What is bedroom tax for?

I spoke at a meeting in Hollingdean last night, on behalf of the fledgeling Brighton Bedroom Tax Victims Support group.  This is roughly what I said:

I’m speaking on behalf of the bedroom tax victims support group. We’re trying to bring people together, gather information about the impact of bedroom tax on people in B&H, and present that to the council to give victims a stronger united voice. We’ve put posters up round the estates and people have been contacting us. We’ve heard some heartbreaking stories.

What is bedroom tax for?

Is it to make fairer use of limited social housing?

No, because we are not talking about unused rooms. We are talking about families like the people we have heard from in Brighton, who have taken in two of their grandchildren after their daughter died, and need a bedroom for when their third grandchild comes to visit. How is it fairer to disrupt those children’s lives yet further?

Is it to save money on benefits?

No, because we are not talking about people living the high life on free money from taxpayers. We are talking about people who are just scraping by already, on money that is just enough to keep body and soul together.

Like the tenant we have heard from in Brighton whose serious illness means he is no longer able to get out and live the active life he used to in the community. But at least he has a flat adapted to meet his needs, above a shop and with supportive neighbours. How will it save money to make him move away from that support network into a place that will need expensive adaptations?

How will it save money to push people into debt, depression and isolation?

What is it for then?

It’s to change the way we think – about each other, and about housing.

The tories hope the bedroom tax is the final blow to the idea of housing as a public service, the idea that everyone has a right to a secure and decent home.

Instead, they want us to think of social housing as some kind of reward for the deserving poor – something that can be given and taken away according to how ‘well’ people behave.

And they want us to think about people on benefits as scroungers, selfishly hoarding houses while other families are living in overcrowded conditions.

What can we do?

We can remember – and remind the people in power – that everyone has a right to a home, and to a private family life. Housing is not about fitting people into boxes like jigsaw pieces, it is about people having a stable base for their lives.

We can share our stories and listen to each other – bedroom tax victims are not stereotypes, they are real people. People who have lives, families, responsibilities, neighbours and friends in their communities.

We can support each other to break down the resentment and fear many people are feeling.

We can demand that our elected representatives actually represent us, support us and stand alongside us.

If anyone wants to get involved in the support group, please comment below – I won’t make your comment visible if you don’t want me to, but I will contact you by email.