Bedroom Tax is ruining lives

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Spare Room

Last night I sat and watched Newsnight’s report into the current issues the Citizen’s Advice Bureau with all the extra people looking for support on the issue of the Bedroom Tax (iPlayer link – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b036ts1d) and it was a sad and difficult watch. When people make policy decidions often they are looking at the bottom line or the newspaper headlines rather than the real life situations millions are facing in their lives. The Bedroom Tax is ruining thousands of lives.

When I first heard and blogged about it there were several issues that the politicians said they would look at, but since its introduction it has forced many people into debt, has left families divided and disabled people struggling to make ends meet. While it’s easy way for the government to keep all the smug middle class Mail readers happy that “scroungers” are not being rewarded, it has missed the major problem with this policy – you need an alternative set of accommodation facilities available to move people from the bigger houses to smaller ones.

According to Newsnight there were on 85,000 one bedroom residences available last year and there are over one million people who either need to downsize or pay the bedroom tax. I’m no mathematician but even I know that doesn’t add up. Effectively people are being punished for having brought up a family in a two or three bedroom council house and once the kids have flown the nest they have to pay up for the spare rooms. All the concessions that were promised are supposed to be funded through a £150 million pound pot – again the maths is wrong and there is a serious gap between government perception and the reality of the situation.

There are hugely vulnerable people involved in this smash and grab policy, from disabled and care in the community patients through to those already struggling with debt and unable to afford the increased payments causing their debt to spiral because there is only the alternative of becoming homeless open to them now. The welfare state is a large and unwieldy thing but the purpose it was set up for is now being slowly eradicated by this Tory/Lib Dem Government. With tenants unable to afford the increases many are leaving their family homes and with anything from two to five bedrooms no-one else is willing to take up the houses as they cannot afford the excess charges leaving hundreds of council properties empty.

There will always be examples of those who defraud the system and they should be caught and punished accordingly – but to take this blunderbuss approach where everyone living in council accommodation is automatically punished for the house they live in is draconian in design. Maybe if the procedures were followed correctly in the first place hen many of these “scroungers” would be placed in the right accommodation in the first place and avoid this issue altogether. It seems insane that those who do rely on the state are such a target anyway; why are they being singled out as the group who are doing this country most damage? The on-going tax loopholes and avoidance of major multi-national companies is a much greater issue yet they are a more difficult target so the government are going to target those who cannot fight back and don’t have the big lawyers and accountants to protects them.

Care in Community patients left without options, families having to leave homes they have lived in for over forty years, disabled residents punished for owning two bedroom properties that are specifically made and adapted for them, single fathers and mothers who have access to their children but because of custody orders have to pay extra for their rent as the child does not officially reside with them, military families told that the barracks is the official residence of their child or children so they have to pay the surplus – one question: Are we still all in this together?

JD

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