1st April 2013. The day the government has introduced several new policies which are supposed to improve life and encourage people to get off benefits. Ha!Now I’m all for stopping fraudulent claims and putting a stop to people who do not deserve benefits claiming them. But this has always happened. The temptation is too great for some people. The majority of claimants, however, do have genuine need and should not be subjected to the stress of having their benefits taken away. Many people fall on hard times through no fault of their own. In the current economic climate many people who thought they were set for life have found themselves struggling to maintain mortgage payments and have lost their homes.
So let’s have a look at some of these new reforms. First we have the Bedroom Tax. Not officially called that, of course, but that is what it is. For anyone living on benefits in ‘social housing’ (the latest name for council/housing association accommodation) who has a spare bedroom is having their benefit cut for each spare room PLUS they have to pay for the privilege of staying in their home if they don’t want to move. So if these people want to stay they are being penalised TWICE.
What is the theory behind this. Well, say the government, there are not enough larger places for the people who need them. Making people move to smaller accommodation will free up these properties.
Flaw in this argument – IF those tenants wish to move to smaller accommodation there is not very much available. The assumption that they will easily find something suitable is way out of line, especially if you are talking about one bedroom flats.
The second flaw, many of those affected will simply go without, scrimp and save, to pay the extra money to stay in the place that has been their home for possibly a lifetime. They will go without heat and food to pay the bill rather than give up their HOME. For we are not simply talking about bricks and mortar, we are talking about the place where people have raised their children. They fact that this is rented accommodation does not lessen their rights or attachments to it.
Who does this affect?
The couple who have raised their children who have now left home, who maybe want to sleep in separate rooms for whatever reason, but whom the authorities say should share a room. Once they might have been self-sufficient but due to ill health or loss of job they now have to live on benefits – through no fault of their own.
People who have split from their partners and have a spare room so that children can come to stay overnight.
The rules and criteria seem to be interpreted differently by different councils, so that in some places people who should be exempt are being told they will lose benefit and be charged for extra rooms, so people who have a spare room for a carer to help with a disabled member of the family, or where one of a couple is disabled and needs their own room are being told they will lose benefit or have to move.
Having witnessed the problems of a couple living in a one bedroom bungalow when one of the couple has developed medical problems that have left the other partner sleeping in the kitchen while a carer occupies the sitting room all night, I strongly feel that NO ONE should be made to live in a one bedroom place.
While I feel sorry for families living in one or two rooms when they need more, how will forcing other people out of their homes solve this problem? It will not. It is not a simple matter of swapping one place for another. All it will do is create more homelessness, especially for those borderline people who aren’t disabled, or have any other thing they can use to stay in their home and cannot afford the extra money it will cost to stay there.
And on top of this Bedroom Tax, people on benefits will have to start paying Council Tax, so their income is reduced even further.
If that is not enough to worry about, major changes to the NHS take place on the 1st April.
A new emergency service is to replace NHS Direct. 111 is supposed to be dealing with non-emergency calls giving help and advice. It is not entirely certain that this system is ready to become operational but despite calls for a delay it is due to go live. Try not to fall ill today!
And 1st April is the day doctors take charge of the administration of the NHS deciding what services should be prioritised. If that’s not a complete postcode lottery I don’t know what is. Suppose you live in an area where there is a large aging population (my village springs to mind here). Obviously there is a need for a large geriatric care pot, but what about the things that a middle-aged person might need? Will the funding be available? The idea that everyone will get the same treatment regardless of where they live has always been a dream rather than a reality, but under this new scheme it looks like it will be even less so.
And this is just the beginning.