The bedroom tax is not a tax?
This annoys the hell out of me, it is simply the same as PAYE, it is deducted at source in exactly the same way and it is a tax. The originator of the phrase is aid to be Lord Best in the House of Lords debates on welfare reform. This explains and also raises another issue for me.
Will social services departments have to reassess every single care case that is affected by the bedroom tax? I mean that directly and indirectly. If so what is the public purse cost of this? About £3000 – £5000 per case I am reliably informed though that was a few years ago. Moreover, is the bedroom tax abuse? I don’t mean abusive in the lay sense I mean abuse in its legal sense? All of these questions came to me while re-reading this verbatim extract from Hansard below.
Lord Best: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, attributes the phrase “bedroom tax” to me, so I take responsibility for this-because it is a tax. It is not about trying to ensure to the property that best suits their needs; it is about raising money and reducing the deficit. We all understand about deficit reduction. Where we differ on this is whether people on the lowest incomes should be contributing to that deficit reduction with what is in effect a tax. It is a payment, which the tenant makes out of their benefits-out of the other benefits they receive, such as disability living allowance, income support or child benefits. It goes to government; that is where the payment ends up, and it reduces the deficit. That is a perfectly valid objective, but I and others maintain that it should not be at the expense of people who are living on the very lowest incomes at present.
The noble Baroness, Lady Turner, attributed the underlying problem to the shortage of accommodation, which then means that rents are much higher than one would hope and expect that they should be. It is not the fault of the occupier that they pay a large rent. We say that it is a disgrace that people are paying these enormous rents, but it is not that people wish to pay large sums in rent; that is what the market has determined. It is very different in London, as the noble Baroness pointed out, as it is in so many other places.
I am collecting examples of people who have written to me with their own cases. One after another, they are cases in which any reasonable person would say, “In that particular case, it seems very unfair for people to have to pay a new tax that they didn’t pay before-in that case, I agree that there should not be this tax to be paid”. One such case I can cite comes from the diocese of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich. I agreed very much with his words. I apologise to the Minister for repeating the content of an e-mail that I mentioned in Grand Committee, but it is such a typical case.
Lord Best then describes the example which gave rise to my questions above:-
“The lady has lived 23 years in her council house and now it contains herself and her husband. It has three bedrooms. They have actually done quite a bit of work to the House; the garden is immaculate-this is their home. But it is a tax, and they will face a bedroom tax of £25 a week unless they can move out. They have been told that there is a place in another Norfolk town. It is 16 miles from where they live, but there will be a place there in due course. It is not available at the moment, but in due course they will be able to get a one-bedroom flat. The absolute last thing that they want to do is to leave the family home where they have been for 23 years, where their children still come back at Christmas and on other occasions, and where she has a base to look after her mother in the village. It will cost the social services an arm and a leg to have to send in carers to look after mum. At the moment she goes in three times a day: once in the morning, briefly at lunchtime, and once in the evening. She will not be there to do that once she has moved away to the town. This is all ridiculous, and anyone would say, “Look, in that case don’t charge them the tax. Leave them where they are”. Anybody can see that that is the sensible thing to do.”
For these two scroungers (which is how the coalition describes them lest we forget) to downsize (which is what the coalition say they should do) means a move 16 miles away at some indeterminate point in the future. When they do what the coalition says they should and downsize their mother who must be a pensioner will need care from social services. Oh to hell with it why not put her in a care home and be done with it? Well apart from most people not being heartless bastards that would cost the state even more!
But let’s look at cost. The elderly mother will need and is legally entitled to a full care assessment under the Community Care Act. That initial assessment will not cost less than £3,000 and probably closer to £5,000…to the state for the £25 pw HB saving. This equates to about 4 years worth of bedroom tax deductions! Then we need to add to this the cost of any care that the state needs to provide….ah joined-up thinking eh!
If the mother already has a care package and her key support networks who provide much of the care (the couple affected by the bedroom tax) move 16 miles away, then the mother would need her care assessment and care package re-assessed. The same costs are involved as it’s another assessment and then further state outlay in increased care funded by the state. Yes, I realise this is central government passing financial cost onto local government, but then that is partly what the bedroom tax is. The rest is transferring financial risk by passing that to landlords and to tenants.
