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MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Wed 17-Dec-14 15:44:27

Guest post: Rachel Reeves - 'the bedroom tax is cruel and ineffectual'

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

(45 comments )

Lead photo

'Two thirds of those hit by the bedroom tax are disabled. 60,000 are carers.'

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

Twitter: @RachelReevesMP

GaryShitpeas Wed 17-Dec-14 16:44:32

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 great rachel (and great article) but.....

i actually posted a thread relating to this recently and the general consensus was that no one believes you will actually keep this "pledge" if Labour does get in.....

thread here

mypoosmellsofroses Wed 17-Dec-14 17:08:40

Just seen the result and was gutted. Then I read Garys linked thread. Feel even worse now. So so tired of it all. The stand out thing for me is that a single person can live in a 4 or 5 bed social housing property as long as they don't claim HB, there is no pressure on them to downsize.Period.

This nasty legislation has nothing to do with freeing up housing, that's pure PR, and everything to do with penalising the poor, aka kicking people who are already down.

MrsChristmasVamos Wed 17-Dec-14 17:18:14

Completely concur, mypoo. sad

I also don't believe Labour will abolish it should they get into power.

Easy, empty, false promises and lies.

This is how we are governed today.

Its all bullshit.

GaryShitpeas Wed 17-Dec-14 17:41:23

*Just seen the result and was gutted. Then I read Garys linked thread. Feel even worse now. So so tired of it all. The stand out thing for me is that a single person can live in a 4 or 5 bed social housing property as long as they don't claim HB, there is no pressure on them to downsize.Period.

This nasty legislation has nothing to do with freeing up housing, that's pure PR, and everything to do with penalising the poor, aka kicking people who are already down.*

my thoughts exactly mypoo

caroldecker Wed 17-Dec-14 18:27:17

If all these people are paying money and 'losing out' how is it just another example of Tory welfare waste?

sazzer76 Wed 17-Dec-14 19:28:31

I`m registered disabled and I pay the bedroom tax. It`s £60 a month on top of which is added another £20 for rent arrears that only occurred when it was introduced. I live in a 2 bedroomed flat that is freezing cold (I`m typing this from under my duvet) I`ve been living from hand to mouth for 10 months waiting for a decision from the DWP about sickness benefits so I`ve been surviving on £72 a week. Out of that money I have to pay for food, gas, electric, water, phone, toiletries, clothing, travel, council tax and bedroom tax. The council had court papers drawn up for eviction proceedings which are constantly hanging over me like a threatening cloud
I`m waiting for a 1 bedroom property to come along as I have been since this charge was implemented, but a lot of the 1 bedroom places are actually sheltered housing, or have an age limit, or require you not to have rent arrears! You know, the rent arrears that only appeared once this tax was put in place!
I didn`t ask to become ill. I`m not a scrounger. I was dismissed from the NHS earlier this year on the grounds of ill health and I didn`t want to go. I loved my job. What angers me is that I`m one of the lucky ones. I still have a roof over my head, no matter how tenuous my grip on my home is-because it`s not a property, it`s not just council housing stock-it`s my home.
Thankfully I`ve now been given the full amount of benefits that I originally applied for so temporarily I`m ok-I`ll get by. Until they decide to re-assess me, probably next year, and we start the whole merry go-round again. All of this and then add my illness into the equation. It`s not fun. It`s not a free ride and it`s not a lifestyle choice.
I`ve used food banks (and you`re limited to 3 visits a year by the way, some of my friends are under the impression it`s a weekly thing) which is soul destroying. My doctor has had to prescribe me with medication because my diet is so poor-and I`m a very savvy cook and know my way around a kitchen.
Nobody wants to be on benefits or if they do, they`ve obviously got such a low IQ they`d struggle to find a job and end up on Jobseekers anyway.
So why kick people when they`re down? In what kind of ideaology is it morally ok to actively let people starve, freeze, become homeless or have to fight for appropriate healthcare? At what point do you stop putting the boot in and think, "all it takes is for one or two unfortunate happenstances for me to be where they are."
Redundancy in middle age, unexpected illness, accident at work, partner losing their job. It`s a very thin line between getting by and destitution. That thin line is what used to be called social security and it saves lives. The welfare state saves lives. Bloated or not-that`s what it comes down to. Then again you start to wonder, as some-one in my position, is there anyone in charge who actually thinks my life is worth saving?

mypoosmellsofroses Wed 17-Dec-14 19:53:52

Redundancy in middle age, unexpected illness, accident at work, partner losing their job. It`s a very thin line between getting by and destitution.

Exactly this!

