For Mother’s Day, help families keep their homes: fight the #bedroomtax

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Mother’s day tomorrow. The boy has already presented me with the card he made at school a couple of times and I had to rescue it from the baby’s enthusiastic additions before things really kicked off. I’ve not got round to getting anything for my own long suffering mother, without whom I would have real issues working and keeping a roof over our heads, so that will be a quick dash in the morning before we head over to see her.

On the campaign trail this week I traveled on a train belonging to a company that is part of a certain bearded law-suit happy entrepreneur’s empire. I am yet to meet anyone who is happy with the high-tech door system on these (or any other) trains, and was particularly horrified to find the nearest one had a door which the guard informed me needed “a good shove” just to add to the usual “will the door suddenly initiate its unstoppable journey open while I’m mid-flow” panic.

The only similar sensation I have ever had to the kind of fear induced in me by those toilets is the anxiety I had when our landlord in a grotty private flat we lived in in the early 00s developed a habit of turning up without warning and letting himself in. Most psychologists would be able to tell you that anxiety in this type of situation is pretty common for humans – we have a basic need for security in terms of feeling safe – either from others coming into our “safe areas” or more generally from lack of control over our home environment – which is close to the bottom of the human hierarchy of needs, just above physical needs such as food etc.

While we are on the subject, I should probably add at this point that another key issue with housing in terms of psychological and sociological impact is over-crowding. Over-crowding in the home is linked with a range of ills, from increased risk of mental illnesses such as Schizophrenia, increased stress, and poorer general outcomes in terms of health, education etc.

From April 1st this year the coalition will be introducing a cut to housing benefit which will cause a huge level of stress and upheaval for some of the UK’s most vulnerable people, including single mothers, the disabled, and foster families. The cut in benefits will hit hard, taking money from

  1. Families where children under 10 are not sharing a room – the assumption is that this should be happening, regardless of gender
  2. Families where one member of a couple is disabled and they are sleeping separately
  3. Families who foster – rooms for foster children will no longer count as acceptable under the change
  4. Single parents who don’t have the majority share in living with their children, who will now need to move into housing where they don’t have room for children to come and stop over.

For many, the shortage of social housing will mean they are forced into the private sector (see above for my thoughts on private housing in terms of sense of security in the home), meaning more money actually going out of the public purse and into private profit. For some,  the move will actually lead to an increase in the amount of money they have to pay (and therefore higher housing benefit costs to the state). For a large number of the disabled people affected by the bedroom tax the cut will mean a move from specially adapted accommodation to somewhere new which needs costly adaptations all over again. So the idea that it is going to save huge amounts of money for the state has been exaggerated if not completely fabricated.

What the bedroom tax is really about is undermining the basic comforts and psychological security of working class people in our society. As far as the coalition Government are concerned, anyone who is in receipt of any form of benefit – never mind if they are the working poor, never mind if they are disabled, never mind if they are a single parent to a young family, never mind if there is mass unemployment and increasing powers for employers to fire at will – is a parasite. The vast majority of our cabinet of millionaires have absolutely no idea what it is like to have no control over what will happen to their children in terms of having a secure base in the community they have been raised in, and they will never find out. It suits the confidence in their entitlement to privilege which keeps these people striking away at the core living standards of those beneath them to determinedly believe in the face of all evidence that anyone who isn’t happy to see their family yanked up at the root can prevent this through sheer force of moral responsibility. They simply have no idea.

If, like me, you haven’t got round to sorting anything out for your much deserving mother yet this weekend, the shops should still be open. However, you can do something much bigger than that to stand up for mothers around the UK who are fighting to keep their family homes, and fight the bedroom tax. Next weekend, on Saturday the 16th March, thousands around the country will be coming together in various towns and cities to tell our government we do not accept a society in which single parent families, foster families and the disabled, along with the rest of the working class who will fall under the benefit cuts, are deemed unworthy of basic security in keeping their homes, but the super-rich who own many homes deserve tax cuts.

There will be at least 50 demonstrations taking place around the UK.

  • There is a list of the bedroom tax protests here.
  • If you would like to take part in the demonstrations but are unable to attend in person you can join the virtual protest here.
  • Please also sign the parliamentary petition which has been set up here.

The government are already starting to wobble considerably on this crucial issue. They are being challenged legally by a collection of vulnerable individuals who are making the case that it will disproportionately affect the disabled, and in some cases mean children are being put at risk of harm. A huge turnout next week, followed by a coordinated national mass-campaign, could be Cameron’s poll tax moment. Let’s stand together for all those families out there to make it happen.

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