Local Meeting: Benefit Justice Campaign, 30 May

By - Thursday 23rd May, 2013

People across Croydon will meet on 30th May to discuss their opposition to the government’s benefit changes. Karen Grayson explains why she thinks you should join them

The bedroom tax and the benefits cap, alongside other sweeping changes to the benefits system and the reduction in vital services supporting disabled people and parents, are seriously hurting us, our neighbours, family, and friends.

Bromley and Croydon Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) is a campaign for the human rights of disabled people in the context of austerity and cuts to services and benefits. DPAC is holding a local Benefit Justice meeting in Croydon from 19:00-21:00 on 30th May at Acts Ministries, Acts House, 30 Union Road, Croydon, CR0 2XU. It’s an opportunity for people affected by the cuts to get some support, and for everyone to join the campaign against the cuts.

The bedroom tax will force those affected to either negotiate a cheaper rent if they can, move to smaller accommodation, or find the extra money out of their budget. For many people, moving is simply not an option. Firstly, there are not enough one bedroom flats for people to move to in Croydon. Secondly, some disabled people have a property that has been adapted for their needs, and the availability of adapted properties on the market is vanishingly small. Thirdly, some disabled people need an ‘extra’ bedroom to allow space for their equipment, or to allow couples to sleep separately where this is necessary. For those who cannot find a suitable smaller property, the change to housing benefit will effectively act as a tax on their already constrained budgets.

Claimants will be forced to move home, away from job opportunities and essential social support and family

The benefits cap will not apply to families in receipt of working tax credit, creating an artificial and stigmatising divide between the poor in work and the poor out of work. Despite the rhetoric of ‘strivers versus skivers’, 93% of new housing benefit applications over past two years were from people in work. 40% of Jobcentre Plus workers expected to implement Universal Credit will be affected by it. The cap on benefits is widely perceived as fair because it restricts claimants’ income to the average salary of a working person. However, this takes no account of need or of different costs due to high rents in some areas. The benefits cap will tend to hit families with three or more children, even if they are unable to move into paid work because of caring commitments or disability.

Single parents of young children, most of whom are women, will find it particularly difficult to balance work with childcare. In the cases where starting work is not an option and the cap makes life unaffordable, claimants will be forced to move home and potentially move away from essential social support and family, and possibly job opportunities, making it even harder to get into work in the long term and leaving families isolated.

The government’s cuts and their rhetoric about the undeserving poor must be challenged

Families who are unable to move to a cheaper and smaller property, or who feel they cannot move because of the impact on their access to services, community, and family, will be forced to choose between heating and eating. Their human rights will be infringed by cuts that bring their standard of living so low that most of us would consider it unacceptable. The benefits cap, on top of the bedroom tax, will impoverish and stigmatise people who can’t move home, while driving out others to unfamiliar parts of the country, uprooting their lives and their support networks, and leaving London to the better off.

Protests have sprung up across the country, with a thousand people marching in Haringey and Leeds. Tenants in Liverpool occupied a local housing association. Housing associations and councils have redesignated rooms to avoid the bedroom tax.

The meeting on 30th May is a chance for our community to come together to talk about how we oppose benefit injustice and fight for an alternative in our local area. The government’s cuts and their rhetoric about the undeserving poor must be challenged.

Ellen Clifford

Ellen Clifford

Ellen is a mental health service user who has been involved in campaigning for the rights of disabled people for the past 13 years. She has worked supporting People First self advocacy organisations on both national and local levels and has set up disabled people’s organisations in Newham and Bromley. Ellen is a former trustee of Wish and is currently on the national steering group for Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC). Ellen works for Inclusion London as their Campaigns and Communications Officer.

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