Yesterday’s ruling should see the policy abolished
To those who have campaigned against the so-called ‘bedroom tax’ from the beginning, Wednesday’s decision by the appeal court to rule the policy discriminatory and unlawful will come as no surprise. To those who continue to defend the policy, this ruling should act as a stark reminder of its remarkable failure.
When it was first introduced by the coalition government in 2013, the bedroom tax aimed to cut the welfare bill and free up in-demand housing. The policy works by cutting the benefits tenants receive by 14% if they have one spare bedroom and a staggering 25 per cent if they have two or more.
At first, it may seem reasonable to some to cut people’s benefits if they are living in a house with one or more spare bedrooms. The idea is that this significant reduction in income will encourage the occupant to move to a house where all the rooms are used, therefore freeing up the larger property for those who require more than one room.
However, when you begin to look at the implications of the policy, as well as the failure to achieve one of its main goals, it becomes clear that the bedroom tax has been a disaster from the off.
According to the government’s own research published in 2014, almost 60 per cent of those affected by the bedroom tax were in rent arrears as a result of the policy. Furthermore, according to a survey carried out by the National Housing Federation in the same year, around one in seven families had received eviction letters and faced the prospect of losing their homes.
Even more worryingly, research carried out by the government’s Department for Work & Pensions found that three-quarters of those affected by the policy have had to cut back on food, while 46% had to cut back on heating and 33 per cent on travel. Clearly, the bedroom tax is having an extreme impact on those who are already struggling, forcing them to scale back on the essentials. Such a situation is simply unacceptable and confirms the fears many raised when the policy was first introduced.
In addition, many have also criticised the bedroom tax for discriminating against vulnerable people. For example, Wednesday’s ruling by the appeal court dealt with a case involving a seriously disabled child who requires overnight care in a specially adapted room. The other case involved a single mother living in a three-bedroom council house fitted with a secure panic room to protect her from a violent ex-partner. In both cases, judges ruled that the bedroom tax amounted to unlawful discrimination