During a Westminster Hall debate (23/2/16) on the effect of the Bedroom Tax across the UK, I asked the Government why it is persisting with this policy even though evidence shows it is discriminatory, unfair and divisive.
I informed MPs taking part in the debate that the latest figures for 2015 show approximately 443,000 people are affected, with an average weekly income reduction of £15.27. That is more than £61 a month or £800 a year—up about 10% from the what the Government originally estimated.
During the debate, I told the Government Minister opposite:
“The Government have tried to regenerate the economy on the backs of the poor and disabled. Their modus operandi is about division and blame. Instead of denigrating claimants, and our social security system, we should be recognising the importance and value of that system. Like the NHS, our social security system is based on principles of inclusion, support and security for all, assuring us of our dignity and the basics of life, should any one of us become ill, disabled or fall on hard times.
“The Government need to remember that and stop their attacks on the poor and vulnerable.”
I also accused the Government of effectively burying bad news as the Government’s own evaluation which was slipped out on the last day before the Christmas recess, gives an insight of the impact on people of the bedroom tax. It revealed that the majority of people originally affected by the bedroom tax were still affected nine months later.
Of those still affected, only 5% had found work. Claimants were using savings, borrowing from family or friends or accruing debt to pay rent. The implication of accruing such debt is a downward spiral. It is impossible to overestimate the effect of having debt hanging round family’s necks. Three out of four families are having to cut back on essentials such as heating and food.
The Government’s evaluation also reported that 55% of tenants were in arrears, contrasting with the National Housing Federation’s figure of 59%. The important thing is that the arrears of two thirds of them were attributed directly to the bedroom tax.
A recent Court of Appeal judgement ruled that the bedroom tax was discriminatory against a domestic violence victim and the family of a disabled teenager. It ruled that, in these cases, the Government’s policy amounted to unlawful discrimination. Shamefully, instead of taking action in response to the ruling, the DWP are using more taxpayers money to appeal the decision at the Supreme Court.
The discriminatory, unfair and divisive nature of the bedroom tax is why Labour has consistently called for it to be abolished.