Reposted from Leicester Mercury
I think the last paragraph in this article says it all…
The hated bedroom tax is making its mark on the people of Leicester. Council and housing association tenants are having to choose between “heating and eating.” A large number are experiencing poverty, anxiety, debt and health problems. Food banks are becoming essential.
As yet, no-one has lost their home because of the tax but as rent arrears increase because tenants cannot pay the £14 to £25 per week from their benefit of £70 to £100, the council and housing associations will have to start evicting.
Locally, there are more than 3,000 households affected by the tax. How many will be evicted? How will the council cope with the extra demand for housing? How much will it cost to house those in temporary accommodation?
So why will all these people be evicted? Is it because of anti-social behaviour or because they won’t pay their rent? Or because they chose to rent houses that were too big for their needs or refuse to move to a smaller place?
No – 72 per cent of affected households include a person with a disability or a major health problem. Many of these have had expensive adaptations to their homes to cater for their disabilities. Most have never been in rent arrears (until the bedroom tax came in). Most are trying to pay the tax but find it impossible on their limited income. All will have been placed in their current accommodation by the council/housing associations in line with the allocations policy, not the tenant’s wishes.
It is not the tenant’s fault if years down the line, their children leave home or a parent dies thus creating a “spare room”. For many, the so-called “spare room” is their child’s room, used on weekends and holidays or even 50 per cent of the time when the child is not living with their other parent in another house. The “spare room” is a box room, used to keep equipment needed for the tenant’s disability, for example, kidney dialysis equipment. The “spare room” is used by the tenant’s partner because they cannot sleep in the same room due to health problems.
Most have not been able to move in the first year of the tax, and this is not for want of trying – there simply isn’t a lot of smaller accommodation available.
The Scottish government has effectively scrapped the bedroom tax, with their Welfare Reform Committee stating that it is “iniquitous and inhumane.” Welsh ministers have called for disabled tenants who have had adaptations to their home to be exempted. The Work and Pensions Committee has called for this exemption as well as exempting households where the high rate of a disability benefit is paid. Also to exempt households where there is no “suitable, reasonable alternative” home.
Every one either wants rid of the tax or exemptions to be made – except Ian Duncan Smith, its architect, who remains deaf to all suggestions and blind to the havoc he is causing.
Juan Ramirez is Welfare Benefits Supervising Caseworker, at the Community Advice and Law Service.