From the Joint Public Issues Team
The bedroom tax was one of the most controversial and widely condemned policies included within the Welfare Reform and Work Bill 2012. When the policy was announced in January 2013, the Government stated that the bedroom tax could be changed if it had unforeseen impacts. Baptist, Methodist and United Reformed Churches later created this briefing explaining why the bedroom tax, alongside other changes to housing, posed a serious risk of increasing inequality and poverty.
The new research, conducted by Ipsos MORI and the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning, has confirmed campaigners’ fears. Among other findings:
- 78% regularly run out of money by the end of the month
for the control group not affected by the bedroom tax, the figure of those who cut back on food was the lesser figure of 56% proving the direct link between the bedroom tax and lack of food
- 46% have cut back on heating
- Only one in nine found alternative accommodation – this cuts against the stated purpose of the bedroom tax to compel tenants to downsize to smaller properties
A government spokeswoman was quoted as saying “It is wrong that under the previous system taxpayers had to subsidise benefit claimants to live in houses that are larger than they require”. Yet the research supports previous claims that smaller properties are simply not available in the needed quantities.
With affected individuals having to do without food and heating, the bedroom tax is a recipe for ill-health. We have also blogged on how the Prime Minister’s previous claim that disabled people are exempt from the bedroom tax is simply untrue.
The Government’s preferred term for the bedroom tax is the spare room subsidy – with the implication that tenants with one or more ‘spare rooms’ are enjoying more space than they deserve. To encourage claimants to move, the bedroom tax comprises an ‘under-occupancy penalty’ of 14% of housing benefit for one extra room and 25% for two or more extra rooms. Among all the policies introduced in the last round of welfare reform, the punitive nature of the bedroom tax was particularly marked.
In short, the bedroom tax is a risk to people’s health and is mean spirited and punitive. The Government should honour its commitment of January 2013 and review it – or better, scrap it.