Bedroom Tax Unfair
The Government is changing the rules concerning housing benefit. It will only pay towards rent for low-income households based on the number of bedrooms it thinks people need. So, if you are a couple with no other people living in your house, and you have spare bedrooms, you are likely to lose some of your benefit. The government states this will save a lot of money. This was reported by the BBC:
The government argues the changes will help cut the £23bn annual bill for housing benefit, free up more living space for overcrowded families, and encourage people to get jobs…
…over half a million tenants will be affected when the new rules take effect in April this year. It says the savings to the taxpayer will amount to £505m in 2012-13, and £540m in the year after.
Whatever way you look at it, £500m is a lot of money although it doesn’t sound so much if you see it as a fraction of the total welfare benefits bill.
If I’m honest, I have don’t have strong feelings about this so called Bedroom Tax one way or the other. On one level, it does seem a waste that we pay housing benefit for all those empty rooms when there are so many people in need of accommodation. But we dont bat an eye or calculate percentages of all those privately owned spare bedrooms and in the same breath, we don’t pay much attention to the countless empty, abandoned or derelict buildings that could provide thousands of homes.
Pushing People Around
So even though I dont have strong views about the Bedroom Tax, I do feel more strongly about social policy that pushes people around, implies blame for other’s failure and and unsettles their way of life. I do think it is fundamentally wrong that these changes will jeopardise people’s homes. I’m using the word home here in the broadest sense and it is deliberately chosen against other more utilitarian options such as dwelling, house, property or even tenancy although it may jeopardise these too. It just doesn’t feel fair to try to recover small amounts of money in a piecemeal way that may lead them to be unable to afford the homes they’ve lived in for years or decades.
House or a Home
Everyone recognises that having somewhere to live is crucial to wellbeing. It helps children with their education, people find jobs, offenders stop offending, access to health care and so on. But this has to be more than having a roof over you head. I mean, if it were that simple, we could just give people sheets of corrugated tin, some wood and nails and leave them to construct their own. Where you live is where your friends are and often you’re family too. It may be where you work or go to school or where you grew up. It could be near your home team, your GP and where you have found a good mechanic or jogging partner. There are countless reasons why home is your home especially if you are happy and settled.
I imagine that most people will manage to absorb any changes to their housing benefit. They will make a few cut backs, go without, work some more hours or whatever. This won’t be because they want to but because they have to. The wrench of moving for some and the limited options for finding another place to live, may mean they will find it hard. This isn’t all about money. This is about more than money!
Are You Worried?
If you are worried about what this means to you there is lots of advice on line. You can even find a calculator to tell you how you will be affected. I found this one by doing a search and there are others. If you are worried about your own future why not try Citizens Advice Bureau or Shelter. There are some exceptions to the new rules so, it wouldn’t hurt to find out more.
Say What You Think
Have I got this wrong? Tell us what you think about the changes to Housing Benefit. Will you be affected? Do you know people who will or live with, work with or care for anyone who might be? If you know of a caring or support group that provides a service particularly directed at accommodation or housing needs, then tell them about the Neighbourgood.