A UNITED Nations official has refused to back down over criticism of the so-called “bedroom tax” after calls from Tory chairman Grant Shapps for her to apologise.
Raquel Rolnik, the UN special rapporteur on housing, stood by her attack on the policy which she said was causing “great stress and anxiety” to “very vulnerable” people.
She insisted that her visit to inspect housing in the UK had been on the invitation of the Government and said she had met housing minister Don Foster and Communities Secretary Eric Pickles during her stay.
“The right to housing is not about a roof anywhere, at any cost, without any social ties,” she said in a news conference in central London to publicise her inspection’s preliminary findings.
“It is not about reshuffling people according to a snapshot of the number of bedrooms at a given night.
“It is about enabling environments for people to maintain their family and community bonds, their local schools, work places and health services allowing them to exercise other rights, like education, work, food and health.”
She added that she had been “deeply touched” by the testimonies she had heard from people affected by the policy including single parents and grandparents who look after grandchildren in their homes.
She said “many people” were increasingly having to choose between food and having to pay the “penalty.”
Ms Rolnik’s remarks come after Mr Shapps said he had written to UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon demanding an apology and explanation for her “disgraceful” comments.
He insisted the UN investigator had not been invited to Britain by ministers, and was biased.
“She has clearly come over with an agenda,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
“It is completely wrong and an abuse of the process for somebody to come over, to fail to meet with Government ministers, to fail to meet with the department responsible, to produce a press release two weeks after coming, even though the report is not due out until next spring, and even to fail to refer to the policy properly throughout the report.
“That is why I am writing to the secretary general today to ask for an apology and an investigation as to how this came about.”