Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Stop The Bedroom Tax

    I don’t usually comment on political issues. I do vote, but often feel that being just one in the several million who live in this country, my voice is very small.
    However, I have become aware of something that make me want to scream on behalf of all the people it is going to effect.
    Under pressure from the well-heeled the government of the day is not going to introduce a much needed Mansion Tax. It seems the rich can keep their money.
    On the other hand they, as art of the Welfare Reform Act which comes into effect on the 1st April 2013 , will be taking housing benefit AWAY from those who can barely afford to live.  What is this plan? Well, if you live in a house larger than you need, you will not get housing benefit for the extra rooms and you will have to pay for the privilege of staying there.
    To whom will this apply? Almost everyone who lives in rented accommodation and has more bedrooms than they need, or the government deems they need.
    Now I might hear some people say, too right. Make these unmarried mothers who live off benefits suffer. But it is not only unmarried others, in fact such people will probably not be touched at all.
    The people this will effect are those in middle age who have raised a family in a house and now live alone, put down roots, have no desire to move, have, until now, paid their way but who, for one reason or another, no longer have a job – all those job cuts councils and other services are having to make because of cut backs – sick and disabled people who are unable to work and are probably fighting to keep their disability benefits, too. Mothers and fathers, widows and widowers, aunties and uncles. People who have lost their own homes because of job losses and repossessions.
    If this were a move to make larger housing available for waiting families it might make sense. It is, however, nothing more than a gimmick to claw back money from people who have none.
   The penalty for not paying – eviction. Advice given on how to pay when you don’t have the money – don’t pay a different bill. Honest, that is what some people are being told to do.
    This doesn’t just impact on single people, although they are obvious targets; how dare the son stay in the house his parents raised him in after they have passed away and he gave up his job to care for them? Couples without children should only have one bedroom, no matter if one needs a separate room because illness or disability makes it impossible to share a room. After experiencing the problems a relative had when dealing with a partner with dementia in a one bedroom flat, I strongly believe no one should live with only one bedroom. Children should share bedrooms until a certain age.
    This wouldn’t be so bad if there were alternative places for all the people to move to, if they wanted to move, which most don’t. Unfortunately there are not. So these people on benefit will have to pay regardless.
    And while people who rent from private landlords can possibly get around this by sharing the house they live in with other people, council tenants are not permitted to sub-let parts of their homes.
    I don’t agree with people falsely claiming benefits. But when help is needed people should be able to get it.
   I am appalled that this Bill seems to have gone through Parliament with very little objection from the opposition or, indeed, back-benchers or coalition members. I know the government needs to reform welfare, but this is not the way to go about it.
    Not so long ago there was an email going around saying how much better the country was one hundred years ago. There were far fewer taxes (some because the things that are now taxed hadn’t been invented!). The email didn’t mention the fact that there was no health service, that alms houses still existed, that poor people barely made it to their sixties let alone live long enough to draw a pension.
    Are we going back  to those days? Already food is being handed out to people who can’t afford to buy it. Are we going to end up forcing good, honest, people out onto the streets and into homeless shelters?
   I sincerely hope not.
   Pass this blog on to everyone you know if you care about ordinary people.