The so-called bedroom tax is one of this government's most hated policies. Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

The Lib Dems' change of heart over the bedroom tax shows the tide is turning

Even if the Liberal Democrats' u-turn on the bedroom tax is a political tool, it is a step in the right direction of abolishing this toxic policy.

The bedroom tax has been one of the most unpopular benefits policies in a long time. It has unfairly penalised disabled people and their families leading to financial hardship, not to mention emotional distress. Ill thought out and poorly implemented, it really is an example of top down policy with no consideration of the impact on disabled people’s lives. Unsurprisingly the Liberal Democrats are now distancing themselves from this toxic policy and have called for reforms to protect disabled people, the elderly and children.

Disabled people should never have been included in the bedroom tax. Placing financial penalties on some of the most vulnerable in society, many of whom have struggled to find a suitable property in the first place, is deeply flawed.

One of the farcical elements of this policy has been that in the long-term the costs of forcing a disabled person to move far exceed the savings of them living in a smaller property. Someone that I recently spoke to lives in a small two bedroom flat which has been specially adapted as he is deafblind.  He has also had extensive mobility training so that he can move around his home safely. He cannot afford the financial penalty imposed by the bedroom tax but equally moving will cost his local council a great deal as they will need to adapt a new property and provide more training to help him settle. Ironically if he moves he we will require a spare room for an overnight carer while adjusts to a new property.

Sadly this is just one example of the impact of the bedroom tax. Many disabled people are also found to have a so called 'extra room' despite requiring it because of their disability. This might be for storing equipment, for carers to stay in or for siblings who are unable to share a bedroom.

The media has been full of these troubling examples over the past 18 months including the Rutherford family in South Wales. Paul and Sue Rutherford care for their grandson Warren and use a spare bedroom for an occasional overnight carer. In May they lost their High Court battle against the claim that they are under occupying their property and their fight continues. Of course the emotional toll of these cases is also high and it is the human element of these stories that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Society’s treatment and views of disabled people are epitomised by the bedroom tax. I don’t believe that the Government set out to directly target disabled people when they drafted this policy. But their lack of care and overlooking the potential impact of disabled people is negligent and part of a much wider narrative. 

Disabled people have borne the brunt of coalitions benefit reforms. The move from DLA to PIP has been marred with delays, poor assessments and private sector companies who have performed poorly. Cuts to social care have also had a huge impact and many disabled people are struggling to get by. The Government should not be implementing sweeping national policies on housing or benefits forgetting the impact they will have on this large constituency. 

A one size fits all approach simply does not work when it comes to disability. After all ‘disability’ isn’t all the same. This is at the heart of the bedroom tax problem. Disabled people have different needs and these needs to be taken into account. Short term care and extra equipment need to be taken account of. We should not be marginalising disabled people, forcing them to live on the fringes of society. I fear this is what this policy is achieving.

The Liberal Democrats change of heart over the bedroom tax may well be a political tool, but it is a sign that the tide is turning.  Not only has the policy been a PR disaster for the Government, it has had a huge personal cost as well. Exempting disabled people from the bedroom tax is the right thing to do and I hope that the Government follows suit and finally acknowledges that they must reconsider this disastrous policy.
 

Richard Kramer is deputy CEO of deafblind charity Sense

Richard Kramer is Deputy Chief Executive of deafblind charity Sense.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

In the race to be France's next president, keep an eye on Arnaud Montebourg

Today's Morning Call. 

Good morning. As far as the Brexit talks are concerned, the least important voters are here in Britain. Whether UK plc gets a decent Brexit deal depends a lot more on who occupies the big jobs across Europe, and how stable they feel in doing so.

The far-right Freedom Party in Austria may have been repudiated at the presidential level but they still retain an interest in the legislative elections (due to be held by 2018). Both Lega Nord and Five Star in Italy will hope to emerge as the governing party at the next Italian election.

