from family or friends and no ability to continue the life she had. She was almost terrorised when I came across her: she was at the point of distraction and was making herself ill. I am glad to say that, because of the actions of the Scottish Government, we have now been able to help that woman and others in her situation, but I fear for people throughout the rest of the United Kingdom who are in that terrible situation.

Another example of parsimony is the sanctions regime, which has been mentioned several times. Let us not kid ourselves that officials in the DWP are using sanctions as a last resort. In many cases, they are being used as a first resort. We all know of cases in which people have been sanctioned for the most petty of breaches.