Nothing typifies the vicious war against the poorest and most vulnerable sections of the working class more than the introduction next month of the coalition government’s bedroom tax.
This tax, a part of the overall campaign to smash the benefit system that underpins the welfare state, comes into effect in April and, according to the government’s own figures, will affect 660,000 people, 150,00 being single parents.
Under this tax these people claiming housing benefit will have this benefit cut because they are deemed to live in a council house or housing association property which has a ‘spare’ bedroom.
Anyone claiming Housing Benefit or the new Universal Credit and is deemed to have one unused bedroom will lose 14% of their benefit, while those with two spare bedrooms will have 25% cut from housing benefit.
The average cut will be a massive £728 a year.
Under the new laws on housing benefit each person or couple is entitled to one bedroom, children under 16 of the same gender are expected to share while children under ten are expected to share a bedroom regardless of gender.
Those who will be hit particularly hard by this cut include separated parents who share child care (only one parent will be able to claim an ‘extra’ bedroom for the child), foster carers (foster children do not count as part of the household), families with disabled children and disabled people including those in adapted or specially designed properties.
According to the National Housing Federation hundreds of thousands of disabled people will be severely affected.
These are people who for reasons of their disability have to have separate bedrooms from their partners, they face having their benefit cut as a direct result of these changes.
David Orr, chief executive of the federation, said: ‘The bedroom tax is ill-thought and unfair as thousands of disabled people will have no choice but to cut back further on food and other expenses in order to stay in their own homes.’
Not just the disabled have been forced into this position of course; everyone on housing benefit faces the same stark choice.
People being forced to move into smaller accommodation will find there are no properties for them to move to.
According to various housing associations around the country there is a complete dearth of one or two bedroom properties for people to move into.
In Cleveland they report that 1,800 tenants fall into the category of ‘under-occupying’ but in the whole region there are only two one-bedroom properties, while in Hull, for the 4,700 facing cuts, there are only 73 one or two bedroom properties that they could move to.
In practice, people, including single parents and couples with children and the disabled, will be forced into expensive private accommodation, which they will not be able to afford because of the cap on all benefits (including housing) that is a central feature of the universal credit system, or being evicted and either shoved into bed & breakfast or left on the streets to rot.
This violent assault on the low-paid, unemployed and disabled has met with the most craven response from the Labour leadership with Liam Byrne, shadow works and pensions secretary, merely stating ‘it’s not too late for the prime minister to do the decent thing, admit he has got this wrong and think again.’
There can be no changing the mind of Cameron and the coalition, they are quite aware of what the effects of this tax and the entire universal credit system will be and they don’t care.
All that concerns them is to make the working class pay for the debts of the banks.
The only thing you can do with this government is to kick it out through the general strike and go forward to a workers government that will ensure affordable decent housing for all.