An inspector calls: Can YOU help her assess the damage caused by the bedroom tax?

Hugely unpopular: Thousands of people have demonstrated against the bedroom tax on the poor since it was first announced by our government of millionaires - this one was in Glasgow.

Hugely unpopular: Thousands of people have demonstrated against the bedroom tax on the poor since it was first announced by our government of millionaires – this one was in Glasgow.

A United Nations inspector has arrived in the UK to investigate whether David Cameron’s Coalition government has reneged on international agreements giving everybody the right to adequate housing and shelter.

Special rapporteur Raquel Rolnik has been asked to assess whether bedroom tax-related eviction threats that are driving tenants to suicide mean the UK is refusing that right to its citizens – and you can help her with this by emailing your story to her on [email protected]

Come to that, there’s no reason for victims of the ESA assessment regime, for whom loss of the benefit involves a threat of eviction, not to provide their story as well. Is that you? [email protected]

Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognises the right to housing as part of the right to an adequate standard of living: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”

An article announcing the visit in the Morning Star (it doesn’t seem to have been picked up by the pro-Coalition newspapers) said the visit was likely to infuriate our comedy Prime Minister, David Cameron.

The article states that he described this country, in a speech to the UN last year, as “a country that keeps its promises to the poorest”.

It seems possible he will argue that under-occupation of social housing – having a ‘spare room’ as defined by his law – means people are getting more than they deserve.

But the government’s clear failure to provide enough social housing of a size and standard appropriate for the 660,000 affected households in the UK – some of the poorest in the country – is likely to weigh against him.

And then there is the fact that the policy has driven people to death.

For example: John Walker, of Marsh Green, Bolton, was found hanged at his home by former partner Susan Martin in May. He had been worried about mounting financial problems, worsened by being forced to pay extra rent on his home under the bedroom tax. A suicide note was found in the property.

And Greater Manchester Against the Bedroom Tax’s Mark Krantz told the Morning Star of an eviction in Oldham where bailiffs discovered the tenant had also hanged himself, and was dead.

These two deaths pale into insignificance, of course, when compared with the monumental death toll caused by the Department for Work and Pensions and its assessment regime for Employment and Support Allowance. The plan, which aims to knock as many sick and disabled people off-benefit as possible – for any reason at all – has led to thousands (possibly tens of thousands) of deaths as claimants’ health conditions have overtaken their bodies’ ability to cope, or the prospect of destitution or being a financial burden on friends and family has forced them into suicide. The DWP is currently refusing to issue figures on the number of deaths that have taken place, among those either claiming or appealing, since the start of 2012 – and it is believed that this can only be because the numbers are far greater than the already-appalling 73-a-week average that was revealed for 2011. No figures are known for the 70 per cent of claimants who have been marked “fit for work” and thrown off the benefit altogether, who have not appealed against the decision. The DWP does not monitor their well-being at all.

Ms Rolnik is expected to meet with government officials, non-government organisations, housing associations and individuals in a tour of England and Scotland.

But to get a full picture of the situation here, she needs to hear from real people who have become victims of the robber-government’s punitive policies. She needs to hear from you: [email protected]

55 thoughts on “An inspector calls: Can YOU help her assess the damage caused by the bedroom tax?

  1. Pingback: An inspector calls: Can YOU help her assess the damage caused by the bedroom tax? | My Blog

  2. Big Bill

    How does losing your ESA involve an eviction threat? You don’t lose your housing benefit, just your ESA. It’s great news the UN are taking an active interest though as she’ll no doubt be able to report back, no matter how informally, on other matters too.

      1. john

        exactly and how do people prop up their shortfall of housing benefits through the bed tax if they have no esa that the government have stolen so that they can go buy nukes for syria then they gotta eat its your HUMAN RIGHT to eat and have a home its a disgrace to humanity this is even allowed to start and anyone that truely believes the government are saying about the needy on benefits should hang their heads in shame

      2. Alba

        @ Big Bill, not everyone that’s misfortunate enough to claim ESA live in social housing. I worked all my life, bought my own home, but through no fault of my own, I’m now disabled. I’m not entitled to housing benefit,and my ESA was stopped for over a year, pending my appeal which I won.

      1. Big Bill

        Losing your ESA has nothing to do with your housing benefit and neither does your being unable to seek work. You fill in a nil income form which you get from the council and off you go.

    1. elegant edict

      I lost my ESA and JSA was negated due to me not being able to actively seek work. Therefore, I lost my housing benefit and had to leave my flat under threat of eviction.

