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

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Will anyone sing for the Brexiters?

The five acts booked to perform at pro-Brexit music festival Bpop Live are down to one.

Do Brexiters like music too? If the lineup of Bpoplive (or more accurately: “Brexit Live presents: Bpop Live”) is anything to go by, the answer is no. Ok, former lineup.

The anti-Europe rally-cum-music festival has already been postponed once, after the drum and bass duo Sigma cancelled saying they “weren’t told Bpoplive was a political event”.

But then earlier this week the party was back on, set for Sunday 19 June, 4 days before the referendum, and a week before Glastonbury, saving music lovers a difficult dilemma. The new lineup had just 5 acts: the 90s boybands East17 and 5ive, Alesha Dixon of Britain’s Got Talent and Strictly Come Dancing fame, family act Sister Sledge and Gwen Dickey of Rose Royce.

Unfortunately for those who have already shelled out £23 for a ticket, that 5 is now down to 1. First to pull out were 5ive, who told the Mirror that “as a band [they] have no political allegiances or opinions for either side.” Instead, they said, their “allegiance is first and foremost to their fans”. All 4our of them.

Next to drop was Alesha Dixon, whose spokesperson said that that she decided to withdraw when it became clear that the event was to be “more of a political rally with entertainment included” than “a multi-artist pop concert in a fantastic venue in the heart of the UK”. Some reports suggested she was wary of sharing a platform with Nigel Farage, though she has no qualms about sitting behind a big desk with Simon Cowell

A spokesperson for Sister Sledge then told Political Scrapbook that they had left the Brexit family too, swiftly followed by East 17 who decided not to stay another day.

So, it’s down to Gwen Dickey.

Dickey seems as yet disinclined to exit the Brexit stage, telling the Mirror: "I am not allowed to get into political matters in this lovely country and vote. It is not allowed as a American citizen living here. I have enough going on in my head and heart regarding matters in my own country at this time. Who will be the next President of the USA is of greater concern to me and for you?"

With the event in flux, it doesn’t look like the tickets are selling quickly.

In February, as David Cameron’s EU renegotiation floundered, the Daily Mail ran a front-page editorial asking “Who will speak for England?” Watch out for tomorrow’s update: “Who will sing for the Brexiters?”

I'm a mole, innit.