By Rachel Auld
With millionaires getting a tax cut worth £100,000 a year on average, when April 1st came round, many of working people who are receiving housing benefits will now have to pay the so-called “bedroom tax.” But what is classed as a bedroom? The bedroom tax will not take account of whether a room is a single or a double bedroom. People may be forced to squeeze into a tiny single room, just to keep housing benefits. David Cameron justifies this on the basis that we don’t have enough housing available, even though millionaires getting a tax-cut tend to have 3 or 4 5 bedroom houses, which of course, the rules don’t apply to, as they are privately owned.
It is estimated that a 660,000 working age tenants will be affected by this, 31% of existing working age housing benefits claimants are in the social sector of which the majority of these only have one extra bedroom. So more cramped houses and worse conditions for those in the public sector!
The “bedroom tax” as set out by the government gives a fixed benefit loss per extra room – 14% for one extra room and 25% for two or more. Most people affected will only be “taxed” the 14%. As a country we are spending £23 billion on housing benefits. It will help to lower social spending as it is necessary to try to house everyone, but for disabled people especially, the hardest thing will be finding a new place to live. To expect everyone to up and move for the greater good, while we are “all in this together” is unfair, to say the least, when the rich are getting tax breaks.
An article in The New Statesman headed “The coalition’s support fund won’t protect the disabled from the bedroom tax” showed The £30m fund promised by David Cameron will cover just £2.71 of the £14-a-week loss in housing benefit facing disabled claimants. A disabled person who suffers from disrupted sleep may be unable to share a room with their partner, likewise a disabled child with their brothers and sisters. The same applies to those recovering from an illness or an operation. While those disabled tenants who receive overnight care from a non-residential carer will not be charged for an extra room, those who live with their carer (such as a family member) will have their housing benefit reduced. The government has clearly not given such issues much thought.
The coalition government has made a series of cuts to Housing Benefit, (saving £490 million in 2013-14, claimants affected 660,000, average lose £14 per week). Starting with setting a cap on and reducing the rates of benefit paid to those renting in the private sector and claiming Local Housing Allowance (LHA).
So who is going to be affected by the bedroom tax? Couples who use their spare room when recovering from an illness or operation, families with disabled children and parents who children visit but aren’t part of the household. This means that some 80,000 low income families in London will be affected, but the brunt is thought to be in Northern England.
Those who aren’t affected are, those who live in non social housing and pensioners are just some. Pensioners hold a large percentage of the 3 bedroom properties within the country. The government have not exactly been kind to young people since coming into power and the trend seems to be continuing. Of course the elderly should be cared for, but can we expect to achieve prosperity and security as a nation with a youth that are being ignored?
It may work – it may save a lot of money and create space for more families to have housing. But the government have shown yet again that they have not really stuck to their promise of keeping everyone “in it together” as we battle the deficit. Young, ill and disabled people are going to suffer whilst millionaire are paying less tax, for that which they don’t hide offshore. How much longer can we stand for this?