"Any society, any nation, is judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members — the last, the least, the littlest."
Cardinal Roger Mahony
In a little over two months time, at the beginning of April 2013, the Coalition’s next phase of the Welfare Reform Act 2012 will kick in for thousands of social housing tenants like myself. The under occupation tax, or the “Bedroom Tax” as it’s more widely known, will mean that those “under-occupying” a property will have to contribute a percentage of the rent from an already stretched budget - in other words, if you have, or could have by their definitions, a “spare” bedroom in your house then you will be expected to pay towards your Housing Benefit.
This will mean that social housing tenants on Housing Benefits, families on extremely tight budgets already, will have to pay 14% of eligible rent for one extra bedroom and 25% for two extra bedrooms.
Estimates believe that around 600,000 families will be affected by this change when it is implemented.
Lord Freud, the Coalition’s Welfare Minister and the man brought in to slash the Social Security bill, states that they are “putting the social sector on the same basis as benefit recipients in the private sector”. Freud - who sparked fury this week with his comments on the Victoria Derbyshire show on BBC Radio 5 Live - owns an 8 bedroom country mansion as well as a £1.9million London townhouse.
Punishing The Worst Off… Again.
There can be little doubt that the Bedroom Tax, targeted at some of the least well off families in Britain, will have a profound effect on those who are already struggling under the austerity measures of this cruel and unwavering Coalition government.
Take my own situation, for example. As a disabled man with severe mobility problems, I live in a small two bedroom Housing Association bungalow. This is on no way a mansion, far from it. It’s a small bungalow, with a living room, kitchen, adapted bathroom and one modestly sized bedroom and one small bedroom. Myself and my wife do not have an abundance of furniture - indeed when we moved into here we had to get rid of a lot of things as they simply would not fit here.
The “spare” bedroom, as these changes will class it, is used to hold my wheelchair and other mobility and household aids I need for everyday life, as well as a pull out bed for when I have a particularly bad night with the pain I endure so as to try and not disturb my already struggling wife.
I’m sure you would agree that it’s hardly a “spare” bedroom, but moving from it is simply not an option as the space is absolutely needed.
I’ve already been contacted by my Housing Association - who have opposed this change from day one and campaigned heavily against it - to tell me that I will be affected from April, and I will probably be looking at around £10 per week that I will need to pay towards my rent. To many I’m sure this sounds like a tiny amount, but it is a big chunk of an already very stretched budget.
Housing charities believe that as many as 95,000 people will not be able to afford this change.
It is absolutely disgraceful that the least well off are being hammered in this way by the Coalition government. The Liberal Democrats in particular, who states an “end to poverty” as one of their core principles, shoulder a huge amount of blame for standing by and allowing this, and many of the despicable cuts, to happen to those with the least.
Those who didn’t cause the financial downturn or the Banking crisis, and yet are paying for it every single day.
Lord Freud speaking with Victoria Derbyshire on BBC Radio 5 Live - http://audioboo.fm/boos/1155413#t=1m27s
The Mirror - Lord Freud lives in an eight-bedroom country mansion - http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/bedroom-tax-tory-lord-freud-1545677?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter
National Housing Federation - Bedroom Tax - http://www.housing.org.uk/policy/welfare_reform/bedroom_tax.aspx