    2. kevin crossley

      I had a long problem with a back problem waiting to bee seen at hospital waiting on a list for treatment,when the treatment started i had physio and then they tried hydro which did not help.then they sent me to see the chronic pain team which there was six month waiting list ,i tried going back to work on a part time but still in agony the company sent me to see the company physio which the company paid for it helped a little ………i then started back to work part time as a duty manager had an accident where a chair collapsed which triggered my back to flare up which i had to go back on the my appointment from the pain team they juggled around my medication,i had to see a physco and an occupational health worker as well as physio.i was still on appeal for E.S.A.
      Then the company sent me to see the company doctor went there in pain she looked at me then she said why did they send me in that condition they made a report back to company saying i was not fit for work.the company decided to dismiss me on capability back in April 2012.
      I was still waiting for the appeal at the court and tribunal,i had a stroke in July 2012 i had move out off my flat which i loved it was a 2 bedroom because i was stressed out with the thought off paying the bedroom tax and with everything wot has been going on worrying about money issues and the court and tribunal and losing my job.
      I got a date for my tribunal which was may this year,which i lost my tribunal so i took advice they told me to reapply for i did now i have to go through the process all over again.This stressing me out since i have moved i have to register at another doctors they are sending back to the Chronic pain rehab again i asked the old team if they could refer me from my old place to another authority they said go to my G.P. they can not do it.when i had my stroke it left me with weakness down the left hand side and lost my eyesight but the court and tribunal said they can not judge me on that because it was not wot they are judge me on the appeal forms.

    3. Jill Copeland

      You do lose your housing benifit when you lose your ESA, it is stopped as soon as your decision for ESA is made. You can claim it again along with whichever benifit you claim, but it takes several weeks to be reinstated and in the mean time if your housing association is anything like mine you are under constant threat of being evicted

      1. Big Bill

        When you fail your WCA the DWP inform the council there’s been a change in your circumstances. When this happened to me (this was with the PCA) I rang the council immediately and explained what had happened and that I’d be on whatever benefit (I can’t remember what it was now) while I was appealing and they got me the forms out straight away and there was no break in my HB. They need to know what the change in your circumstances entails, all they have to do (IIRC) is make some small change in your records and payments carry on. I had the imporession from the woman I talked to that another time I could have just rung them and told them without any need for filling in forms. Don’t forget, they could do without all the paperwork too! If it’s all handled properly there shouldn’t be any break in your HB.

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  4. Sasson Hann

    I tried to post this article on a prominent facebook group page around 2 hours ago, but it was taken down almost immediately. More shenanigans on facebook groups purporting to support those worst hit by welfare reform?

    That said Mike, I’ve tried to find anything out about this article other than the Morning Star, and nothing about it is mentioned on the UN page, or elsewhere that I can see (other than blog sites referring to this article). Being equally cynical about the government’s hold over the media however, it wouldn’t surprise me if they’d ordered the main newspapers not to print it.

    Nevertheless, I think you’ve nothing to lose by emailing your experiences (as long as you don’t include too many personal details like your house number/post code/telephone just in case).

    I hope we can find out further verifiable details concerning this in due course; perhaps someone could contact the Morning Star to obtain some.

    Thanks Mike.

    Sasson Hann

    1. Mike Sivier

      Well, the email address is for the UN, but I think your advice about personal details is reasonable when people are making a first approach.

      I’d like to know which Facebook group you tried posting to.

      1. Sasson Hann

        I just checked this morning and the article was not taken down the second time I posted it, so it’s restored my confidence in that particular facebook page: ‘The People Vs The Government, DWP and Atos’; perhaps I could have made a mistake when I posted it.

        Sure enough later on an admin from another group found additional articles, and a direct reference for Mrs. Raquel Rolnik on the UN website, but none in the main newspapers, which does seem a bit strange Mike as this is a big issue that is causing loss of life.

        Anyway, glad that it’s been verified; will be making my own submission on the matter.

        Sasson Hann

  5. Samwise Gamgee

    This is bound to upset Call Me Dave, as you said, but I doubt even the robots in the Coalition could deny or whitewash any report given in the wake of this UN inspection, particularly if it is damning of the government’s policies. My question is how will Labour react to this? Will they have the gumption to capitalise on any report (yes, I want Labour to get political about this!), or will they fall into line as they have done before.

    It will be interesting to see how the parties react if any conclusions are made in the run up to the next election. That might well set the cat among the pigeons.

  6. Samwise Gamgee

    I wonder if this UN intervention is linked to this in any way:

    From the linked article

    “A DISABILITY campaigner from Canada has vowed to contact the United Nations to raise the plight of a Vange man hit by the controversial bedroom tax.

    The Echo reported earlier this month Alan Cooper, 49, was being forced to pay an extra £50 a month to keep his lifesaving kidney dialysis equipment at his home.

