Mention the words “bedroom tax” in conversation and the responses range from firsthand accounts of people being evicted from their homes to newly bereaved pensioners faced with the prospect of losing their homes because they can’t afford the rent. You can’t fail to have heard horror stories of desperate pensioners such as Stephanie Bottrill feeling suicide to be the only way out (DAILY MAIL, 2013) or a middle aged man “sick of all this shit...” slitting his throat in a benefit advice office. (DAILY MAIL JULY 2013) Is it fair to persecute the most vulnerable members of society? That all depends on how you define fair.
The bedroom tax, or under-occupancy charge as the government prefers it to be known, was designed to bring tenants in receipt of Housing Benefit (HB) in social housing into line with those living in private rented accommodation. From 1 April 2013, if you are a social housing tenant of working age receiving HB, and renting a home with more bedrooms than you need, your HB is reduced by 14% for one “spare” bedroom and 25% for two or more. (NORTHUMBERLAND COUNTY COUNCIL, 2013) The power to reduce HB in this way is contained in the Welfare Reform Act 2012 - quite possibly one of the most unpopular and controversial pieces of legislation introduced by the Conservative led coalition government.
It should be noted that the regulations do not define what a bedroom is, nor its size. Rumours abounded on various social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter that rooms under 70 square feet didn’t constitute a bedroom but this was a misconception based on an incorrect interpretation of overcrowding under the HOUSING ACT 1985.
The government says the bedroom tax is all about fairness; th...
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... . 2014. BBC Radio 4 - You and Yours, 08/03/2013 . [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01r12ls. [Accessed 08 January 2014].
Krishnan Guru-Murthy Channel 4 News. (2013). Bedroom tax debate: Liam Byrne and Nigel Mills - video. [Online Video]. 06 February. Available from: http://www.channel4.com/news/bedroom-tax-debate-liam-byrne-and-nigel-mills-video. [Accessed: 08 January 2014].
Michael Crick, Channel 4 News. (2013). Government majority cut in 'bedroom tax' debate. [Online Video]. 12 November 2013. Available from: http://www.channel4.com/news/bedroom-tax-labour-lib-dems-vote-commons. [Accessed: 08 January 2014].
Matt Frei, Channel 4 News. (2013). http://www.channel4.com/news/bedroom-tax-shapps-un-tory-video. [Online Video]. 11 September 2013. Available from: http://www.channel4.com/news/bedroom-tax-shapps-un-tory-video. [Accessed: 08 January 2014].
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