Bedroom Tax – The disabled myth is counterproductive

Two weeks ago I posted a blog on the bedroom tax which took off for want of a better expression. It was extremely widely read and retweeted on Twitter and received many comments and provoked many discussions on Facebook.  The interest genuinely surprised me. I posted a follow-up blog which did the same which lead to a series of blogs and again all of them ‘took off.’

In context my blogs were well read anyway amongst housing bloggers yet since 21 January to date which is just over two weeks the bedroom tax blogs (all here) account for over 30% of all my blogs that were read in the whole of 2012. I received calls and emails from TV, mainstream news journalists and other parts of the media all premised with we’ve been told you’re the bedroom tax expert!!  I see! So two weeks of looking at the bedroom tax makes me an expert then!!!

All I did was look at the bedroom tax in a different way by asking simple questions such as Is it lawful or What is a bedroom or Does a bedroom have a minimum size and other seemingly obvious ones.  Yet these simple questions exposed many previously undiscussed aspects of the bedroom tax.

However what has also been obvious is the level of ignorance about the bedroom tax by tenants and landlords; the number of repeated myths about it; and the woeful ignorance of many involved in housing with regard to Housing Benefit; and why the hell is there a distinct lack of challenge to the bedroom tax from opposition MPs.

The bedroom tax is out there, it is on TV news it is being discussed by the public – So if you are going to challenge it then do it properly and don’t shoot yourself in the foot by stating myths and alleged ‘facts’ that are so easily disproved.

Myths

The biggest and most-repeated myth is that two-thirds of people affected by the bedroom tax are disabled! 

470,000 disabled are affected by bedroom tax and 670,000 in total surely that is two in every three

No. The bedroom tax affects 670,000 HOUSEHOLDS and as each one of them is likely to have 2.4 PEOPLE in them we can say the bedroom tax affects 1.6m or so PEOPLE.  The 470,000 PEOPLE that have a disability may represent two-thirds of affected bedroom tax households but they only amount to 30% of PEOPLE affected by the bedroom tax – 470,000 of 1,600,000 is just under 30%

That said however, the government equality impact assessment (EIA) on the bedroom tax is woefully deficient and is in my view arguable legally to be flawed.  The government has not paid due regard to the needs of those with a disability with the bedroom tax policy.  I just wish that all those that say ‘two-thirds of those affected are disabled’ realise that in repeating this myth all their opponents have to do to say you are massively over-estimating this for effect and thereby they diminish your argument as one without credibility.

A classic case of the myth was Owen Jones article in yesterday’s Independent in which this myth and easily disproved myth was stated.  That was very sloppy work.  He could be excused for not knowing the bedroom tax does affect pensioners as about 99%+ of housing professionals didn’t realise. (This of course goes to show just how badly aided tenants are and have been by the bedroom tax challenge from their landlords.) Yet knowing that would have bolstered Owen Jones overall argument massively and helped affected tenants challenge the pernicious bedroom tax which was his purpose.  I can also forgive silly errors he made such as the HB bill is £23.6bn and not the £21bn figure he used.  Yet in restating the ‘two-thirds affected are disabled’ myth he and the Labour Party for whom he speaks frequently on TV have done a disservice to the tenants affected by the bedroom tax.

By the way just where the hell is Labour’s voice on the bedroom tax?  When a huge political dish is fed to you on a silver platter – pensioners ARE affected by the bedroom tax which the Tories have been denying – it is your job as the formal Opposition to come out and stand four-square behind the poor vulnerable sods who are affected by the bedroom tax.  Yet the silence is deafening and much as it is a deafening silence by social landlords and many don’t appear to believe it despite this being revealed to them by the great and the good of social housing – the Chartered Institute of Housing, National Housing Federation, the Northern Housing Consortium and the LGA – in their co-authored Making if Fit document of 2012 which was….yes a guide for landlords to prepare for the bedroom tax!

