UN official says we should get rid of bedroom tax

  • The United Nation's special investigator looking into bedroom tax has told the British government they should get rid of the scheme after hearing "shocking" accounts of how the policy was affecting vulnerable citizens.

    Raquel Rolnik, the UN special rapporteur on housing told the Guardian that Britain's record on housing was worsening from a human rights perspective as it was failing to provide sufficient quantities of affordable social housing, and by the impact of welfare reform. She came to this conclusion after travelling to Belfast, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh and London.

    Ms Rolnik found that after speaking to dozens of council house tenants over her two week investigation she was extremely concerned by the impact of bedroom tax. She said she was disturbed by the extent of unhappiness caused by the bedroom tax and found that it was affecting "the most vulnerable, the most fragile, the people who are on the fringes of coping with everyday life."

    On her visit she visted council estates, food banks, homelessness crisis centres, Traveller sites and new housing association developments. After this she said that "my immediate recommendation is that the bedroom tax is abolished."

    "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'."

    ."It's so clear that the government didn't really assess the impact on lives when it took this decision ... The mechanism that they have in place to mitigate it - 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," she said.

    Ms Rolnik says that the bedroom tax could constitute a violation of the human right to adequate housing in several ways, for example the extra payments are forcing tenants to cut down on their food spending and heating their home.

    The final report will be presented to the Human Rights Council in March 2014.

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