Thursday 9 May 2013

The barbarity of the bedroom tax - the victims speak

The testimony below comes from real people living in Brighton and Hove, who are hit by the bedroom tax. It is taken from a speech made by Brighton Benefits Campaign in a deputation to Wednesday's City Council Housing Committee.

Thanks to their campaign, the committee voted not to evict any tenant in arrears because of the bedroom tax.

Photos are from the lobby of the meeting by anti bedroom tax campaigners.


You’ve invested a lot of time and effort in improving your council house over the years. You’ve always paid the rent on time. Your family have flown the nest successfully. The grandchildren are a joy.

Then tragedy hits. Your daughter dies...and suddenly, in mid-life, you are pitched back into the work of full-time parenting again, looking after two young granddaughters. NOW you are told that despite your poverty, and despite your enlarged household you must pay a penalty for under-occupying, when in fact your teenage grandson comes to stay for half the week to be with his sisters and sleeps in the box-room It’s a painful reminder that how real families live doesn’t count for anything, when it comes to the bedroom tax.


You are seriously ill, constantly tired and in pain. You’ve had to give up so much of the life you had before. But at least your flat is above the neighbourhood shop. At least it is adapted - in so many ways - for your needs. At least you have long-standing neighbours who support and look out for you. It’s your home. Now you are told that you must move, and the stress and disruption is more than you can even bear to think about.


Your children no longer live with you...but they are all close by. One is a single parent and you try to help out by having the grandchildren to stay occasionally. Your own health is not good, but you’re an active person in the community despite it, and your home there is your bedrock. Paying the bedroom tax will reduce your income so far below the breadline that you just don’t know how you’ll manage. You cannot eat peioperly and you’ve lost the energy to help other like you used to. It’s now a daily struggle not to just sink into despair.


You have both serious physical and mental illnesses, and you have carers coming in every single day. You feel safe with the good neighbours around you, and are so glad that your garden lets you keep your beloved pets. Moving is unimaginable. New people and new situations are just too much to cope with alongside your illness. A discretionary housing payment seems to offer hope, but then you are told it’s only for people who agree to move and you’re refused it. you think: how can they get away with telling me to pay the bedroom tax from money that’s not supposed to be for housing, but for the extra costs I have because of my disabilities. You wonder what will become of you with cuts in the real value of social security benefits for years to come, and council tax to pay, and now this. it’s so heartless that you wonder if the intention of it all is to drive you to suicide...Then, no doubt, the money that was supposed keep you alive will come in handy for tax cuts for the well off.

Why is the housing benefit bill blamed on us? We’re not the private landlords that central government is happy to see making a killing out of the housing shortage. Where are the rent controls?

We, the least well off are blamed, when we live in a country stuffed full of private half-empty mansions, second homes and holiday homes.

The government is ducking and responsibility for this housing crisis and refusing to invest in social housing, which would create desperately needed jobs as well as homes.

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