Sunday, 17 February 2013



Cllr Clive Hart - TDC Leader

In April, thanks to the Government's Welfare Reform Act, the new 'spare bedroom tax' comes into force, meaning many low-income families and disabled people will have to move or face a financial cut. It is a key part of the government's poorly thought through changes to social security and is aimed at what the government calls "under-occupation". Basically, if you live in social housing and are termed 'one bedroom over', your housing benefit will be docked by 14% and hundreds of thousands of people across the country who live on very tight incomes are expected to either stay in their homes and pay extra, or move.

The Conservative-led government says the spare bedroom tax is intended to "contain growing housing benefit expenditure, encourage greater mobility within the social rented sector, make better use of available social housing stock, and improve work incentives for working-age claimants". It sets stiff new rules for housing provided by councils and housing associations and many argue these contradict the very purpose of social housing.

It gets worse. If you're a separated or divorced couple who share the care of your children, only one of you will be allowed the extra room. If a family contains two children of the same sex under sixteen, they must share, and the same will apply to mixed-sex children under ten. I understand there are no exceptions for foster carers, who might need extra space for children they look after. 

Further examples of this government imposed anxiety abound. I've read of a teenage son on active military service whose bravery will soon apparently affect his parents finances. Following her husbands death after his many years of illness, a severely disabled elderly lady will have to move away from the neighbours who have supported her in her grief and provided further practical help with shopping and so on. Last but far from least, a family who traumatically lost a very young daughter and who will shortly have to pay extra for the temporary shrine her bedroom has quite understandably become. I'm sure there are numerous other heartbreaking scenarios   
It's reported that the spare bedroom tax will affect 660,000 households across the country and it is estimated that around two thirds of those affected will have at least one person with a disability. The fact is, the national housing shortage means that the government's proposed downsizing simply cannot practically take place.
The government's relentless cuts and reforms will hit Thanet hard and many of our local residents who'll be hit hardest appear almost unaware of what is coming in just a few weeks time.
At TDC we will do everything we possibly can to help and assist residents affected by these poorly conceived government changes. However, I fear that with many other benefit cuts also on the way and further government cuts to council resources, the task for us and many other councils may simply become overwhelming.
Cllr Clive Hart - TDC Leader


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