“What about the single mother living in a 1-bedroom flat with her 10 children?” says pensioner Pauline Carty

Pauline Carty

The Bedroom Tax has only reported about those who are going to be affected by this tax implemented within the next couple of weeks. However has anyone even considered who will benefit from the tax?

Pensioner, Carty feels that on the face of the tax introduction it is a good idea, it is something that needs looking at however is worried that the government has not given enough thought as to the best way to implement it. Alot of areas have been missed out such as disabled and foster carers who make up a huge number of people caught up in this bubble, they havent looked at how they are going to administrate this issue. The government has said they can apply for discretionary housing payment, however these are peoples homes and the DHP is only for 6 months.

The way DHP works is the government pay the excess between the contractual rent and the eligible rent using the Department of Social Development (DSD). However this budget is limited in funds thus can only support an individual for a maximum period of 6 months.

She feels something needs to be done as a person living in a two bedroom house on government funds, when they only need a one-bedroom house, to be asked to pay a little extra is acceptable and perfectly reasonable.

“I worked in a neighbourhood office where I can recall a woman living in a 1-bedroom flat with 10 children and that’s not fair, not right and how can we have a person being paid by the government to chill and relax with her children in a 1-bedroom house. I can also recall coming across a case where a single mother was living in a 4-bedroom flat and her children had grown up and left home, the mother of 10 children would love to have 4-bedrooms – she needs four bedrooms.”

“People’s frustration is understandable” says Carty, having asked to pay a little extra may not be within ones capibilities to pay the excess “so I can understand. However where would you draw the line?” “The rules we lived by 20 years ago worked back then, and things have changed now. Like divorces were taboo in my mother’s era however people splitting up much more so there’s an increase in demand for more housing.”

“People need to distinguish between a want and a need.” the mother living in a 4-bedroom house does not need it and is a luxury itself. Whereas there are some people out there living under difficult circumstances who really and truly will benefit from this change.

“People can feel the pinch already with food and fuel prices increasing and can’t feed themselves, especially if they have children.” The current economic situation is difficult and some may not be able to afford the increased payments and shall be forced to have to be re-homed.

“Politicians don’t live in the real world and don’t feel the things we feel. They go home to their mansions so it easy for them to make changes but do not think it through or think about the the people they are ruling.”

“Next we’ll have the window tax,” says Carty. She feels the government are desperate for cutting budgets that are inventing policies which on the surface are good, however lack of thinking them through has resulted in much destruction to certain individual’s livelihood.

“Even if people under-occupying were willing to move to a smaller home, will not be able to as there are not enough homes to cater for.” As a result she feels people will then be forced to pay these extra costs and eventually will lead to eviction and homelessness.

Homelessness is a serious issue within Britiain. Autum 2012, the estimated total of rough sleepers in England was 2309. This figure looks like it is only going to increase.

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Academic Psychologists oblivious to The Bedroom Tax

After several phone conversations with different health/child psychologists I think I can conclude how there are people out there who don’t watch the news to find out whats happening in the society around them.

Academic psychologists from and around Birmingham and some health psychologists were also unfamiliar with this term.

It was most shocking to find that people were unaware with the term ‘Bedroom Tax,’ and a reason for this could be that maybe as it doesn’t affect them, it is of no interest to them, therefore they are unaware of how widely covered this topic is at the moment.

Due to them being unaware of these new cuts to benefits coming into effect over the next couple of weeks suggests that they will be unaware of the change of symptoms amongst patients. Also if they see an increase of medical health issues coming into their practice, again they will be ignorant as to why there is a boom in new cases.

It would have been interesting to find out if there was to be an increase in number of cases, whether they had the facilities to deal with them. Most importantly if a patients symptoms/condition got worse what effects would this have on them, so ultimately what would this additional stress cause to a patient who is already ill.

Not just physical, but the mental health of people would have been an interesting area to articulate, and if they were parents, what effect this would have on their children.

This area was a key part of the investigation by looking at the cognitive and health effects this policy was going to cause. This would have acted as a key angle and provided valuable data as to another professional organisation that would have been affected by this policy.

“It’s going to cost a fortune” says DPAC spokesperson

“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.

‘We can rely on our Community’ says Sparkhill Manager

food bags

After visiting two completely different foodbanks, one in Aston and the other located in Sparkhill, I gained a better image of the structure and running order of the foodbanks and how much support they offered within the community it is located in. Just before I finished I was able to interview the Regional Manager of Trusstell Trust, Anne Danks. She has 50 foodbanks taking place with further 10 in negotiation. The audio version is also available to listen to, as it is to be embeded on the blog shortly.

Anne defines foodbank as “a community project which is run by community resources, buildings, volunteers and the public donate the food. We capitilise on community resources to create a centre where people can come when they are in crisis and where they can get enough food for three days, as well as a chance to talk to somebody, unburden themselves.”

Crises include relationship breakdowns, losing a job, can no longer make ends meet as food and fuel prices gone up. Anne says she is often in contact with people who haven’t eaten properly leading to malnourishment and especially worries about families with children involved.

