Islington hit twice as hard by bedroom tax

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Data visualisation by George Arnett

map key bedroom tax

Islington will be the London borough third worst-hit by the bedroom tax.

A shocking 3800 residents could be affected by the cuts to housing benefit, proportionally twice as many as the London average and over five times the number in some areas.

Typical of those who will be affected is an elderly Islington resident called Mary, who is completely bed-bound because she is severely disabled.

Her husband, Andrew, is also her carer. They were given a two-bedroom flat because they need to sleep in separate rooms.

Under the new rules, the couple will only be entitled to housing benefits for one bedroom.

The National Housing Federation has estimated almost 4,000 people in Islington will be hit by the cuts, 2,500 of whom are disabled. Each could be forced to find an extra £1,385 per year.

Emily Thornberry, Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury, said: “This is one of many outrageous attacks on poor people in central London: we’ve had the housing benefit cap which will drive thousands of residents out of their homes; people with disabilities have already been hit hard by the cuts and now there’s the bedroom tax on top of all that.

“This statement that ‘we’re all in it together’ is a wicked lie. Again we’re seeing the poorest and most vulnerable people in central London being hit the hardest.”

The government is pushing the tax in an attempt to provide more housing stock. It will affect people who claim housing benefit and have an unused bedroom in their property.

The housing benefit cuts will affect 18.5 residents out of every thousand, with only Southwark and Hackney suffering more.

The analysis, carried out by Islington Now, shows 19.1 out of every thousand residents in Southwark will be affected, and 18.59 per thousand in Hackney.

Rebekah Carrier, a Finsbury Park solicitor leading a legal challenge against housing benefit cuts, said the Discretionary Housing Fund – for those who cannot afford a cut in housing benefit – would not be enough to use on a long-term basis.

Rachel Geffen, chief executive of Disability Action in Islington, said: “It’s government ideology to try and put all the responsibility for the deficit on the poor and marginalised people in society.”

This week Iain Duncan Smith, Work and Pensions Secretary, announced foster carers and the parents of teenagers in the armed forces would be exempt from the cuts.

But Paul Smith, deputy leader of Islington Council, said the tax was, “along with the new poll tax, one of the cruellest things ever devised by a government because it’s deliberately designed to afflict pain and misery on working people.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions said: “With two million households on waiting lists for housing and 250,000 residents living in overcrowded accommodation, it’s unfair the taxpayer continues subsidising spare bedrooms. Tenants in accommodation too big for their needs have to contribute to their rent or move.”

Bedroom tax: case studies

Sheila and Paul’s story

Sheila and Paul were allocated a three-bedroom bungalow with a garden to share with their two sons.

The family faces being torn apart when changes to housing benefits are made in April.

Their youngest, 10-year-old Nick, is severely autistic and physically aggressive. He rages sometimes result in him attacking his 12-year-old brother Joe.

Nick has regular screaming fits, cannot stand having his possessions moved and has very disturbed sleep, despite medication.

A psychiatrist said he needs his own room as there would be a real risk of harm to his brother if they shared a bedroom. The psychiatrist added that the family need to stay in their current accommodation or Nick will have to leave his home, moving into specialist residential care.

Nick could not be treated if he shares a room with his brother.

Ruth’s story

Ruth is a single mother fighting to keep the three-bedroom flat she lives in with her 8-year-old autistic son and 5-year-old daughter who both require their own rooms.

Fleeing domestic violence from her former partner, Ruth and her children were made homeless in 2010 before being allocated a ground-floor flat with a garden.

Her son, Adam, is epileptic, autistic, has ADHD and disturbed sleep. The daughter, Sophie, could be hurt if she shared a room with her brother and requires a “safe space” of her own after witnessing the violence against her mother.

Under the changes to housing benefits, Ruth will not be able to afford the shortfall and would be forced to move.

Angela and Simon’s story

Angela and Simon are desperately bidding to move out of a two-bedroom flat they share with their severely disabled son and baby daughter.

Six-year-old Zack has a rare brain disorder and suffers from developmental delay.

He is still in nappies, cannot walk and takes liquids through a tube in his stomach.

He often requires attention at night and needs space for his equipment and care which disturbs his sister’s sleep.

The two-bedroom flat is not designed for their needs but despite bidding for a three-bedroom property adapted for wheelchair use, Angela and Simon will not be able to afford the shortfall in housing benefits between two and three bedroom accommodation under the new changes.

Jessica’s story

Jessica is a severely disabled woman who is completely bed bound.

Her husband, Andrew, is also her carer. They were given a two-bedroom flat because they need to sleep in separate rooms.

Under the new rules, the couple will only be entitled to housing benefits for one bedroom.