The reason why so many people in the North East are against the Bedroom Tax can be answered by what’s happened to Ray O’Connor and his wife Bridget.
Bridget suffered a stroke in 2011 and as a result needs round-the-clock care in the three bedroomed home in Walker, Newcastle, she and Ray have shared for eight years.
Because of her disabilities, one of their bedrooms has been adapted for her needs with a hospital sized bed and specialist equipment thanks to a £15,000 grant.
As a result Ray sleeps in the second room while their third room is used by carers who stay overnight to help with Bridget’s care.
With the introduction of the tax, it at first looked like they would lose 25% of their housing benefits for the rooms used by Ray and his wife’s carers.
They successfully fought against the carer’s room but are still left with the threat of losing £11 a week in housing benefits for Ray’s room.
After advice from their social landlord, ISOS Housing, they successfully applied to Newcastle City Council for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) to cover the shortfall but they have to re-apply every few months, rather than have a long term or permanent exemption.
Their situation was used as a test case to challenge the Bedroom Tax in court, but the attempt failed.
Ray, 56, explained:
“The judge said he’d checked and checked but the wording of it was that if you were married you had to stay in the same bedroom.
“ISOS and Newcastle City Council have been brilliant, with the advice they have given and the help with the filling in of the forms for the discretionary payment.
“But there is just so much they can do. This payment looks like ending after the next election if the Conservatives get in.
“If we have to move to a two bedroomed house I’ll still have to pay the bedroom tax on one of them because it will be classed as mine.
“If we moved to a one bedroomed house – if there is one available – I’ll have to sleep on the sofa and share the room with the carer.”
Ray and Bridget’s situation is further complicated by the fact that a stipulation of the £15,000 grant was that they had to stay in the house for five years after the work – until 2017. If they move out earlier, they’ll have to pay a percentage of it back.
“I don’t know what the amount is but that will have to come out of our benefits,” said Ray.
“I think the Bedroom Tax is disgusting and should be scrapped. It puts so much pressure on people like us.
“In the court hearing the council was asked by the judge if there were any more cases like ours and they told him there were plenty. They been hoping to successfully challenge it through our case but that isn’t going to happen because of the specific wording of it.
“We had hoped this was our home for life. The harm it is doing to vulnerable families is unforgiveable – where is the money that it is supposed to be saving going to go?”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 01 Apr 2015
The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) is warning that cutting the benefits bill by £12 billion will lead to “radical changes” to housing benefits and “big cuts to disability benefits”, amongst others. They have challenged chancellor George Osborne to explain where the cuts will be made.
In an interview for the BBC today, Paul Johnston of the IFS pointed out that:
“The chancellor has been saying for nearly two years now that he wants to find £12 billion of welfare cuts by 2017.
“He’s told us maybe where he’ll find £2 billion of that £12 billion. If he really wants us to take seriously the idea that other spending will be protected, he needs to tell us something about where the additional £10 billion of welfare cuts will come from.
“They will not be easy to find.”
Johnston explained that a freeze on working age benefits, which would itself cause increasing hardship for working age claimants, would go nowhere near saving enough cash.
“He has told us he wants to freeze working age benefits. That will save up to about £2 billion. That’s something he has told us. It’s the other £10 billion we know nothing about.
“It’s of course possible to cut benefits by £10 billion or £12 billion, if that’s what you really want to do.
“But you need to recognise especially if you’re protecting pensioners which the conservatives have said they want to do, this will involve radical changes to, for example, the housing benefit system, big cuts to child benefit, big cuts to disability benefits.
“These are the big benefits. If you want to save £10 billion you have to find radical things to do to those big parts of the benefits system.”
For claimants, especially those who are sick and disabled, the result of the next election could well have a dramatic effect on the quality of their lives for decades to come.
Source – Benefits & Work, 20 Mar 2015
The recent report from the Major Projects Authority, which revealed that Universal Credit is such a fucking disaster they had to invent a whole new category to describe it, also laid bare the astronomical cost of Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms.
Just under £11 billion is budgeted to be squandered on some of the DWP’s largest projects, and that figure doesn’t include Universal Credit. The cost of this hare-brained experiment is shrouded in mystery now it has been classed as ‘reset’, but last year the Major Projects Authority reported the that bill would reach £12.8 billion.
Even this is far from the whole story. Community Work Placements, the latest mass workfare scheme, will cost almost a third of a billion. The costs of other Jobcentre schemes, such as Mandatory Work Activity, are not included in the above figures. At the very least the budgeted costs of welfare reform exceed…
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Several North East MPs will either defy a party whip or not be at the House of Commons when Labour is told to vote in line with the coalition for a new cap on how much can be spent on state benefits.
Ed Miliband has told his MPs to back a Budget plan to cap welfare at £119bn, ending a situation in which benefit spending is increased to match the number of claimants.
While party leader Mr Miliband is keen to avoid looking soft on welfare, across the North East, MPs have called for the party to proudly stand up for low income families.
Easington MP Grahame Morris said he will not be voting for the cap. He told The Journal: “I cannot vote for the welfare cap. By implication it plays to the Tory strategy of divide and rule demonising those on benefits as the undeserving poor.
“It conveniently ignores the fact that two thirds of the welfare budget goes on pensions that people have contributed to during their working lives. Another substantial slice goes on supporting those in work on low wages.
“Once again Labour must differentiate its position from the Tories. It is shameful of the Tories to seek to set the working poor against the disabled. There are better, fairer ways to limit benefit spending for example by limiting the £20bn taxpayer spend on housing benefits which goes to private landlords through the introduction of rent controls.”
