“With figures showing more than 420 000 disabled people to be affected, it’s going to cost a fortune to the taxpayer,” says Linda Burnip, spokesperson from Disabled People Against Cuts.
Thatcher’s selling off of council homes without being replaced has led to massively inadequate housing stock. Burnip says “people can’t downsize as there are so few one and two bed priorities available so will just end up being pushed further into poverty and in many cases made homeless.”
Victoria Young, from the Family Housing Association (FHA), commented that “bedroom tax will stop them having money to invest in building new homes.”
In 2009-10, 180 000 social tenants were under-occupying 2 bedroom homes but there were only 68,000 1 bed social homes to rent. With only a third of the tenants able to be re-homed, the future is looking distressing for many people due to government restrictions to the FHA and the reality of re-homing an individual into a practical home which meets their special requirements.
This act is the same as the Size Criteria brought in for the private rented sector in 2008 and the last Labour Government had planned to extend it to social housing in 2010. These plans were objected by Housing Associations that the government supported.
It means that if you are living in an adapted property, which may have cost thousands of pounds to adapt, then if you also have an extra bedroom you have no apparent need for, you will only get Housing Benefit paid at the one bedroom rate. “Also people may have had say £20 000 of adaptations made to a home and if they have to move they would need to be done again when that amount could fund the costs of an extra bedroom for about 40 years. People also need to stay in areas for all sorts of support reasons as well,” says Burnip.
Evicting disabled people from adapted properties when there are few other accessible and adapted ones available “seems an act of lunacy” according to Burnip and an unnecessary expense to taxpayers as well as causing “untold misery to disabled people who will be affected by all of this.”
“We are a campaign and direct action group and the level of protest against this so quickly is astonishing. I think it will help politicise people very quickly,” says Burnip.
With the campaigns workload increasing rapidly they have referred cases to solicitors to mount legal challenges to benefit changes. The most current case battling it out in supreme courts is the mother of two disabled children, who took on a lodger for her extra room, as recommended by Lord Freud, however has still had her benefits cut. Despite appealing, she has been placed on a 10 week hold and after evicting her lodger is struggling with feeding herself and her children, who already struggle with disabilities.
Unfortunately, this seems to be just the beginning and things will most likely get worse before things start getting better.