Of course the couple are not being forced to move whereas if they were I could easily give an argument where that would be abuse to the elderly mother. Yet they may have no choice but to move…until you realise this would mean they have to drive 672 miles per week (3 return journeys per day of 32 miles 7 days per week) and the cost of fuel for the car would alone outweigh that.
Of course I am assuming the bedroom tax affected couple has a car and can drive! What if they did not? And yes I am presuming Norfolk does have a reliable public transport system though even if so a 16 mile journey on public transport is at least an hour so that’s at least 3 x 3 hours trips per day and more on a Sunday as buses far less frequent.
What’s that reader? It would be better if the couple were heartless bastards and moved? Why should the state be subsidised by family supporting their parents at no cost to the state and then being taxed for it? I see your point and not exactly Cameron’s Big Society one is it?
Sorry I’m digressing. Where was I, of yes abuse! The elderly mother is being abused by the bedroom tax and in a number of ways too, financially and emotionally spring to mind.
Definition of ‘vulnerable adult’
Vulnerable adults are defined by government guidance called No secrets as people (a) who are or may be in need of community care services because of mental or other disability, age or illness, and or (b) who are unable to care for themselves or unable to protect themselves from significant harm or exploitation.
The guidance refers to harm in terms of ‘abuse’. This might be physical, sexual, psychological, financial or material, neglect and acts of omission, discriminatory or institutional.
The above definitions (and just why won’t this coalition define vulnerable in terms of the bedroom tax is a mere aside here!!) come from Safeguarding Best Practice given to local authorities. You will note it mentions “No Secrets” which the above document discusses its legal status:
No Secrets is not legislation. It is guidance only. However, in relation to local social services authorities it has the status of ‘statutory guidance’. This gives it particular importance, because it was issued under Section 7 of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970, which states that local authorities must act under the general guidance of the Secretary of State
It then at page 46 (the Safeguarding guidance is 299 pages long!) gives the No Secrets definition of ‘abuse’ which I reproduce below.
Now reader just think of the elderly mother in the above situation described by Lord Best and the couple who do care for her daily who are about to be hit by the bedroom tax. It reads:
The No secrets guidance illustrates each type of abuse:
- Physical abuse, including hitting, slapping, pushing, kicking, misuse of medication, restraint, or inappropriate sanctions.
- Sexual abuse, including rape and sexual assault or sexual acts to which the vulnerable adult has not consented, or could not consent or was pressured into consenting.
- Psychological abuse, including emotional abuse, threats of harm or abandonment, deprivation of contact, humiliation, blaming, controlling, intimidation, coercion, harassment, verbal abuse, isolation or withdrawal from services or supportive networks.
- Financial or material abuse, including theft, fraud, exploitation, pressure in connection with wills, property or inheritance or financial transactions, or the misuse or misappropriation of property, possessions or benefits.
- Neglect and acts of omission, including ignoring medical or physical care needs, failure to provide access to appropriate health, social care or educational services, the withholding of the necessities of life, such as medication, adequate nutrition and heating.
- Discriminatory abuse, including racist, sexist, that based on a person’s disability and other forms of harassment, slurs or similar treatment.
Read again this case and ask yourself does the circumstances described by Lord Best amount to abuse and not just be abusive? Threats or harm or abandonment? Deprivation of contact?
Or more generally is the bedroom tax on top of many other reforms which have led to many describing the pre bedroom tax issue as people choosing whether to eat or heat make the bedroom tax in itself abuse? How about if you add in below inflation welfare benefit uprating, with 9% fuel cost rises, with withdrawal of council tax benefit, with food prices set to rocket, with rents increasing by RPI inflation and more….what does it say above: -
- “Neglect and acts of omission, , failure to provide access to appropriate health, social care or educational services, the withholding of the necessities of life, such as medication, adequate nutrition and heating.
Is the bedroom tax abuse Reader? I think it could be and even if it isn’t, it is going to cost us a hell of a lot more isn’t it!