Each project is entirely individual and unique to itself, and is tailored to the community it sits in. As earlier stated, each foodbank is different. The Aston foodbank, located in the Salvation Army centre, is fairly new and does not have as many clients as the other. The Sparkhill branch is situated within a community which is quite heavily dominated by one race, as 83% of the population within the region is Muslim. Therefore each operate differently and offer different resources and referral centres. Trussell Trust offer branding and advice/support however each foodbank stands alone, and if they fail to adhere to the charities policies, they will withdraw their branding.

Foodbanks look to “fill in gaps” within the community. Despite procedures in place such as only giving out food to people with vouchers, Anne works to listen to people and sometimes will give them advice to go about the right way of getting vouchers whilst providing them enough food to last a couple of days.

“The Bedroom Tax will have the effect as people will be loosing their benefits…and anything that causes people to loose their benefits results in an increase. One of our biggest categories has been is benefit change and benefit delay in terms of why people refer to foodbanks,” says Anne.

Liisa Wiseman, Manager of the Sparkhill foodbank, says her clients have increased from ’10-12 clients a week to 35-42 clients a week. We have served over 300 000 meals this year and this figure is only going to increase however support from the current community is reassuring that we should be able to cope with this increase, and continue to offer our services to as many people who approach us. We can rely on our community.’

She says, ‘we have to be careful that we are not classed as welfare as we hold no links with the government or councils, we are a independent service.’

People due to be affected by the bedroom tax can at least be reassured of the support from members of their community, as opposed to the government, to keep supporting this service of providing meals and emotional support.

‘Foodbank numbers to increase,’ according to Trussell Trust

The Trussel Trust are looking to feed 230 000 people in 2012-13 as a result of cuts to benefits. The charity last year fed fed 128 687 people nationwide however with 13 million people living below the poverty line within the UK, the number of people approaching foodbanks is only going to increase.

A foodbank is a community provided service where food is prepared and served to those in need. This can include homeless people, prisoners, financially struggling individuals and also flood victims in occurrence of a flood.  These are put together by non-profit organisations and normally last for three days providing food to those less fortunate.

Anne Danks is the Regional Manager for the Trussell Trust, a Christian charity, who has helped set up over 33 foodbanks within the last three years. They are in partnership with churches and communities who support opening foodbanks. Their aim is to open up a foodbank in every city and currently have over 250 foodbanks launched.

As a result of the recession, which led to the increase of food and fuel, with income remaining the same, has resulted in more people approaching food banks for help.

According to National Official Statistics, there are still 2.5million people unemployed in 2012. Unemployment as well as alterations to benefits which also has led individuals to come to foodbanks.

There is a foodbank taking place today in Nechells, and I shall be attending to make contacts as well as speaking to individuals who have been affected by ‘The Bedroom Tax.’  I will be interviewing Anne Danks and getting her views on the increased demand food banks and will find out how they are planning to deal with the increase in numbers. Also, looking to find some case studies of people affected by ‘The Bedroom Tax.’

History of Protesting

According to the Oxford dictionary, ‘protest’ is a statement or action expressing disapproval of or objection to something.

Protesting has been around since 1913 and described the march organised by Gandhi in regards to the restrictions inflicted on the Indian population of South Africa.

This term became more accepted throughout history as it was adapted by music and films, despite the political backlash it received. Academic Geoffrey Nunberg, found the first protest song which proved to be a huge hit was back in 1965, by Barry McGuire, “Eve of Destruction.” The lyrics used acted as an appeal for peace and understanding. Many radio stations refused to play this song on their stations arguing it breached the equal time provision however that didn’t stop this hit from reaching number one.

In 1982, the production of the first Rambo film used the term ‘protest’ however by this time people had accepted the term as just another name for a demonstration.

The largest protest to take place in the world was against the Iraq war in February 2003. Here a total of 3 million people gathered to show their anti-war support.

Protests act as form of communication for the public in a democracy to speak against decisions made by higher authorities, in attempt to hinder change by enforcing change to policies etc. Protests can take place in many different forms such as the Birmingham riots in 2011 which was the most extreme case of protesting in history due to the amount of violence involved and destruction caused to the city. Another form of protest is a strike such as teacher’s strike who are protesting for an increase in pay and student protests which involve marches around communities in regards to the vast increase in student fees.

According to Nunberg, protest is the only political action that power can’t engage in.

The question that arises from protests is whether they are effective in bringing about change? Yes, we know they get governments attention, but as a result of policies reviewed and have they ever been changed? I have lined up an interview with a protestor who will hopefully answer my questions. If you have any questions to contribute please do not hesitate to put them forward by Thursday 21st February 2013 and I will attempt to get them all answered.

Upcoming Protest

On the 26th February 2013, another protest will be taking place outside the Birmingham Council Houses, following the protest taken place on the 7th February 2013. This protest is in relation to the general cuts being made by the government however our enquiries will all be in relation to bedroom tax.  

This will act as a great opportunity for our investigation in gaining interviews, video footage, photographs as well as a live blog of the event. 

If anyone has any questions they would like us to enquire for them please do not hesitate to let us know. We would love to hear from you and to put forward questions on your behalf. You can leave a comment below or alternatively you can put questions up on our twitter which is @BrumBedroomTax.