On Saturday, thousands of people up and down the country demonstrated against the bedroom tax as it reached the one year mark since it’s introduction. The spare room subsidy has inflicted unwarranted stress on those who face it, and the one year anniversary should also mark the beginning of it’s end.
Here is why we need to end the bedroom tax:
1 – 96% of people have nowhere to move to.
A study by the Independent in August last year, revealed the ‘big lie’ behind the bedroom tax. Government had claimed that the bedroom tax was designed to ‘free up’ larger households for those that needed it, whilst others would move to more ‘appropriate’ and smaller accommodation. However, the Independent revealed that 96% of those facing the penalty have nowhere to move to, with a huge lack of one and two bedroom housing, thus having no other choice than to take the penalty.
2 – Bedroom tax hits the poorest and most vulnerable hardest
Two thirds of those affected by the bedroom tax are disabled. The bedroom tax causes unnecessary extra pressure for those who are already battling other cuts to benefits and welfare reforms.
The government publicly promised that disabled people would get greater protection from the effects of the bedroom tax, but research conducted by the disability charity Papworth Trust found that disabled people were no more likely to receive DHP than non-disabled, even when they lived in adapted accommodation. Further nearly one out of three DHP applications from disabled people were being rejected, and nine in 10 disabled people were forced to cut back on food and household bills following refusals of DHP.
3 – Discretionary Housing benefit is not enough and forces those in need to apply periodically
The government claimed that Discretionary Housing Benefits would receive a bolster in revenue to ensure that the most vulnerable or unable to pay would have help. Whilst more money was allocated to an emergency pot, this has not been enough to protect the most vulnerable.
As mentioned above, many in need have been refused help. Further the DHP may alay fears in the immediate sense but the emergency help in the form of DHP is only allocated for a certain time, which can be a one off payment or a weekly addition, but at the end of that term, the claimant has to apply again.
Also, the money allocated to the council for that year only lasts for that year. Once it is gone, it is gone.
4 – Exemptions have not been sufficient, and government knows this
The government claimed that there would be sufficient exemptions from the bedroom tax for those that were unable to move or required the extra room due to a disability.
However, mounting court cases and examples of this protection failing, have flooded the courts and the media. The following case was brought by five families, and took an eighteen month battle to win at their own expense:
“A group of five families with disabled children issued proceedings in the High Court in an attempt to protect their homes and the homes of thousands of other families like them from the effect of the policy. The claimants included a child with Down’s Syndrome, three children with autism, and one with a rare and very severe genetic condition, Joubert’s Syndrome. All of the children had been assessed by experts as requiring their own bedroom, due to their disability or the disability of a sibling.
“….The government’s response was confused. In March David Cameron stated publicly that the tax did not apply to disabled children: this was simply not true….
“After this legal challenge succeeded, the government still delayed in changing the rules, failing to keep the families and their lawyers informed, and only finally making the new Regulations yesterday, the final day allowed by the Court.
The mother of TA, one of the Claimants, said today:
“I am relieved that at last the position for families like mine is clear and that following the court’s decision in July the government have finally changed the rules which would have had such a terrible effect on families like mine. My son needs his own bedroom because of his serious health problems. Without that bedroom, we were told he would have to go into residential care. I m sure that everyone can understand what heartbreak such a situation would cause any mother. We have been very disappointed by the way that the government have behaved throughout our case, but delighted that at last the position is clear. We will continue with our appeal, because at the moment the government has an order for legal costs against us, which seems ridiculous to me, given that we won our case and that the rules have now been changed as a result. However, we are so happy that the real battle is over.”
5 – Debt is piling up, and misery is too
27% of those pushed into debt because of the bedroom tax, are in arrears for the first time. This reform has not been about saving money, or leaving people with no money – it’s leaving people in debt and with no other choice because as mentioned, they have nowhere to move to, there are limited funds to help, and even those thought to be exempt have had to fight. The bedroom tax only serves to provide those already identified as the poorest and most vulnerable, with debt, stress and misery.
6 – Scotland has banned it
The Scottish government have banned the bedroom tax by taking on the cost in Scottish government. These actions and the findings of the Scottish government’s Welfare Reform Committee earlier this year, should serve as a lesson for our government too. Here is what the report found”
- “The bedroom tax is having a real and harmful impact on people’s lives, and often the most vulnerable in society, including those with disabilities and children in separated families.
- “Many people are ‘trapped’ into paying the ‘bedroom tax’ in that there are not enough one bedroom properties available to down-size to.
- “Although the ‘bedroom tax’ will reduce the housing benefit budget, it introduces a number of new costs to tenants, housing associations, local authorities, the Scottish Government and others – the tax may cost more than it saves.
- “Evidence submitted suggests the bedroom tax breaches tenants human rights, particularly in relation to discrimination against disabled people and the lack of a proper impact assessment of the tax.
- “The level of Discretionary Housing Payments originally allocated by the Department of Work and Pensions to deal with the transitional problems does not match the scale of the problem. It welcomes the additional £20 million Discretionary Housing Payments allocated by the Scottish Government for 2013-14 and 2014-15 but calls on the DWP to confirm its allocation of funds for the next two years. It also wants the DWP to increase this allocation for Scotland to match the evident need.
“Overall the Welfare Reform Committee finds the ‘under-occupancy charge’ (yet another name for it), to be iniquitous and inhumane and believes that the only way to deal with the ‘bedroom tax’ effectively is to abolish it. The Committee therefore calls on the United Kingdom Government to abolish the ‘bedroom tax’ immediately. If not, the Scottish Parliament should be given the powers and resources to abolish it.”
The court cases,media coverage, protests, cases like Stephanie Botrill, Raquel Rolnik’s investigation and more are enough to demonstrate that this tax should be axed, and the evidence is embarrassing for government.
Further evidence still suggests the bedroom tax could actually cost more than it saves, as more tenants require emergency housing and help with debts. This is all becoming increasingly embarrassing for government, who will after repeated exposure to the problems, now refuse to give the subject much light or debate. However, Saturday demonstrated that the fight to end the spare room subsidy is continuing and gaining strength, and won’t stop until the bedroom tax is abolished.
by Kam Sandhu – @KamBass