The ‘Bedroom Tax’ has caused a great deal of controversy and, with 1st April 2013, the date of its implementation, looming you can be sure we’ll be hearing even more about it – in both the lead up to the date of one of the worst April Fools a Government has played on its electorate, and definitely once the heartbreaking case studies are reported thereafter.
Whenever I think about the bedroom tax (incidentally not a tax but a reduction in Housing Benefit of up to 25% for households deemed to have at least one unnecessary bedroom), it makes my blood bubble and spit with the injustice.
As a Scot, here’s 10 Things I Hate About You, Oh Bedroom Tax:
1. You target some of the most vulnerable of our citizens. Someone claiming Housing Benefit and living in social housing is likely to be hit hard by a reduction in benefit. Lower income groups include those who are sick, have disabilities or are lacking in good education – factors contributing to them being amongst the least likely to be able to fight against you. To pack a greater punch, you leave the millions of bedrooms of the wealthy excluded from your abhorrent policy.
2. You complement the Government’s ‘scroungers versus strivers’ theme . Even where tenants are prepared to downsize to avoid you, there is often not suitable housing available. Effective policies to increase affordable housing are needed urgently to allow everyone the opportunity of an adequately sized home, and to negate the implication that tenants are selfishly, greedily occupying larger properties than they need. This responsibility will fall to the Scottish Government.
3. Most Members of Parliament for Scotland did not vote for you and yet you are causing anxiety and soon greater poverty throughout the country. Scotland has for much of the last decade been working hard to meet the target set for the end of 2012 to ensure that those who are ‘unintentionally’ homeless are entitled to somewhere permanent to live. You threaten to greatly increase the number of people who are homeless because many cannot afford to live on reduced Housing Benefit. This in turn is likely to impact negatively on the Councils and homelessness agencies who just achieved their 2012 target.
4. No MP who voted for you will be directly affected by you. In fact we are constantly made aware in the press what MPs are allowed to claim towards their second homes while many UK citizens are penalised for an extra room in their only and modest homes.
5. You claim to be saving money but in fact with potential rise in the amount of Local Housing Allowance (the Housing Benefit equivalent) that will be paid towards those downsizing to the private sector, added to the potential costs of the homelessness you may cause, your savings are perhaps not as attractive as the Government suggests.
6. You justify yourself by only penalising people with an ‘extra’ bedroom. How many of us really see the bedroom of, for example, a foster child, a disabled partner or a child with a same sex sibling under 16 as a luxury those on Housing Benefit should pay dearly for?
7. You will drive people out of family homes that they have spent lifetimes in because they cannot afford to continue living there. Homes, for example, that hold memories of raising a family or of a deceased spouse.
8. You will impact on advice agencies and statutory advice providers, putting them under pressure from those urgently seeking information and advice regarding their housing options. The Scottish Government has already gone some way to compensate for you as a Westminster policy by allocating money from its own budget to assist with this pressure.
9. The money set aside by the UK Government to assist those adversely affected by you is inadequate. Even for those lucky enough to receive help to cancel your financial effects, it is unlikely to spare them the anxiety you will cause them while they await the assessment of their situations.
10. You are such an ill-thought out policy that while you target those with extra bedrooms, the law does not define clearly what a bedroom actually is. Although this is a triumph for your opponents in that it may provide a loophole where ‘extra’ rooms in properties can avoid being classified as a bedroom, again it causes uncertainty for those tenants and landlords affected by you while they wait for room assessments.