Friday, February 01, 2013

How the "Bedroom tax" is already hurting (Liverpool) residents

I was horrified to read in the Liverpool Echo about the case of the Wade family for whom the bedroom tax is already causing grief and upset, and it has not even been put into practice yet.

Lindsey and  Barry Wade are seeing insult piled onto injury, injustice piled onto thoughtlessness and must feel like the worst-served family in the country.

In June of 2011, their son Kane, one of four children,  choked to death on a sweet while the ambulance his parents called failed to arrive because it had not been updated with postcode details about their new estate (despite them having lived there for at least three months) and couldn't find them.

They were let down by the ambulance service. Then they were let down through the Government's changes to Legal Aid which made it difficult for them to take legal action against the trust.

Kane's father Barry suffered a nervous breakdown which he has still not recovered from.

And now they are being asked to pay towards their rent because his bedroom is empty. They are having their housing benefit cut which pays for that rent ordinarily, because they have a spare bedroom - Kane's bedroom. A bedroom within which they wish to keep their memories.

Stephen Twigg MP who has taken up their case (and has supported them throughout), has called this a "cruel tax", and indeed it is. He has called for an exemption to be applied in their case, and of course it should be, that goes without saying. And I am sure the Housing Association, Cobalt, will do everything they can. Indeed I know Alan Rogers, who was quoted in the Echo story to be a very principled  man who will do anything possible for the family.

But behind very many front doors are similar stories. This unthinking, unfeeling Tory/ Liberal Democrat Government has unleashed a monster that will devastate huge numbers of families and individuals living across the country, and at least 11000 of those live in Liverpool.

I know full well why this policy has been introduced - we all do. It is an answer to the myriad Daily Mail headlines about families apparently living in mansions in downtown Chelsea on benefits while "decent hard working people" are struggling in slums. Headlines which the Tories have always run scared of and which the poorly named Liberal Democrats are now kowtowing to in their pathetic attempts to hold on to their 25 ministerial limousines. (To paraphrase the Red Rock adverts, It's not  Liberal and there are no Democrats in it.)

But that isn't the reality.

The reality is that the Wade family do not have the enviable luxury of an extra bedroom that they should be letting more worthy families occupy, they are not living a high life on benefits, lying in bed with the curtains closed while their more industrious neighbours go to work as Chancellor George Osborne suggests. No, they are a family in crisis, in mourning, suffering serious illness and struggling to get through every single day.

Exemptions are important and I hope are successfully applied for the Wade family; but I suspect that we could find very good, genuine reasons why we should make an exception for huge numbers of those who will be affected by this pernicious tax. The bedroom tax seeks to set simple financial rules for the most complex of situations. Families are not rigid and inflexible, many things happen which alter the ebb and flow of accommodation, simple rules are not appropriate. Family members move in, move out and move on, and sometimes, very sadly, they die.

A policy built on stereotype is a bad policy, and the bedroom tax should be scrapped now!

(Edit: I was using a logo I found on the internet and the website didn't like me using it so I have deleted it - even though we are of course all fighting the same cause!)

1 comment:

Ruth Hirschfield said...

This pernicious, vindictive tax will save no more than £500 million.
A drop in the ocean as far as the billions plus extra billions the tory-libdems are having to pay out in welfare as a direct result of their sick ideology.
How much more will this twisted tax cost in bed and breakfast, hostel accommoadation?
Not to mention fractured lives, communities and families?