Sorry reader, I know “You couldn’t make it up” is a phrase I overuse but if the cap fits…!

The fabulous Spartacus report showed the way on how to challenge and was effective because it used fact and not alleged ‘facts’ which turned out to be wrong.

Tenant, landlord and opposition MPs let Steve Webb the junior DWP minister trotted out to defend the bedroom tax on TV get away with (a) we have put £30m into DHPs for those affected and (b) Housing Benefit is currently paying for a million spare bedrooms.

Yet on (a) if government claim the bedroom tax will save £480m and they are only putting in £30m it means 15 out of 16 people affected by the bedroom tax wont get a penny.  94% wont get any help

On (b) why hasn’t it been argued that the government spends circa £1.4bn per year – about 3 times more than claimed bedroom tax saving –  paying owners to keep spare bedrooms and even spare houses and even spare 2nd houses by giving them a 25% cut off their council tax.

Also as 90,000 pensioners will be affected by the bedroom tax they presumably will also be affected by council tax and not be exempt. Has local government considered this in their new council tax support policies?  I doubt it very much and so does that mean these new policies are unlawful as they havent considered this?  There is one case in the High Court today about unlawful setting of council tax but I bet they havent got this angle given it is so new!

What if the Burnip case comes back from the Supreme Court and upholds the Court of Appeal judgment? If it does then if a disabled child is allowed a bedroom each (in some cases) surely a disabled adult is? Yet all the TV news programmes have shown couples where one partner has cerebral palsy and husband has to sleep in the 2nd bedroom – for which the bedroom tax is to be applied.  That can’t hold can it? So why didn’t the News programmes mention this potential challenge and note until Burnip is decided by the Supreme Court the law stands that disabled persons are entitled to their own rooms in some cases – see the DWPs own A6/2012 HB circular which says this.

New challenges emerge all the time and by the day when the welfare reforms are unravelled.  There are so many routes to challenge that increase by the day yet why has this taken so long?

The chronic lack of knowledge about the bedroom tax and the other welfare reforms are only matched by the lack of democratic scrutiny they received in the huge number of welfare reform debates in both houses of parliament.

Challenge, challenge and challenge again but please don’t use easily disproveable myths that render such challenges as discredited.

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8 thoughts on “Bedroom Tax – The disabled myth is counterproductive

  1. I suspect oppo politicians don’t think in terms of challenging on legal or lawful grounds, or grounds of incoherence or on the myriad grounds that this is all bad policy. Instead they think only of challenging by headline. If it won’t fit easily into a redtop banner headline they ignore it and move on.

  2. You article is very good like the first one, because it establishes facts. I think you need to contact directly journalists, associations, in order to get these figures and these facts widely known.
    I might have been responsible partly for the success of your blog, because I mentioned it to Nick at Mylegal. He is a lawyer who is like you, debunking the myths, and especially the figures published by the government about the number of disabled found fit to work. He is on twitter and worth following

  3. Hi Joe could you tell me if anyone has looked at the human rights article 8 side of things? I have little money as it is and travel once a month to Scotland to get my son for the weekend. If I have to pay extra towards my rent I may have to make the visits every 6 weeks or 8 weeks, I already go without meals and heating in order to manage to get him monthly. Won’t my and my sons human rights be breached if this tax affects our family life?

  4. I predict that MPs, councillors and the media will be reporting on real cases and anomilies once the change comes into force. Beforehand it is all claim and counter claim. There are plenty of tennager/youngster sharing scenarios which we will see in the news. I accidentally found a three bed which had been converted to a two bed last week – to allow for someone’s disability. They had already had a letter saying they would lose money. I’ve managed to sort that one but lets see how many cases raise their heads. Remember there is no definition of a bedroom.

  5. Just a thought….. if people are forced into smaller private tenancy homes in order not to pay the bedroom tax and the rent is higher then who benefits? The landlords…….. and who are these landlords affiliated to………………

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