I wrote a really long reply but the internet ate it.... sorry to hear that things are so crap at the moment for you sazzer. Heres hoping 2015 brings some positives for us all

sazzer76 Wed 17-Dec-14 20:24:58

Thank you mypoo smile (sorry have to smile) That`s kind. I`m ok, I`ve luckily been blessed with a stoic temperament, very dark sense of humour and I know that no matter how bad things get, at least I`m not Piers Morgan. Or married to Piers Morgan. Or in the vicinity of Piers Morgan.

Greengrow Wed 17-Dec-14 20:35:18

Why does RR not mention in the blog the disability exemption which would seem to be fairly relevant to the case she uses as her example. There is huge support for the measures which stop social housing bed blockers. Why should those of us who do not have a penny from the state and work full time in often very cramped conditions in London have to subsidise others to have more space than we do who are clogging up a big house which a young large family ought to have? The bed room tax is a great measure hugely supported by the people of the UK despite leftist propaganda.

Also if there are no one beds available why not just put two mothers with a baby into one two bed flat? Plenty of people who do not get support from the state house share. Why should we feather bed the poor?

"... provision to meet the need for a disabled child for an additional bedroom.

From 4 December 2013 new regulations replaced this guidance and provide for amendments to the application of the size criteria...

The new rules will apply in relation to children who are entitled to the care component of disability living allowance at the higher or middle rate, where the local authority decision maker is satisfied that the child is not reasonably able to share a room. The dwelling must also include the necessary additional bedroom or bedrooms, on top of the number of bedrooms the claimant would normally be entitled to."

Scarletbanner Wed 17-Dec-14 20:49:16

What disability exemption is that?

There is a Discretionary Fund which is nowhere near enough for all the disabled people who are affected by this cruel tax.

And actually opinion polls don't show support for this measure. Quite the opposite. And once people realise that the smaller properties people are required to move into simply do not exist in sufficient numbers, support falls even further.

I hope Labour do repeal this tax. Why would they not? The bedroom tax does not save large sums.

sazzer76 Wed 17-Dec-14 20:49:43

So I`m not a person, I`m a bed blocker?

GristletoeAndWhine Wed 17-Dec-14 21:32:59

I agree that the "bedroom tax" is unfair and disproportionately impacts disabled people. How will a labour government pay for the repeal of the bedroom tax? And what will they do about those who really are using up extra bedrooms that are not needed? And about controlling the housing benefit bill generally ?

caroldecker Wed 17-Dec-14 21:37:31

There are insufficient smaller homes because social housing did not build enough because they got HB from the govt and bigger homes are more profitable - blame the housing associations and councils.

GaryShitpeas Wed 17-Dec-14 22:18:14

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

GaryShitpeas Wed 17-Dec-14 22:22:19

The housing benefit bill could be SLASHED if there was more council housing

I bet The money saved in "Bedroom tax" is a drop in the ocean compared to the crazy amounts "the taxpayer" pays to private landlords in housing benefit. And bear in mind many in FT employment are forced to claim Hb top ups, HB doesn't just go to the unemployed hmm

MrsChristmasVamos Wed 17-Dec-14 22:34:33

I've just seen a survey where 95% of voters want the Bedroom Tax scrapped.

As for IDS laughing as cases were read out in the debate, I have no words.

I think it says it all really about the man. sad

Sazzer I hope things get better for you. flowers

mypoosmellsofroses Wed 17-Dec-14 22:41:30

GristletoeAndWhine what will they do about those who really are using up extra bedrooms that are not needed?

The "Bedroom Tax" hasn't done anything to address this though, not really. The majority of under occupancies are exempt pensioners, not to mention the fact that there are many social housing tenants who are under occupying who haven't been pressurised to downsize because they earn enough not to need to claim HB. A tiny (in the grand scheme of things) number of people have been able to downsize ( many more would like to, to avoid the additional cost but haven't been able to)

Maybe the answer lies in reviewing tenancies for all social housing tenants and ensuring that realistic alternatives are available. Financial penalties against those on a low enough income to need Housing Benefit is not the answer.

