Bedroom Tax: outrage over latest attack on the poor
Dan Edwards discusses the Government’s latest policy disaster.
From next month the Tories will be deciding just how much space you really need in your house. New cuts to housing benefit will see people in social housing punished for having a bedroom which the government thinks is excessive. Never mind the fact that welfare minister Lord Freud lives in an eight-bedroom mansion, you’re the one being needlessly decadent here.
With one ‘extra’ bedroom, tenants will have 14% docked from the amount of rent used to calculate their housing benefit, and 25% for two (say your rent was £60 per week, you’d now receive as much benefits as if you were paying £50). On average those affected will lose £14 per week; some 95,000 people could be plunged into poverty.
A room can be classed as ‘extra’ even if one is recently bereaved, in need of space for equipment to help cope with a disability, or has shared custody of children. Children under 10 will be made to share rooms, as will 10-16 year olds of the same gender. Couples who don’t share the same bedroom (often due to a disability) will also see their benefit reduced.
Over 660,000 households are set to be hit by the cut. While some people will go hungry or cold to save the money now needed for rent, huge numbers of people will have to leave their homes for somewhere smaller. But dividing families, friends and communities is not where it ends; consecutive Labour and Conservative governments have been refusing to build new council housing, forcing huge numbers of people into the private sector.
Aside from its scandalous social implications, it’s increasingly looking like the government won’t even be saving any money from this measure – they’ll need to pay out more housing benefit to the people forced to live in private housing. The only winners here are the slum landlords who unfairly profit from providing low-quality housing with the assurance that the state will foot the bill. Once again we have an example of an austerity policy designed to boost the strength of the private sector, rather than reduce overall spending.
April could be a very harsh month for millions of us. As well as the Bedroom Tax, the overall amount of benefits you can claim is being capped (£500 a week for families, £350 a week for individuals), and Council Tax benefits are also set to be cut. Rent arrears are reckoned to be about to increase by 50%, with homelessness expected to rise as a result of this.
April’s cuts will hit millions, driving tens of thousands into poverty and onto the streets. We simply can’t afford to let this policy be put into practice. Local councils and councillors should be pressured to not put this policy into place and targeted with protests and occupations. Activists and residents should work to establish local groups which publicise what the changes are, encourage people not to move out of their house, and prepare to resist eviction attempts. In Liverpool, communities are already getting organised. Let’s work together and make these changes impossible to implement.