Reform “threat” to veterans

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ANGUS MSP Nigel Don has hit out at the threat armed forces veterans in the area will face as a result of the UK Government’s ‘bedroom tax’.

Mr Don this week said that, with the UK Government carrying out widespread cuts to military personnel, many members of the armed forces are facing the prospect of a sudden return to civilian life and the introduction of the ‘bedroom tax’ and other welfare changes threatens to make it far more difficult to adjust successfully to being civilians.

He claimed that many families who have a spare room that would be used by a family member serving in the armed forces are facing financial penalties if they do not find a way to move to a smaller property or take in a lodger, creating obstacles for veterans returning to their families.

Under the Welfare Reform Act 2012, the amount of benefit that people can get will be cut if they are considered to have a spare bedroom in their council or housing association home. This will apply from April to tenants of working age and is commonly referred to as the bedroom tax, size criteria or under-occupation penalty.

According to the National Housing Federation, all claimants who are deemed to have at least one spare bedroom will be affected including separated parents who share the care of their children and who may have been allocated an extra bedroom to reflect this; couples who use their ‘spare’ bedroom when recovering from an illness or operation; foster carers, as foster children are not counted as part of the household for benefit purposes and families with disabled children.

Mr Don has written to Lord Ashcroft, the Prime Minister’s Special Representative for Veterans’ Transition, seeking answers over what action Westminster will take to support veterans who are about to be hit by Westminster’s welfare changes.

He said: “Westminster’s bedroom tax is already set to hit thousands of people, but it is shocking that veterans are one group that is likely to be particularly affected. There are unique problems for veterans that are being created by the actions the Westminster Government are taking and they need to have the responsibility to recognise this fact.

“The Scottish Government, charities and local authorities are doing what they can to support veterans, but the Westminster Government needs to accept that it must play its part. People leaving the armed forces should rightly expect to be welcomed back into civilian life, not to have the Westminster Government do its best to undermine them often after having cost them their job in the first place. People in Angus North & Mearns will rightly want to know what is being done to help veterans return to this community and I am urgently seeking answers on their behalf.”