Monday, 4 March 2013

Bedroom Tax, Under Occupancy Penalty, Welfare Reform, Community Charge, Poll Tax, Margaret Thatcher echo

The 'Bedroom Tax' echoes the 'Poll Tax', writes London journalist Paul Coleman. Ten disabled children are legally challenging the new 'Bedroom Tax' due to take effect from April 2013.
But let's zip back to 1989 when UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher tried to introduce her flat rate tax on every adult. Thatcher  sought to neutrally call the tax, the 'community charge'.
   But protesters, deeming it regressive and unfair to poorer folk who would've paid the same as richer people, tagged it the 'Poll Tax'. Many refused to pay. Some non-payers were jailed.
  And, after protesters and police violently clashed in London's Trafalgar Square, the 'poll tax' was politically poleaxed - a humiliating U-turn for Thatcher's government.

Disabled children's legal challenge
Fast forward to April 2013. The coalition government intends to introduce a welfare 'reform' it would like everyone to neutrally call, the 'under-occupation penalty'. Welfare benefits will be cut if recipients are deemed as having a spare bedroom in their council or housing association home.
   Under the new measure, two children under aged 16 of the same gender are required to share a room. Those under aged ten are required to share a room regardless of gender. 
   Housing benefits will be cut by 14% for one 'spare' bedroom and 25% for two or more 'extra' bedrooms. The government says affected  claimants will lose between £14-£16 a week on average.

Political echo
But, last Friday (1 March), ten disabled and 'vulnerable' children launched legal proceedings in the High Court against Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith to challenge the under-occupation penalty' or, as the children and many others now call it, the 'Bedroom Tax'. The ten litigants include one with Downs syndrome, three with autism, and another with a genetic condition.
   The ten children are challenging the expectation they will have to share a bedroom with their siblings. All have been assessed as needing their own bedrooms due to their disabilities or traumatic experience of abuse and domestic violence.
   Solicitor Rebekah Carrier, acting for the children and their parents, says: "Experts have assessed my clients as being unable to share a room with their siblings."

Urgent hearing 
The government says the Under Occupation Penalty is fairer as taxpayers' money is not spent on welfare benefit recipients who could move to a smaller home. The High Court is being asked to list the case for an urgent hearing. 
   Thatcher's defeated 'Poll Tax' represented a humiliating climb-down and paved the way for her resignation as Prime Minister and the Conservative Party's defeat by New Labour in 1987. 
The 'Bedroom Tax' echoes those heady days - but how strong will the echo resonate? Will recipient families with disabled children be exempted?

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, March 2013 

1 comment:

lili said...

how's this for a solution?