Bedroom tax drives John to food bank

The bedroom tax, if it has its way, is set to destroy John’s life. This is a man who really deserves a break. He brought up his two youngest children on his own since they were 12. He also has a head injury and has been on employment support allowance (ESA). He also receives Disability Living Allowance at the lowest rate. He’s not allowed to use a cooker because of his head injury, so his kind neighbour cooks the occasional meal for him. She also does his shopping.

John, 56, can’t afford a landline or a mobile, but his neighbour lets him make calls on her phone as necessary. She’s his key support in life, but the bedroom tax looks like it will force him to move away from her and to leave the home he’s lived in for 25 years. John’s kids have left home now, and he’s now faced with paying £44 a fortnight in bedroom tax, including arrears. He’s also being asked to pay £16 a fortnight in water rates. Out of his ESA he also has to pay council tax, gas, and electricity bills. ‘The bedroom tax has really clobbered me. The budget that’s been hit is the one for food. The money I was using for food now has to go on bedroom tax,’ says John. So he’s been forced to come to this London Trussell Trust food bank for help.

He’s applied for a discretionary housing payment (DHP). Each local council is given a pot of money to help those on housing benefit who are having trouble paying their rent. John says councils are not flagging up the existence of DHPs.

But something wonderful just may be on the horizon…. Could the bedroom tax be dead? According to @SPeyeJoe who blogs at Welfarewrites, the bedroom tax is, like the dead parrot, ‘over, defunct, brown bread, deceased, late…..’. In his excellent blog, he says that a recent ‘hugely significant’ appeal win in South Wales appears to be the ‘first known judgment to use the Bolton definition of “bedroom” to mean a room needs to be used or furnished as a bedroom to be a bedroom’. Welfarewrites says that what also follows from this is that ‘your local council needs to know that a room in your property is used as or furnished as a bedroom and they can only do this by coming out to inspect’. He also points out that ‘no council has the time or the resources to go out and inspect every one of the properties that are bedroom tax affected’.

He concludes that ‘every single bedroom tax household can and should appeal their bedroom tax decision made for the 2013/14 financial year as there is no way that their council could have known that rooms in their properties were used as or furnished as a bedroom’.

I’ll be passing this information back to John. Thank you for your hard work, Welfarewrites.

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