SoonToBeSix Thu 18-Dec-14 00:39:23

Green grow disabled children who share a room and need their own room due to a disability and receive mid/ high rate care will be entitled to their own room. That is not the case in the example.

sazzer76 Thu 18-Dec-14 01:28:52

My council offers cash incentives for downsizing-and still there`s very little movement-because, as everyone is pointing out, the properties are just not there for us to move into. Do people seriously think that council tenants are stubbornly hanging on to their too large, hard to heat houses out of belligerence?
I`ve already moved once from a two bedroom house with a garden to a two bedroomed flat to make way for a family. Nobody forced me, it was my idea and my decision.
And where does it say that it`s just poor people living in social housing? Looking out of my window I can see two jags and three relatively new cars in our car park. The majority of the tenants here have at least one person in work. There`s a strong white, middle class occupancy in my little corner of the South East.
The rhetoric that`s being spouted by the media has everyone up in arms about immigrants taking social housing, benefit layabouts occupying homes that should be for the hardworking British family but staying very firm-lipped about the millions spent on working tax credits, the dire situations that working mums face and the abysmal treatment of anyone unlucky enough to find themselves in need of a helping hand to keep themselves out of the gutter.
I`m not an oaf. I`m an intelligent and capable person who happens to have a disability preventing me from working, or rather a disability that makes me an unattractive prospect for employers. I`m grateful for the social housing that I appear to be cluttering up and I won`t be shamed by anyone for needing help because if the boot was on the other foot, I`d be more than happy to hold my hand out to anyone desperate enough to ask for help. It wouldn`t be the first time I`ve given some-one the last pound in my pocket. If we spent more time asking how can I help, rather than why have they got something I haven`t, then we`d be living in a fairer and much more pleasant society.
There, rant over. Merry Christmas to all, I`m off to see if the cat wants to share a tin of tuna by candlelight. God bless us everyone.

bringonyourwreckingball Thu 18-Dec-14 07:38:27

There is no disabled exemption. My sister has severe cerebral palsy and is very much paying the bedroom tax. There is a discretionary fund administered by the council but she was turned down for funding from that because the council can't afford to fund everyone. There ARE NO adapted, accessible one bed properties for her to move to, they don't build them, adapted housing is always built with two bedrooms as many disabled people will need overnight care at some point in their lives.

I disagree with the tax on principle but the pernicious lie that has taken hold about it not applying to disabled people really, really pisses me off.

LuisSuarezTeeth Thu 18-Dec-14 07:44:02

greengrow

why should we feather bed the poor?

Your contempt shines through time and time again. I sometimes wonder if you are quite well, since your views are completely lacking in empathy and understanding.

Unfortunately, it is unreasonable to blame the Councils for the lack of council housing. The person to blame for that is Margaret Thatcher and her policies. It was a good idea to allow people to buy their own council houses; what was a less good fucking moronic idea was to refuse to allow the Councils to use the money to build more. Councils were unable to build more. They were not allowed to. So really, not their fault. At the time, there was plenty of need for social housing - hence the rise in the Housing Associations - and Councils were wasting money hand over fist "housing" people in need in temporary B&B accommodation. They didn't want to - they weren't given the option.

PeachyTheSanctiMoanyArse Thu 18-Dec-14 09:18:10

Ah this wonderful discretionary fund.

There's a woman I know who was a carer until her mum passed in the autumn: within a week they'd implemented the tax, before her other benefits got sorted. She is behind, and so applied to the discretionary fund. They awarded her a small amount- then withdrew it due to her not fulfilling a random criteria about moving somewhere else immediately (not so easy when your tenancy is a year lease and you'll be liable for rent in advance for remaining period if you just go). They hadn't even told her about this condition, it was 'presumed' she'd know. She has lost appeals.

As well as trying to find work (lots of interviews but no offers so far, easy to understand as she's permanently on the brink of breakdown due to the past few months), mourning the loss of her parent and rebuilding a life, she is now dependent on lifts to the food bank and charity. It is perhaps lucky that I was too sick for the group meal on Tuesday as at least she could have mine and get fed.

I know my city has less than £10k left in the fund until April and a recent whole new raft of job cuts (a common cause of claims, sudden loss of income). It isn't going to balance.

LeftyLoony Thu 18-Dec-14 09:19:51

The exemption for disability covers disabled CHILDREN. Not adults. Which is very wrong. It's why I still campaign against the bedroom tax when I am able to.

Some mnetters have children who are disabled and still at home over the age of 18. This causes huge problems (as do other disability transition from children to adult services).

Some disabled adults have been subject to bedroom tax because they've had to have a bedroom converted to a lift - the lift is taxed as a bedroom!

Some married couples can't share a room due to disability, the hospital bed filling the room. They'd be liable for bedroom tax.

But hey, I've exposed my vulnerability so here I am just waiting for a certain poster to just wade right in and take cheap pot shots just like they've always done. This week I have two major repairs issues with my home that don't look like they'll be sorted before Christmas and are directly affecting my disabled kids AND I've lost my respite and had to make alternative arrangements with all the stress that entails.

So come on. Exposed flesh for the kicking this way.

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