Some Conservative MPs are hoping for a clean sweep for the Eurosceptic right, the better to bring the whole EU down, while others believe that the more vulnerable the EU is, the better a deal Britain will get. The reality is that a European Union fearing it is in an advanced state of decay will be less inclined, not more, to give Britain a good deal. The stronger the EU is, the better for Brexit Britain, because the less attractive the exit door looks, the less of an incentive to make an example of the UK among the EU27.

That’s one of the many forces at work in next year’s French presidential election, which yesterday saw the entry of Manuel Valls, the French Prime Minister, into the race to be the Socialist Party’s candidate.

Though his star has fallen somewhat among the general public from the days when his opposition to halal supermarkets as mayor of Evry, and his anti-Roma statements as interior minister made him one of the most popular politicians in France, a Valls candidacy, while unlikely to translate to a finish in the top two for the Socialists could peel votes away from Marine Le Pen, potentially allowing Emanuel Macron to sneak into second place.

But it’s an open question whether he will get that far. The name to remember is Arnaud Montebourg, the former minister who quit Francois Hollande’s government over its right turn in 2014. Although as  Anne-Sylvaine Chassany reports, analysts believe the Socialist party rank-and-file has moved right since Valls finished fifth out of sixth in the last primary, Montebourg’s appeal to the party’s left flank gives him a strong chance.

Does that mean it’s time to pop the champagne on the French right? Monteburg may be able to take some votes from the leftist independent, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, and might do some indirect damage to the French Thatcherite Francois Fillon. His supporters will hope that his leftist economics will peel away supporters of Le Pen, too.

One thing is certain, however: while the chances of a final run-off between Le Pen and Fillon are still high,  Hollande’s resignation means that it is no longer certain that the centre and the left will not make it to that final round.

THE SOUND OF SILENCE

The government began its case at the Supreme Court yesterday, telling justices that the creation of the European Communities Act, which incorporates the European treaties into British law automatically, was designed not to create rights but to expedite the implementation of treaties, created through prerogative power. The government is arguing that Parliament, through silence, has accepted that all areas not defined as within its scope as prerogative powers. David Allen Green gives his verdict over at the FT.

MO’MENTUM, MO’PROBLEMS

The continuing acrimony in Momentum has once again burst out into the open after a fractious meeting to set the organisation’s rules and procedures, Jim Waterson reports over at BuzzFeed.  Jon Lansman, the organisation’s founder, still owns the data and has the ability to shut down the entire group, should he chose to do so, something he is being urged to do by allies. I explain the origins of the crisis here.

STOP ME IF YOU’VE HEARD THIS ONE  BEFORE

Italy’s oldest bank, Monte Paschi, may need a state bailout after its recapitalisation plan was thrown into doubt following Matteo Renzi’s resignation. Italy’s nervous bankers will wait to see if  €1bn of funds from a Qatari investment grouping will be forthcoming now that Renzi has left the scene.

BOOM BOOM

Strong growth in the services sector puts Britain on course to be the highest growing economy in the G7. But Mark Carney has warned that the “lost decade” of wage growth and the unease from the losers from globalisation must be tackled to head off the growing tide of “isolation and detachment”.

THE REPLACEMENTS

David Lidington will stand in for Theresa May, who is abroad, this week at Prime Ministers’ Questions. Emily Thornberry will stand in for Jeremy Corbyn.

QUIT PICKING ON ME!

Boris Johnson has asked Theresa May to get her speechwriters and other ministers to stop making jokes at his expense, Sam Coates reports in the Times. The gags are hurting Britain’s diplomatic standing, the Foreign Secretary argues.

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT

It’s beginning to feel a bit like Christmas! And to help you on your way, here’s Anna’s top 10 recommendations for Christmassy soundtracks.

MUST READS

Ian Hislop on the age of outrage

The lesson of 2016: identity matters, even for white people, says Helen

Why I’m concerned about people’s “very real concerns” on migration

Get Morning Call in your inbox every weekday – click here to sign up.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.