SHAFAQNA Exclusive: Bedroom tax hitting low income people in the UK

SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – According to British newspaper Independent, more than 50000 people are affected by the bedroom tax and facing eviction from their homes. The bedroom tax penalises tenants if they have an extra bedroom by reducing their housing benefit by up to 25 per cent. The statistics from 114 local authorities of Britain showed that the number of affected tenants is much more than the 50000. Another 30000 people have also fallen behind their rent payments since the introduction of the bedroom tax.

Raquel Rolnik the United Nations’ special investigator on housing called for a rethink on the policy after finding the reform was causing “great stress and anxiety” to “very vulnerable” people. She also told Guardian newspaper that Britain's record on housing was also worsening from a human rights perspective. After speaking to dozens of council tenants in Britain during her recent visit, Rolnik said she was particularly concerned by the impact of bedroom tax. Rolnik said she was disturbed by the extent of unhappiness caused by the bedroom tax and struck by how heavily this policy was affecting "the most vulnerable, the most fragile, and the people who are on the fringes of coping with everyday life".

Rolnik said housing crisis was an urgent subject for investigation "I was very shocked to hear how people really feel abused in their human rights by this decision and why, being so vulnerable, they should pay for the cost of the economic downturn, which was brought about by the financial crisis. People in testimonies were crying, saying 'I have nowhere to go', 'I will commit suicide'." She added that "It is so clear that the British government didn't really assess the impact on lives when it took this decision. The mechanism that they have in place to mitigate the new tax, the discretionary payment that they provide the councils with, it doesn't solve anything, it's for just a couple of months, and the councils cannot count on that on a permanent basis, they don't know if it's going to be available next year, so it's useless."

The bedroom tax could constitute a violation of the human right to adequate housing in several ways, announced the UN special envoy "It depends on how much the judiciary here takes into account the international legislation. In principle they should because the UK has signed and ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights," she said, pointing to the document which defines adequate housing as a human right. Union boss Frances O’Grady said “The bedroom tax is not saving money. Instead it is pushing up rent arrears which will force councils to waste more cash on evictions, debt collection and emergency support for homeless families.”

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