The bedroom tax: there is an alternative

BedroomThere’s a frayed argument that runs through this age of austerity and it has been crystalized by the bedroom tax. In Scotland it tends to get short shrift, but it’s ultimately about sorting the ‘deserving’ from the ‘underserving’ poor and separating the ‘strivers’ from the ‘skivers’. 

As the Tories revel in becoming the ‘nasty party’ once again, anyone with any life experience knows that these categories are not mutually exclusive, although this truth seems to be entirely lost by the current government. The idea that a disabled person is just as likely to make a contribution to their community as an able bodied person doesn’t crop up, or that an alienated young person might question the need to strive for a society that doesn’t seem to respect who they are or where they come from.

Some of us might be tempted to ask how much ‘striving’ the current front benches at Westminster have done to get where they are. Almost all of them hail from the most privileged of backgrounds – like that alienated young person who ends up out of work and disengaged – they’re simply doing what is expected of them.


The great irony about the bedroom tax is the fact that it is addressing a massive problem created by the policies of a Tory government now held up as a paragon by the British right. Everyone knows that Thatcher’s flagship ‘right to buy’ policy has resulted in a massive increase in the cost of housing benefit, funnelling billions of taxpayers money into the notoriously iniquitous private rented sector, while social housing provision remains in a constant state of crisis.

The cost of ploughing these billions into the hands of private landlords, many of whom buy-to-let specifically for this purpose, has, perversely, allowed this government the political space to punish those most in need. In Scotland in particular there is a chronic shortage of one bedroom flats in the social housing sector – yet the idea is created by the right wing ideologues in government and the press that these thoroughly underserving people are enjoying some kind of luxury status by having an extra room. The partial u-turn by Iain Duncan Smith earlier this week demonstrates clearly that this is a policy devoid of common sense and is simply a punitive measure to remind thousands of ordinary people that, at least in the eyes of our current rulers, poverty remains a sin.

Shelter has already shown that this policy will cost the tax payer more – as those in social housing will be forced to move to the private sector due to a chronic shortage of one bedroom houses.  We support Shelter’s call for a legislative ban on evictions for bedroom tax rent arrears from the Scottish government, and for financial support to mitigate the effects of this brutal policy.

By now you may have detected an undercurrent of lack of respect for the policies of the UK coalition government. However, these are the facts of life and this is the political climate that we at the Caledonian Foundation have to operate in. We will do everything we can along with other agencies and organisations to help homeless people and people threatened by the loss of their homes through repossession. However, to do that, we need your help. We need your moral and financial support as every £30,000 we can raise triggers the finance which allows us to provide a home for a homeless person or family using our unique system of Micro Equity Home Ownership. MEHO removes the burden of debt from our tenants by allowing them to buy equity in their homes one share at a time.

You can learn everything you need to know about us, about MEHO, our work and how you can get involved in it. You can also learn how you can join with us to campaign and fight against the iniquitous policies being imposed on the most vulnerable by a UK Government totally divorced from the realities of life of those among us who are struggling to have or provide life’s basic necessities. Necessities like food, clothing, a warm home and a living wage.

At the Caledonian Foundation we think that a decent home is the most important building block for creating sustainable futures. Help us provide a debt free alternative today. 

Douglas Turner – Chairman


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The Caledonian Foundation is a registered charity in Scotland
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