CUTS HIT FAR TOO NEAR TOO HOME.
In the eighties Norman Tebbit called for those without work to get on their bikes and look for work elsewhere. Today though the cuts are literally are much closer to home especially with the introduction of the bedroom tax due to be introduced in April 2013. Although charities and social housing providers have warned the government of the impact this is likely to have on the most vulnerable, the condems have made very few changes or exclusions. This will affect everyone of working age in or out of work who is in receipt of housing benefit.
The cold and strange mathematics of the Condems have designed a formula to decide what designates under occupancy of a person or family home. Things like remaining close to family members or childrens’ schools mean nothing to them. On a sliding scale from £11 for one “extra” bedroom social tenants will find their housing benefit reduced with them having to find the extra money themselves. For some this will mean choosing having enough to eat, heat their home or fall into housing arrears.
As with all of the policies of the condems it is the most vulnerable who will be affected. People with disabilities who require a carer to stay a few nights a week, those who require support from families and have no choice but to live in a larger home. However there are some surprises too. Foster parents will not be able to keep a spare room for children who need a placement, and it has been reported in the media that if soldiers are deployed abroad, their family may have to pay the bedroom tax when they are away. Divorced parents who share access will have to pay when their child is not living with them. The only common denominator is that it will affect those in social housing.
The advice from Lord Freud to those facing the consequences of this nasty tax is to move to a smaller home in the social or private sector. Social Housing providers have raised concerns about the lack of smaller properties available for rent and cannot guarantee an existing tenant a move to an area they wish to live in. A move to the private sector means an end to the assured tenancy all tenants in social housing are protected by and the difficulties of short term lets and finding a large deposit. Many private landlords are also reluctant to take on a tenant who is unemployed or on benefits. The irony is too a smaller home rented from a private landlord may be more expensive than a larger home rented from a social landlord costing the condemns more in housing benefit.
Many local authorities are already planning ahead and have set up Benefit Reform teams. Their remit is to speak to tenants and support them when this cuts go into action. The Chartered Institute of Housing have prepared a document, “Guidance For Social Landlords, Preparing for the Bedroom Tax and Beyond” which outlines the likely impact and asks difficult questions about rent arrears and possible eviction for those who cannot afford the additional costs. They are also concerned that along with the bedroom tax comes tenants receiving their housing benefit in a single or fortnightly payment rather than it being paid directly to the landlord. This might cause difficulties for those with learning difficulties and those not used to managing their budget in such a way.
This is no longer just theoretical. It is going to have an impact on people you know who are your neighbours and friends. It might even be you or me. Our lives can be fragile and family circumstances can change rapidly. Home should be a place of safety and security. Not a place where you worry about being able to afford and heat.The bedroom tax along with all the rest of the cuts agenda is nothing more than an attack on the poor. The condems even want to take even that away from us. I hope that as individuals and by coming together we can support those affected and make a difference in people’s lives.