Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Government's bedroom tax is the stuff of nightmares

Ours, people of the UK, is a tough life. And a good thing too; toughness gives you strength. There are too many shirkers out there who aren't contributing to the rehabilitation of our recession-racked state.

These days, even wall to wall tracksuits - a sight last seen on the Nolan Show - can't be relied upon as proof of a strong, healthy community committed to working its fingers to the bone to prove its commitment to the good of the nation.

The government is doing what it can. It's spent two-and-a-half years training us all for a new national sport and lots of us are getting very good at it. It's called kicking a man when he's down.

This endeavour has been encouraged in various forms. The most successful one, in terms of spreading the word, was when the government brought in a private company, Atos, to start assessing whether disabled and chronically-ill recipients of benefits really deserved their allowance. Or 'kicking a man when he's in a wheelchair' as some wags dubbed it. Atos strove to make this a physically active pursuit, sometimes making claimants who were in pain get out of their chairs and walk to prove they were 'fit to work'. Fab news, lots of them were! QED, we now have a fitter Britain!

The latest Coalition fillip is the new 'bedroom tax' which comes into force in England in April, with Northern Ireland to follow. The gist is, if you have a room in your house which the government thinks you don't need, they'll take around £650 out of your existing annual housing benefit. If you can't afford that, you'll have to find a new house. Well, they promised they'd get us moving!

So if you have two bedrooms for two children under ten, you officially have a spare room and will be punished accordingly. Officially, foster children don't count as real so if yours has his/her own room, that's also deductible. Oh yeah, and if your son or daughter only spends a few nights a week with you because you've separated from their mother/father, that's not your child's bedroom any more, that's a gaping hole in government coffers. Ditto if your offspring is serving in the army and you keep a room with which to welcome them 'home' (I've apostrophised the word as the government is currently re-assessing its meaning).

Recently widowed? You better start saving, or you'll be shifted into a new, smaller, place, where you won't have any old memories to bother you. Which, to tap into the tough love philosophy our leaders are such fans of, is probably a good thing for your battered, lonely, bereaved brain.

It might seem hard to be forced out of the home you've grown and changed and brought up a family in, but in these chastened times we just can't afford sentimentality or kindness. Sure, it might threaten the close relationship you work hard to maintain with the child you don't live with full-time anymore, but that's really your fault for getting divorced.

If you've just lost a loved one you might regard your home as a place of sanctity and safety, maybe getting a bit emotional when you walk into the room where you set up that little Moses basket 30 years ago. But listen up - there are big, prestigious century-old banks out there who nearly went under! It's only right we should all pay something towards getting them back on their feet. Surely then we'll all feel better.

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