Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Government lies on disabled people and the bedroom tax

Today the High Court of Justice dismissed a legal challenge by ten disabled people and their families hit by the "under-occupancy penalty", referred to by the government as a "spare room subsidy" payed for by social housing tenants in recipient of housing benefit, and generally referred to as the bedroom tax by opponents (obviously including myself). This decision was under the duress of a 'discretionary fund' (a fixed, not annual scum) protecting disabled and vulnerable people, and their carers, from the policy. David Cameron has often referencing discretionary payments trying to justify this policy in response to harrowing stories of MPs' disabled constituents impacted by it. 

Disabled children are exempted from the policy (but as soon as they turn 18 are supposedly fair game for state-backed bullying and impoverishment).

It is estimated than two thirds of households hit by the bedroom tax include a disabled person. Over £500 million a year is being hypothetically being raised by the Department of Work and Pensions, which argues that the cost of the housing benefit budget makes its a necessity whilst ignoring the expense of subsidising the rents and buy-to-let empires of private sector landlords, through imposition of the bedroom tax. The government has increased its discretionary fund to £185 million; therefore, a minimum £315 million a year is being raised through burdening disabled people with the "spare room subsidy" (a figure only limited by the slight increase in the discretionary fund).

Disabled people often need a "spare" bedroom or extra space in their homes for a variety reasons, including storage for wheelchairs, mobility and medical equipment, or a separate sleeping place when a disability would make it impossible for them to get a decent night's sleep. One of the disabled bedroom tax victims involved in the legal challenge, Charlotte Carmichael, suffers from a condition which makes it necessary for her to sleep in a specially adapted hospital bed. The thousands of disabled people and their carers, unfortunate enough to be denied rationed discretionary payments from a limited fund, are being spared no mercy. This includes Victoria Kenning, a terminal cancer patient who is being threatened with eviction from her council home (by a Labour council) for her inability to pay the bedroom tax.

If the government truly cared about disabled people have their lives devastated by this wretched and barbaric policy, then it would simply exempt them from it. Its actions speak louder than words; though perhaps its professed "delight" for the High Court's decision is an exemption to this rule.

I would personally advocate that those effected, or any number of them, should take their cases to the European Court of Human Rights to resist the UK government's violations of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Whatever the case, if there will be no justice for the most fragile members of our society victim to this socioeconomic violence, then there should be no peace.

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