On 17 December, MPs voted against scrapping the bedroom tax – here, shadow secretary of state for work and pensions Rachel Reeves argues that the policy doesn’t work, and punishes the most vulnerable.
Rachel Reeves MP Shadow secretary of state for work and pensions
Posted on: Wed 17-Dec-14 15:44:27
Ever heard of the ‘Housing Benefit Social Sector Size Criteria’? No? Well you’re not alone. On the other hand, if you were asked what the name for the government’s decision to force half a million families to pay a tax on their bedroom is called, most people would say the ‘bedroom tax’.
Last month I travelled to Pembrokeshire to meet Paul, Sue, and their grandson Warren, who are one of thousands of families hit by the bedroom tax. Paul and Sue look after Warren, who suffers from a very rare genetic disorder called Potocki-Shaffer Syndrome. Their home has been specially adapted to meet Warren’s needs. Paul and Sue share one room, Warren sleeps in another, and the third room is needed for carers to stay overnight and to store equipment for Warren’s condition. Without the help of overnight care workers, Warren would have to be put into residential care, at substantial extra cost to his local authority and to taxpayers.
We should be celebrating the incredible contribution Paul and Sue are making both to Warren’s life and to our country. Instead, this government has deducted £60 a month from their Housing Benefit because they live in a bungalow with three bedrooms, one of which has been deemed a spare bedroom and so chargeable under the bedroom tax.
Like thousands of families across the country, Sue and Paul are doing the right thing – working hard, and providing fantastic care to ensure their grandson gets the best start in life. And yet they’re finding the government is taking money out of their pockets, making it hard to get by.
With a week before Christmas I hope MPs think carefully about the impossible choices that thousands of families are facing right now. Heating or eating. Paying the rent or paying the bills. Mums and Dads who want the best for their children, but are struggling to make ends meet as the cost of living continues to rise.
On average, the bedroom tax has cost families over £1,200 since it was brought in by the government in April 2013. Around half a million people are being forced to pay it, at an average of £14 a week. Two thirds of those hit are disabled, and 60,000 are carers. Two fifths of the households affected have children living in them.
Ed Miliband and I have pledged that the next Labour government will repeal the bedroom tax, but the Rutherfords – and thousands like them – can’t afford to wait until the next election.
That’s why we have forced a debate and a vote in the House of Commons today (17 December) on the bedroom tax. If enough MPs vote with Labour, it will be effectively abolished by Christmas.
Few people outside of Downing Street and the Department for Work and Pensions defend the bedroom tax. Even the government’s own independent report on it found a series of failings in the policy. Less than 5% of people affected had moved to another smaller home in the social rented sector. It also found that over 60% of people had fallen behind with their rent. And despite the government promising the bedroom tax would save money, the amount of money spent on Housing Benefit is rising, not falling. The bedroom tax is just another example of Tory welfare waste.
With a week left until Christmas, I hope MPs think carefully about the impossible choices thousands of families are facing right now. Heating or eating. Paying the rent or paying the bills. Mums and dads who want the best for their children, but are struggling to make ends meet as the cost of living continues to rise.
I have a simple belief that government is there to help people fulfil their dreams and realise their potential. But too often, government holds people back and is making them worse off.
So it doesn’t matter whether it’s called the bedroom tax or the ‘Housing Benefit Social Sector Size Criteria’ – this cruel tax is making life harder, not easier, for thousands of people. It’s time for this nasty tax on thousands of children and families to go once and for all.
By Rachel Reeves MP
Originally posted on mumsnet