Chances are you’ve heard of the ‘bedroom tax’, or the ‘under-occupancy’ sanction to give it its government name. But you might not have heard of the various ways in which this policy, which comes into force in April, will impact upon people – ways which make it a glaring example of this government’s programme of ‘planned misery’ aimed at punishing people for the ‘crime’ of needing support.
The government’s logic on which the bedroom tax is based are as follows:
- There is a shortage of social, council and low-cost housing
- People are ‘blocking’ housing by staying in properties which are bigger than they need
- People need to be ‘encouraged’ to go through the pain and inconvenience of a move to a smaller property
- This will ‘liberate’ the larger houses
Of course, it might seem a much better solution – especially when the economy is in desperate need of a boost – to solve the problem by building houses rather than twisting the arms of ordinary people through an ill-advised, even insane programme of financial penalties.
But that would require sensible things like redistribution through well-enforced taxation – not to mention planning, competency and a genuine concern for the economic wellbeing of the majority – so it’s not really an option the government wants to look at.
So, true to form, the government is forcing through its plan, with either no thought of the consequences for ordinary people, or else with scant regard for them.
And it is doing so in full knowledge of two facts that, to any non-sociopathic person, would scream ‘don’t do it!‘:
- The government knows and admits that there are not nearly enough smaller houses for people to move into even if they wanted to – so the ‘incentive to move‘ is actually just a ‘punishment for daring to exist‘.
- The policy – according to the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) own assessment! – will disproportionately penalise disabled people, who are already struggling under the weight of unfair Atos assessments and the change from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) that will push hundreds of thousands into poverty. According to the DWP’s own figures, more than two-thirds of households affected will include tenants with long-term disabilities.
But the government is not deterred by such ‘minor inconveniences’.
How it will ‘work’
The policy will apply to every housing benefit claimant. Those who are assessed as having one bedroom ‘too many’ will lose 14% of their benefit. Those considered to have 2 or more will lose 25%. This is expected to mean an average loss of £14 a week for affected housing benefit claimants, but more – £16 a week – for social housing tenants.
Among the assessment criteria that you might not be aware of are these:
- children under 16 of the same gender are expected to share a bedroom
- children under 10 are expected to share regardless of gender
- no allowance is made for couples using separate rooms because of medical issues, for example the space required for breathing equipment
What will the consequences be?
Because of the way families and properties will be assessed, there will be a wide range of clearly-unfair impacts:
- Because of the room-sharing requirement for children, families with a number of young children are likely to be regarded as having ‘excess’ rooms, even though commonsense says that they ‘fill’ the property
- Children will be deprived of the stability of a familiar home, and of the ‘luxury’ of privacy – low-income families will have to stay in cramped accommodation until their children grow enough, and then wait for a property to become available
- Families with suitable accommodation will face financial pressure to move as soon as the first child leaves home, with massive impact on friendships, social integration and education for younger siblings
- Because of the likely unavailability of suitable smaller/larger housing locally, people will be forced to move out of their home areas, estranging them from the support of family, friends and communities
- As the tweet pictured below from MP Tom Blenkinsop shows, foster-children will not count as part of the household for assessment purposes. Foster-parents will suffer financially if they keep rooms available for foster-children; vulnerable children will suffer because of the lower availability of foster-parents with available rooms and of the downward pressure the penalties will exert on foster-parent numbers
- Parents with children away on service with the armed forces will be penalised for keeping a room available for their child(ren), or forced to move to smaller properties with no rooms for their returning heroes
- People with disabled or chronically-ill spouses needing special equipment, or whose condition makes it difficult to sleep in the same room with them, will be penalised if they keep their own room.I know personally of one couple where the husband, whose wife suffers from COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder), currently sleeps in their spare room because of her breathing equipment and in order to get enough sleep to care for her. When he queried how they were going to manage with reduced benefit, he was told:
You’ll have to move somewhere smaller and sleep on the sofa.
- Grandparents below retirement age (pensioners are currently exempt from this policy) will be unable to keep a spare room for their grandchildren to visit, or will have to suffer the financial penalty.
- Divorced parents will be unable to keep rooms for their children to use when they visit. Even parents with shared custody will be affected, as the new rules state that one of the parents must be designated as the ‘main carer’, and the other parent will be subject to the penalty.for any ‘excess’ rooms.
Imagine being a young child whose parents are divorced. On top of the emotional trauma, you will now be faced with not even having a bedroom to sleep in when you visit your estranged father/mother.
- If your husband/wife/partner/child dies, you will have only one year’s ‘grace period’ before being penalised if you don’t move. The pain of bereavement will be compounded by the loss of the home that houses all your shared memories. Worse still, when Universal Credit is rolled out this will be shortened to only 3 months.
Could there be a clearer example of the flint-hearted, inhumane people currently masquerading as our government?
- Lose your job and face an instant penalty – under current benefit rules, tenants who could previously afford their rent without claiming housing benefit, and whose circumstances change through job loss etc, will have a 13-week ‘protection period; to get a new job, recover from ill health and so on. But under Universal Credit, the penalties will start from the moment you have to claim the benefit.
These are just the impacts that I’ve been able to uncover myself so far. As people comment on this post, and as I continue my own reading on the subject, I’m sure that more will come to light.
But even what can be seen so far is enough to demonstrate beyond any reasonable doubt that the heartlessness, callousness, venality and viciousness of this government make even Mrs Thatcher look like Mother Teresa.
God help us – and may He bring the power of these terrorists to a rapid end.
(If you want to read more on the subject, check the articles linked above or read this excellent article by Steve Clarke-Keating)