Tax MPS told of suicide bid by woman

MPs have been told how the 'bedroom tax' is pushing people in Glasgow into the clutches of money lenders and to attempt suicide.

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The effect of the bedroom tax was discussed when the Scottish Affairs Committee met in Castlemilk
The effect of the bedroom tax was discussed when the Scottish Affairs Committee met in Castlemilk

The Scottish Affairs Committee held a meeting in Castlemilk to hear from those working with the fall- out from the UK Govern-ment's welfare reforms.

The MPs were painted a stark picture of people already struggling with benefits and rising prices being pushed into greater hardship, reliant on charity and with no realistic means of escape.

The group of four West-minster politicians were told people were trapped by the benefit cut as there were not enough smaller properties available for down-sizing and people were being pushed into destitution.

A housing association, credit union and housing lawyers told the committee their experiences with people in Castlemilk since the 'bedroom tax' was implemented in April this year.

Billy McFadyen, of Castlemilk Credit Union, said he has seen more people plunged deeper into debt. He said: "We are having people coming looking to borrow money to pay off their rent arrears."

He told the committee that if people were not able to borrow from the credit union they were going to payday lenders or money lenders.

Ian Davidson, Glasgow South West MP and, committee chairman said: "So people are running up arrears then going to lenders to borrow to pay the debt?"

Mr McFadyen agreed with him.

Jean Devlin, from Castlemilk Anti Bedroom Tax Campaign, said she had heard at group meetings how the financial worries were affecting people's mental health.

She said: "One woman stood up in public and said she felt suicidal. I met her later and she said she had tried to take her life. I haven't seen her since."

Maureen Smith, a solicitor with Castlemilk Law Centre, said she had similar experiences.

She said: "I have seen more people who are contemplating suicide. More people are destitute."

Ms Devlin added the feeling in the area was the policy should be scrapped.

She added: "We conduc-ted a petition and had 3000 signatures. That shows the impact in Castlemilk. It would be easy for us to get 3000 more."

While community work-ers and activists told the committee of the financial and mental impact of the 'bedroom tax' a local hous-ing association said people were trapped.

Clair Malpas, Cassiltoun Housing Association regeneration manager, said there are not enough properties to allow people to move to the size of home that would allow them to escape the benefit cut.

She said: "There is a lack of one-bedroom homes in the area and most social landlords don't have many one-bed properties."

She said housing assoc-iations were encouraged previously by the Scottish Government to build larger properties through the housing grant system.

Ms Malpas said she also deals with welfare rights issues with tenants and said she is referring people to charity for hand-outs.

She said: "For the first time in my career I have had to send people to food banks. People are coming to me because they can't pay their bills. They are going to friends and family for help but are also struggling."

James Dornan, Cathcart MSP said: "What this has shown is that some of the poorest and most vul-nerable people in Castle-milk are the victims of a pernicious tax that has no mandate in Scotland."

stewart.paterson@ eveningtimes.co.uk

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