Shocking figures showed that a majority of families with children on Merseyside are cutting back on food, gas, and electricity to pay the Bedroom Tax.
A survey carried out by four of the largest housing associations in the Liverpool city region revealed that:
- 112 families with children (83% of respondents to the survey) have cut back on their food budgets.
- 96 families with children (71%) have cut back on essential household bills, either by going without gas, electricity, and water, or by incurring additional debt on those bills.
- 67 families with children (49%) have resorted to payday loans, doorstep loans, credit cards, or store cards to get by from week to week.
Among the examples of human suffering raised in evidence were:
- A parent who reported going “hungry or cold” on a number of occasions so they could both feed their child and make up the gap in rent that was opened up by the bedroom tax, “so I don’t lose my home.”
- A parent who wrapped herself and her daughter in several blankets to keep warm one evening, as they could not afford any gas.
- A parent in low-paid work who reported getting “deeper and deeper into debt.”
- A parent’s frequent dilemma between whether to “buy clothes for my daughter or pay bills.”
The survey was carried out on behalf of the Liverpool City Region child poverty and life chances commission, chaired by Birkenhead MP Frank Field. The group is calling for an overhaul of the law and is also hoping to launch a legal appeal for families seeking exemption from the Bedroom Tax.
The controversial tax sees housing benefits slashed if residents are deemed to have unnecessary spare bedrooms, in a bid to free up larger homes.
The reforms proposed by the anti-poverty commission include changing the size criteria, so that the tax applies only to households with two or more spare bedrooms. This, it says, would stop poorer families from being penalised for having one spare bedroom through no fault of their own.
Mr Field said: “Having borne the brunt of the Bedroom Tax over the past three years, I hope Merseyside will now spearhead the campaign to protect poorer families from the heart-breaking effects that have been reported to the commission.
“We are calling for a series of reforms from the Government to deliver greater fairness, and for families who may meet the criteria for exemption to help us mount a legal campaign.”
Any families or legal specialists who wish to respond to the commission’s appeal, can contact Frank Field MP on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0207 219 6636.