Wednesday 13 February 2013

The Real Cost of the Bedroom Tax

When it comes to listing the despicable things our LibDem-supported Tory government are doing, their bedroom tax has to be near the top of the list. The story below is reproduced with permission to show how punitive, damaging and entirely counter-productive the Tory attack on housing benefit is. John's story has been anonymised.

I’m a 50 year old devoted father of a nine year old son, who is disabled and is wheelchair bound. He suffers with Intraventricular Haemorrhage, Hydrocephalus, Cerebral Palsy (Spastic Quadriplegia), Epilepsy, and learning difficulties. His mother and I split up eight years ago and I moved into a two-bed flat on the third floor. As my son got older the council helped me move into a ground floor maisonette in 2011.

Now I’m unemployed and struggling to make day-to day-living as I don’t get any help for looking after my son. My son stays three nights a week and frequently longer. His mum, who is considered the primary care giver, goes away for about three weeks a year as respite. Sometimes, when he is on midterm or holidays from school I can have him for around 80+ hours per week. For this care I expect and receive nothing from the state.

Thanks to the new rules that will govern housing benefit, his bedroom will be classed as a spare. But this room is his. It has his bed, his clothes, his toys, and his school paintings.

The council originally moved us from the third floor to the ground floor maisonette on the advice of my son's specialists, and for health and safety reasons. And now the government want us to share a room. Never mind the noise my Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Machine causes. Is that fair on a disabled child? How can I sleep in the same bedroom as my son?

I know I am not the only one, as there will be many fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters affected by this but why is the government taking from the poor , the vulnerable, the disabled and making our lives HELL?

Then there's the problem of actually downsizing. How can I when so few one bed properties are being chased by hundreds of people struggling to escape the bedroom tax?

It's a joke. My rent for my council-owned flat is £64.34/week. If I downsize like the government wants, the average one-bed property here costs £75/week. This will cost the taxpayer £10.66 MORE in Housing Benefit every single week, and I don't lose any Housing benefit!

Where’s the saving?

This statement has been taken from the 'Families, Children and Young people strategy' on the Conservative Party's site:

"We are committed to encouraging shared parenting and firmly believe that children should have meaningful relationships with both parents after separation."

They have a funny way of showing their support.


Anonymous said...

It's clearly not intended to do this. It's not dispicable to tackle a very genuine problem of under-occupation, particularly in social housing where the housing crisis is at its worst. It is dispicable to keep people in overcrowded conditions while money is given for empty beds. There needs to be a balance.

They have changed the plans once to accommodate those who have had major adaptations through DFGs. They need to think about doing the same for disabled children.

Phil said...

Under occupancy is a problem, but the way the government have gone about it is in the most brutal and ham fisted manner possible. As is typical of all of their major policies, their starting point has been the mythology they tell themselves about people who rely on social security payments. There is scant recognition of actual facts on the ground.

For instance, the housing benefit changes have been touted as a money saving measure. But the reality of the situation is demand for one or two bed social housing properties outstrips supply, so the taxpayer will fork out more when people move into the private rented sector.

If one wanted to be really cynical, you could argue that this has something to do with re-inflating that sector by giving it a tax payer bung ...

Beckham not Lampard said...

This may be a case which deserves exceptional consideration but in general I am not very sympathetic to the view that if a couple choose to split up the taxpayer should help to fund two sets of accommodation for their children.

Possibly all concerned might be better off if John hadn't split up with his partner when their disabled son was one year old.

Alex Dawson said...

@Beckham not Lampard

You are saying poor people who have had a child should basically be forced to stay together, even if desperately unhappy, even if one partner is abusing the other, even if they are bringing back strings of lovers under the noses of their spouse. All because they were unlucky enough to have a disabled child and lose their job.

I'm sure you'll come back with some reheated Daily Mail crap about how they shouldn't have had a child in the first place if they couldn't carry through the responsibility etc...and how they need to learn to work hard and deal with the hand they have been given etc etc... Never mind the effect all this has on an innocent disabled child.

The reality is that we are fast becoming a society where the only thing which guarantees your freedom to live a life free of pain, abuse and misery is how much money you happen to have in your wallet. A bit like it used to be in the "good old days" of kids climbing chimneys, workhouses etc etc...

Anonymous said...

The two arguments above which attempt to support the policy obviously didn't read the post very closely. This will not solve the issue of overcrowding. There is a huge regional disparity whereby much of the overcrowding is in the south east and much of the under-occupying is in the north, Wales and Scotland. The majority of people on housing waiting lists are also waiting for the smaller properties so this just puts added pressure on an extremely limited resource. You don't solve any housing issue by making poor people poorer and persecuting them. This is a vicious, vindictive policy which relies on people not moving so the government can claw back benefit. Punishing people for the lack of smaller properties is irrational. As for the argument about the taxpayer funding empty bedrooms; most of these tenants would dispute that they are spare rooms. They are for children, grandchildren, disability equipment etc. Most of these tenants have paid rent their whole lives and are a couple of years off pension age. This is set to be this government's worst crisis to date and they need to rethink this urgently.

Phil said...

You can see what will happen to a lot of the private stock round here too. Residents will be turfed out and houses partitioned into smaller dorm-like arrangements, or more shared student digs-style accommodation. Isn't that overcrowding by another name?

jimboo said...

Shelter Scotland
Friday fact: Only 26% of social rented properties are one bedroom, whilst 60% of tenants need a one bedroom property to conform to the Bedroom Tax rules.

So people cannot downsize even if they want to - this is a clear cut in benefits.