Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Bedroom Tax 'Disaster' Should Be Abolished

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Bedroom Tax 'Disaster' Should Be Abolished

Article excerpt

Byline: Mike Kelly Social Affairs Correspondent

THE bedroom tax should be abolished as it is having a "disastrous impact" on the country, particularly the North East.

That is the damning verdict of the National Housing Federation after a survey carried out for it laid bare the climate of fear the controversial policy has created.

It showed North East people affected by the policy are cutting down on essentials like food and heating to make ends meet.

And many say they have had to borrow money to help pay their rent since its introduction in April last year.

The research was carried out by pollsters Ipsos MORI for the National Housing Federation.

It said 32% of people affected by the bedroom tax in the North say they have cut back on food while 26% have cut back on heating.

Nearly half - 45% - of those affected in the region have needed to borrow money to help pay their rent.

Researchers also discovered 80% of people are concerned about falling behind with the rent, 90% are worried about meeting their living costs while 74% fear eviction.

National Housing Federation chief executive David Orr said: "People stung by the bedroom tax are being forced to make difficult choices on which bills to pay and which essentials to go without.

"They are living in fear that they will lose their homes and have resorted to borrowing from friends and family to try and get by."

The bedroom tax - also known as under occupancy charge - is a change to Housing Benefit Entitlement that means people receive less in housing benefit if they live in a housing association or council property that is deemed to have one or more spare bedrooms.

Having one spare bedroom means claimants lose 14% of their housing benefit, going up to 25% for two or more rooms.

The Government argues it will encourage people to downsize to smaller properties and help cut the PS23bn annual bill for housing benefit, free up living space for overcrowded families, and encourage people to get jobs.

But housing charities have long warned the result will be higher levels of rent arrears and greater homelessness.

Mr Orr said: "As we feared and warned, the bedroom tax is having a disastrous impact. The only solution is to abolish this policy which fails on every level."

Ray O'Connor says he is "100%" behind calls for the bedroom tax to be abolished because of the stress it has caused his family and others like them.

Ray, 55, of Walker, Newcastle, is a full-time carer for his wife Bridget, who was left needing round-theclock care after a stroke three years ago.

Because of Bridget's disabilities, one of their bedrooms has been specially adapted for her with a hospitalstyle bed. Ray sleeps in the second room and their third room is used by carers who stay overnight to help with 56-year-old Bridget's care. …

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