Bedroom Tax – a real case and how to deal with it? (And a bit of a rant)

The Bedroom Tax stories are getting everywhere aren’t they and my local paper the Liverpool Echo is no exception tonight.

It runs a story (online here) and what the non-Liverpool based reader will not know is that the headline “FORCED TO PAY TAX ON DEAD SON’S BEDROOM” takes up half of the front page of the paper.

All emotional and emotive arguments aside the story is tragically in July 2011 the autistic son of a family dies and the family claim it was due to an ambulance not being able to find his address. There is an ongoing legal action about this. The family mention they moved there in April 2011 just 3 months earlier so that 10 year-old Kane could have his own room and a garden to play in.

The local paper then has comments in the article that the family couldn’t get legal aid and terrorists get it..etc..the usual local paper sensationalism.  It goes on to say to quote the managing director of Cobalt Housing saying and I quote as this is relevant

“…In recent months we have been informing all our customers that the Government is making big changes to the benefits system.”

And I also quote the still grieving and rightfully angry Mother who says “We just had a letter the other day to say they would be charging us bedroom tax on Kane’s bed-room”

Note that I have highlighted the timing as this is important and I maintain should be used as a challenge to the bedroom tax applying until at least January 2014. I have also highlighted the landlord (correctly) stating this is a Government change and not the landlord’s doing. I pick this point up later.

Their notification of the bedroom tax cut arrived in the last few days and lets’ say 27th January 2013 and used that date for illustration.  I maintain that the bedroom tax should not correctly and legally apply until 27th January 2014 and here’s why.

The A4/2012 HB circular is the official guidance given by central government to local government HB decision makers with regard to the bedroom tax. In that guidance which local authorities have to follow it says at point 26 on page 8 the following: –

There will also be a need to identify if there are any claimants who would be deemed to be under-occupying but would have their level of housing benefit protected for 12 months under regulation 12BA(3), protection on death or 13 weeks under regulation 12BA(6)”

Read that carefully.  It says a bedroom tax deduction from a death will not apply for the first 12 months.  What that says to me is that the guidance sees a need in HB regulation, or law if you prefer, for a 12 months notice of a change when related to a death (the bedroom tax applicability) before it is actioned, and so that the family affected by such a traumatic experience have 12 months to sort out their options.  That to me is eminently sensible and fair.

That is the principle of this clause yet this family have had just 12 WEEKS notice and that I argue is not only unfair but challengeable in law.

What annoys me and should anger the social landlord is that I saw this potential challenge within 2 minutes of reading the article, yet the social landlord’s staffing team appear not to have seen this route of challenge – a team that in the managing directors own words have been working for months on this and says: –

“We will be contacting Lindsey immediately to arrange a home visit so that we can discuss the options available to her and see what additional support we can provide.”

If the landlord had seen this option that I discuss above surely they would have said!

Why didn’t they and havent they seen this?

I must just have a warped mind do you think?

Comments anyone on this possible route of challenge?

Update – I originally in error said above the article stated it was asylum seekers got legal aid not terrorists now corrected.

Doesn’t change the issue and while I understand a local paper or even national TV news running the bedroom tax – the current zeitgeist – as human interest stories, the public soon tires of them and becomes inured to them.  The bedroom tax is so much more than human interest stories to fill a column in a paper of a 30 second slot on TV news.

Families are already choosing whether to eat or heat in their homes and council tax cuts, the overall benefit cap and others on top of bedroom tax, going to food banks (refugees in our own country) at alarming rates, direct payment of benefit monthly, chronic rise in payday lenders, rise in working girls on the streets (prostitution not called the oldest profession for nothing is it), rise in domestic violence due to lack of money, 1% benefit rises while gas and lecky (electricity to you Southerners) rises by 9%, food prices about to rocket, schools feeding children because there’s no food at home, educational attainment with depths that can be measures to coincide with the last week of the month before benefit is paid and I could go on and on – Yes human interest stories sell papers get readers – the same readers and viewers that frankly don’t want to know the real issues…you know the hardworking families now called strivers, you know the ones nobody recognise make up one-third of all Housing Benefit claimants.

What you didn’t know that of the 5.05m Housing Benefit claimants that 1.29m are 65+ and a further 1.04m are on Pension Credit leaving 2.72m Housing Benefit claimants are of working-age and 929,000 of them are in work in Britain’s so low paid economy that you qualify for benefit for your rent – Yes those strivers are getting hit by the bedroom tax too not just the quadriplegic and other ‘public-sympathy’ cases the media like to use as ‘human interest’ stories.

Still at least older persons are exempt from all the bedroom tax and other welfare reforms – a chronic rise in hypothermia deaths doesn’t go down too well with the electorate now would it?

Cheer up bound to be another royal baby soon or a war…no gotta be a baby, a war would show that soldiers away bravely fighting for this (once) wonderful caring country will see their mum or/and dad get hit by the bedroom tax for SOLDIERS rooms while they’re busy away fighting for this uncaring beggar they neighbour attitude of a country.

Talking of neighbours the bedroom tax affects 670,000 households and at 2.4 people per household that’s 1.6m men women and children. 670,000 out of about 1.6 – 1.8m social tenants of working-age, you know the only ones that can be affected – that’s about 2 in 5 social tenant households.  If you live in a really small street, you know say 40 houses, you think you can check on the 16 families who are struggling like mad and probably too proud to ask for any help…you know like you used to pop in and check on an elderly neighbour when it got a bit cold.

You know what Mr Osborne those curtains may be drawn because they’re ashamed someone could look in through the window and see the abject poverty they live in or it could be just to keep any heat in. Or maybe to stop their kids seeing what their mates are up to outside and they can’t afford to go outside as they’re wearing last years fashion or hand me downs.

Reminds me of my time heading up the asylum seeker dispersal programme in the late 1990s for a Northern Council.  Working from an imposing huge open plan office with the other sections convinced these asylum seekers were the economic migrant scum the Daily Mail et al labelled them as – just as this coalition is labelling social tenants as scum and feckless and scrounging off the state.  Then one day I asked the entire office via a memo if anyone had an old pair of football boots.  I’d just been to see one of the asylum seeker families and a football mad 7-year-old Kosovan boy wasnt allowed by his mum to play football.  I asked why and she told me he only had one pair of shoes, which were polished every day for school and of course for church on Sunday.

8.30 the next morning I walked into the office.  My desk had 5 cardboard boxes on it, 14 pairs of football boots from memory, football tops, shorts and socks from so many teams and an anonymous handwritten note…Sorry Joe didn’t realise that asylum seekers were just like us

Don’t tell me British people are uncaring because they are not!

Rant over.

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