Gateshead MP Ian Mearns said he will not be in the Commons for the vote as a result of select committee business, but would not have voted for the cap.
He said: “Inherent in this is a further reduction in real terms of benefits over time. If the economy has another significant downturn this limits the capacity of the state to respond to genuine hardship.
“And let’s not forget that only about 3% of the benefits bill is for jobseekers’ allowance, the biggest single pot is for pensions.”
And Blaydon MP Dave Anderson also hit out at the plan. He said: “The welfare cap is just another piece of the Coalitions jigsaw to make the poor, the weak and the disabled pay for the failures of big business and global capitalism.
“This vote comes in the same week that Lloyds have been exposed as continuing to exploit customers over the disgraceful PPI misselling scandal. It is these rogues and many others like them who should be carrying the can for economic failure and not the most vulnerable in our country.”
It is thought other MPs will not be in Parliament for the vote, avoiding the need to rebel. Some 20 MPs nationally are thought to be ready to vote against the cap.
Labour has said that since much of the cap on spending does not include benefits linked to increased unemployment, it is happy to accept the changes.
The party has hit back at claims that there is little to differentiate its economic policy from the coalition, insisting a future Labour government would “make different choices”.
> It’s what the present Labour opposition is doing right now that really matters. And it doesn’t seem to be doing very much at all, apart from trying to make out it’ll be tougher on the poor than the current bunch.
Does ‘Red Ed’ really think that’s the way to win votes ? If he does, he’s going to be disapointed.
Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, Rachel Reeves, said Labour would support the Government when voting on the welfare cap, but insisted the party would also “take tough decisions” over future spending if in office after the General Election.
Source – Newcastle Journal, March 26 2014
The answer is George Osborne, his parents, and everyone he knows. The same could be said about David Cameron, Nick Clegg, David Miliband and even Nigel Farage. And that is the reason why high earners with whopping savings are now presented as the norm in the UK – and the only people that matter to all of the main political parties.
The reality is that the average weekly wage is just over £500 a week, which doesn’t leave much room for an ISA if that’s all a family has to live on. Around 5 million people are paid below the living wage, and another five million or so live from hand to mouth on meagre benefits. Nearly six and a half million households…
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This year’s five reasons for child poverty are predictably unemployment, along with low levels of qualifications, single parent families, having more than three children and ill health. Such is Iain Duncan Smith’s desperation to blame children being poor on anything other than not having enough money that this is his fourth re-definition of poverty in just three years. Previous reasons for poverty, which included step-parents, mothers with mental health problems, being disabled, and of course drugs, no longer make the top five.
The main thrust of the latest strategy is to tackle what is repeatedly referred to as ‘worklessness’ – as if raising children requires no effort at all. The measures to combat this great social ill – which can mean parents spending time raising their…
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100 ? Tip of the iceberg !
Reposted from The Green Benches
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Thousands of North East families are facing a bedroom tax bill of almost £20m.
According to new figures, by August – four months after the controversial spare room subsidy policy was introduced – nearly 30,000 of the region’s households had been hit by the new fees.
Each faces losing out on an average of £679.14 in housing benefits each year – though the picture is worse for people in County Durham, Newcastle and Sunderland, which are among the top 10 hardest-hit areas in the UK.
The National Housing Federation claims that 51% of households affected by the bedroom tax were unable to pay their rent between April and June. Their North East external affairs manager Monica Burns called for the policy to be repealed.
“These new Government figures show that the bedroom tax is affecting thousands of people in the North East – for many, there isn’t even anywhere for them to downsize to. There simply aren’t enough smaller social homes available, and the cost of private rented housing is rising.
“The North East is particularly hard-hit, with the highest proportion of people living in social housing affected by the bedroom tax in the country. The Government says discretionary housing payments will help those who cannot downsize, but there isn’t anywhere near enough money.
“The bedroom tax is trapping many people in homes they can no longer afford and where they are struggling. It is unfair, badly designed, and must be repealed.”
A spokesman for the Department for Work & Pensions ( DWP) said that it has given an extra £5,382,375 in funding to councils to make discretionary payments to help those struggling to pay.
Northumberland has received £416,365, Newcastle £685,271, Durham £883,089, Gateshead £373,518, North Tyneside £331,993, South Tyneside £305,483 and Sunderland £658,202.
Hang on – so the government imposes this tax on the poorest sector of society, presumably to raise money. Then, via the DWP, gives over 5 million of it back in order to fund people who cant pay it. Who then give it straight back to the government. Eh ?
I make no claims to being a financial expert (which, on recent evidence of the Co-Op Bank, should put me in the frame for a top job in banking), but I cant help thinking “why not just scrap the tax ?”
It doesn’t seem to raise much cash, is focused on the worst off, and is hardly a vote winner. Perhaps the government should put its mind to all those non-tax-paying corporations and super-rich tax dodgers instead ? But I guess bullies always go for easy targets.
Newcastle North MP Catherine McKinnell (Lab) –
“The bedroom tax is raised by constituents time and time again, who are being penalised for a situation not of their own making and who simply can’t afford to pay.
“These new figures illustrate the appalling impact this pernicious policy is having on many thousands of families across the region – with the extra £680 per year an almost impossible ask for people on low incomes already struggling with a cost of living crisis.
“The policy makes no sense. There are nowhere near sufficient smaller properties for people to move to, and it therefore does nothing to address overcrowding.
“Or – for the thousands of disabled people affected – they clearly need an additional bedroom as it can often be totally impractical for a couple to share in these circumstances.”
Oh, if only I believed Labour would rectify the situation if they win the next election… sadly I no longer have any faith in that direction.