Saving our Safety Net fact of the week: 60% of the adults hit by the Bedroom Tax are women
The Bedroom Tax is a weapon aimed directly at women and disabled people.
Last year Stephanie Bottrill killed herself, leaving a note blaming the bedroom tax. The day before, she told her doctor that she was worried she would have to move out of her house or pay extra to stay – with the council housing department giving here just half an hour to decide. This summer a coroner decided that she killed herself because of worry about the Bedroom Tax.
3 years ago, after her marriage broke up Dee Newman and her children were moved into a 3 bedroom house. But it was soon became the house had problems – damp walls, mouldy furniture. Dee has obsessive compulsive disorder and as the damp got worse, so did her condition and she had to let the children go and live with her mother. But in the meantime, the Bedroom Tax was introduced. Now that the children weren’t living with her any more, Dee was “over-occupying” by two bedrooms. For an uninhabitable house she had to find an extra £23 a week. There was no hope of moving to a 1-bedroom property: in Bolton, where she lives, there were 14,525 people waiting for just 13 one-bedroom properties. And, in any case, she wanted somewhere her children could move back to. Eventually, she was accepted for a two-bedroom property – but half way through the process, she was rejected because of Bedroom Tax arrears.
The fact is that benefit cuts necessarily hit women, children and disabled people, because they are the groups most likely to be poor. As I’ve mentioned before, of the individuals living in relative poverty:
- 40% are women
- 37% are men
- 23% are children.
The risk of poverty is half as high again for families where someone is disabled as it is for families where no-one is disabled (21 per cent against 14 per cent).
So a system that redistributes income from those who can afford to pay to those who need it most necessarily benefits the poorest members of our society, especially women, children and disabled people.
And welfare cuts necessarily hurt those groups most.
And that is what the Bedroom Tax does.
The government’s own equality impact assessment of the Bedroom Tax forecast that an astounding 63 per cent of the families losing out – on average by £14 a week – would include a disabled claimant or partner.
The gender impact forecast was even worse. 340,000 of the families hit by the Bedroom Tax are single women, compared to 160,000 single men and 160,000 couples. That means 500,000 women claimants and partners of claimants to 320,000 men. 150,000 of the single women losing out are lone parents.
The most recent statistics show that the total number of people affected by the Bedroom Tax has come down to about half a million, from the 660,000 expected at the time of that assessment, but there’s no reason to believe that the proportions between men and women, disabled and non-disabled people have changed.
Hacking away at the safety net is necessarily an anti-women policy.