Open Letter From Paul Rutherford On The 'Bedroom Tax' Debate
Dear Members of Parliament,
I'm sorry I feel that I must write this today, but watching what is happening in this country makes me despair. It makes me upset and it absolutely appals me. And I am by no means alone in feeling this way.
What is happening to our society when ordinary people are being used as political pawns in what seems to be a 'rich man's game' over which they have absolutely no control?
Of paramount importance in the coming week, on Tuesday 12th November, is Labour's Opposition Day Debate: 'Abolition of the Bedroom Tax'.
The 'Bedroom Tax' [as popularly known], may have begun as an idea by which it was thought some Social Housing could be freed up in order to positively affect 'overcrowding'. The very same idea was mooted by Margaret Thatcher's government back in the 1980s but dismissed as not only unworkable but also potentially politically damaging.
The 'Bedroom Tax' is causing so much worry, misery and hardship among many thousands of those affected. It has also directly contributed to suicide.
The 'Bedroom Tax' has without doubt hurt many of your own Constituents. I am sure that you have heard personal examples of the absolute unfairness of this policy at your own surgeries.
On a personal level, my family's 'Bedroom Tax' experience has been one of struggle and fear.
My wife and I care for one of her grandchildren, Warren Todd, who has profound and multiple disabilities, requiring 24 hour care and supervision. We live in a purpose-built, heavily adapted bungalow. Over £20,000 worth of further adaptations were added in September, thanks to a Welsh Assembly grant. We have carers to help with Warren and despite needing a room for them to sleep in and to store his equipment, we are considered to be underoccupying.
You can watch a short film made by the BBC about our case here:
After a long battle and a series of appeals, we were finally granted a Discretionary Housing Payment to cover the Housing Benefit we have lost: for a year.
To many, £14 a week may seem like a pittance. To us it is a lot.
What perhaps staggers us most, is that there is absolutely no recognition by the government that we actually save the Public Purse a minimum of £250,000 a year by caring for Warren. We don't seek praise, just help in difficult circumstances.
The amount effectively saved by kinship carers such as ourselves is assessed by some charities as well over a billion pounds a year. Carers need real understanding, compassion and help from those in power so that they can continue to help save the government such a huge amount of money.
Why then are people such as us, the chronically sick, the disabled and their carers forced into ever more penury by the imposition of 'Bedroom Tax' and indeed, other changes to Social Security?
There are plenty of 'fit' people adversely and unfairly affected by the 'Bedroom Tax' as well, and I hope they have been represented elsewhere.
What is so morally wrong with requiring space to store often bulky medical and other disability-related equipment that the government sees fit to penalise people for it?
What is so morally wrong with making sure that the vulnerable are looked after properly in a fair society?
How is it possible that people who are elected to serve their constituents are prepared to allow the most vulnerable and needy of them to be treated in such an inhumane way?
We see the government fighting to protect bankers' huge bonuses and arguing to keep meal allowances while simultaneously reducing social security for those most vulnerable.
That is not demonstrative of austerity in action. Politicians ought to be seen as role models, as caring individuals who put the people of this country first. That, unfortunately does not appear to be the case for many.
To me, it seems that the rich and comfortable are motivated by bonuses but the poor and vulnerable are expected to be motivated by sanctions.
I find this so very hard to understand.
I would, therefore, respectfully ask you to consider the real human impact of the 'Bedroom Tax'.
I ask you to consider fully what you, as an individual, ought to be doing to truly help those who truly need your help, but in many cases, do not know where to turn.
This single issue is perhaps now one on which the next Parliament will be decided. To vote in support of the 'Bedroom Tax' will be seen by millions as a vote against the welfare and dignity of this country's most vulnerable people.
Please vote to repeal this legislation before it is too late.
Stand up for the vulnerable.
Film of our story from BBC1's 'Saints and Scroungers' [30/10/2013] is here:
Details of our legal challenge may be seen here:
A recent Daily Mirror article [6/11/2013] is here: