Fight the bedroom tax with anger and action
Guest blog by Frances Ryan
One person can look at something and see it entirely differently than another. Apparently, the ‘bedroom tax’ is one of those.
We all know what it is by now and we all know who it will affect. The majority are disabled. Most are struggling to pay the bills. Some are victims of domestic violence or are parents of abused kids. They’re the people who can least afford a penalty for having an ‘extra’ room in their home and, as an added hit, are the ones most likely to need one.
I’d be interested in the person who can look at that and think it is anything other than wrong.
Some manage to look at the penalty and see it as a way of making things fairer, citing large families currently on the housing waiting list and private tenants who pay higher bills. Because it is the definition of fairness to make the most vulnerable take the brunt of the cuts and the way to make things better for the poor is to set them against the poor.
Some claim Discretionary Housing Payments – subjective, tiny, and without the right to appeal – mean there’s a safety net. The same people listen gladly to David Cameron making grossly misleading statements in Parliament about many having nothing to worry about, when they do, and they are fully aware of that.
Some say it’s not a tax, it’s a cut. Some can hear a human being’s fears of homelessness, choosing between food and heating, and losing access to their children – and claim semantics is what we should be angry about.
I’d suggest being angry about something else.
The parents with the adult disabled child, who are barely getting by. They need the box room to store oxygen cylinders, adult sized nappies, and specialist equipment but the Government says it is spare.
The single person with severe anxiety who has lived on their street for almost thirty years. There’s no one bedroom flat within ten miles of her home and she doesn’t know how she’s going to cope.
The husband who sleeps in a different bedroom to his wife because her disability mean she needs a specialist bed. She has bed sores and he’s afraid what will happen if they’re charged for needing the only room the bed fits in. Other benefit cuts are coming this month and they have no luxuries left to lose.
The disabled almost-pensioner who has been assessed by the Government as being physically unable to work, but has been told by the same department that he’ll now have to find some way to make up the short fall in his housing benefit. The council paid for many adaptations to his house and if he has to move out, they’ll have to do it again somewhere else.
The woman who was beaten by her partner and will be penalised for living in the house she was given as a place to be safe. And her six year old son who’s recovering from abuse and can’t cope with having his little sister share his space. He cut her hair off once and his mum faces making her two children share or not being able to pay the bills.
The people I mention are real people, a few who I’ve spoken to over the past couple of months. They’re a small section of the number who have written to me and other journalists, hoping, I imagine, that someone will listen. They’re a handful of the hundreds of thousands in our society who will be made poorer this month as millionaires enjoy a tax cut.
It’s time to be angry about that. It’s time to take action. A day of it in fact, on April 13th.
Find out how you can get involved in UK Uncut’s protest against the bedroom tax ‘Who wants to evict a millionaire?’ on Saturday 13th April here.
Frances Ryan is a freelance writer, predominantly for The Guardian and New Statesman. You can follow her on Twitter: @frances__ryan