    Basildon Council moved him into his two-bedroom groundfloor flat in Riverview, Vange, in April 2011 as, despite being single, he had a medical note explaining his need for an extra room because of his kidney failure.

    Samuel Miller, 56, an activist from Montreal, Canada, now wants to help Mr Cooper after reading about his difficulties since the Government introduced its bedroom tax in April.

    Mr Miller, who was born with cerebral palsy, has been regularly reporting to the United Nations on Britain’s disability issues over the last two years.”

  7. Pingback: An inspector calls: Can YOU help her assess the damage caused by the bedroom tax? | elentari98

  8. elentari98

    It is horrifying. Horror stalks the land. Britain is becoming a terrible place. It seems that they really do mean to kill many people, and the most vulnerable of them all. What has happened to our civilisation?

    1. bob archer

      what has happened to our civilisation is that too many people forget the last time that the very,very,very nasty party were in power. thatcher closed the pits, the iron and steel trades,decimated our shipbuilding and sold off all our nationalised industries and utilities to all and sundry and put a million and a half young people on the dole, and guess what, theyre still at it.

  9. beastrabban

    Samwise Gamgee, when you called Cameron ‘Call Me Dave’ and described the coalition as robots, were you likening him to the evil robot dictator Call-Me-Kenneth in a very early Judge Dredd story? If so, you wouldn’t be the first person to note the similarity between the Coalition and the various crims and villains that have tried it on against Megacity One’s greatest lawman. A correspondent to ‘Private Eye’ a year or so ago noted how, in the ‘Judge Caligula’ story, the evil dictator Judge Cal was supported by the brutal alien Kleggs. It seems whatever we say about the Coalition, script robots Wagner and Grant got there first.

    1. Samwise Gamgee

      You give me too much credit there beastrabban! I called them in government robots because, well that’s what they appear to be – cold, mechanical, heartless and lacking in compassion. And I’ve never read a Judge Dredd comic in my life…

    2. beetleypete

      You do like a 2000AD reference occasionally Beast…I would have though Frank Herbert books would have been more in your line, or did you read them in ‘Galaxy’ magazine?

      1. Mike Sivier

        Perhaps I should head off this particular sub-thread before it gets properly started (although 2000 AD has always held – and continues to maintain – a strong line of social commentary/satire).

  10. beetleypete

    Great stuff Mike, just the start of a plague of suicides and depressions brought on by this. Perhaps, as someone alludes above, the invasion of Syria will serve to get it off the headlines, if nothing else will. Regards, Pete.

  11. Pingback: Watchdog probes tax ‘linked to suicide cases’ | Street Democracy - where it should reach

  12. Paul Delaney

    As I said before, maybe we need to call on the UN inspectors to oust our callous dictatorial government, they’re killing innocent people with ATOS, deadlier than SARIN gas..

  13. Samwise Gamgee

    For those fighting to give Labour back its soul, people like Lord Hutton – former DWP secretary under Blair – are what stand in their way. I’m not sure of Hutton’s party affiliation now, but opinions like this, voiced by a former Labour front bencher, are only going to play into Tory hands.

    ‘Unsustainable’ benefits system fuels work-shy says ex-Labour minister: Lord Hutton says politicians have ‘lost the plot’ over ever-growing bill”

    Apologies for linking to another Daily Mail article, but I thought this might be worthy of attention, buried as it is under the coverage of Syria – and badger culling…

  14. Stephen Bee

    I have offered a different perspective for UN Rapporteur consideration, which whilst not relating to individual stories, may offer some sort of background information that might be useful in conjunction with her own findings. I think this article is particularly well thought out and to the nature of the Coalition Governments policies and diktats.

  15. Denise Clendinning

    Yes i read that in the mail as i always look to see what rubbish their writing and this man is a traitor He even went on to say the pensions were not sustainable i fear for this country so much we all have to stand together.

  16. Billy Carlin

    Time for everyone to research what is really going on and take these corrupt politicians – of ALL parties on – with the truth.

    I have done so with regard to ATOS as per the following link to a post on my blog at that time:

    What the government are doing is ILLEGAL – The country is being run illegally as per my letter and they are making things up as they go along. Read what I said in my appeal on that post – they could not make up their mind at the first tribunal and requested the 2 previous years of my medical records, questioned my sanity because of what I wrote and said that I was to appear at the second hearing. I replied with Albert Einstein’s quote that “people who condemn without investigation are the height of ignorance and stupidity and that this clearly applied to them and that, again, I was not attending because lawfully I did not have to as they had all the information from previous assessments and appeal. I won my appeal which I was hoping that I would not as I was going to take it all the way up to the Court of Human Rights as I had stated in my letter with all of the evidence relating to what I had stated in it.

    Everyone should be doing this to show how illegal they and the system are – that is what they are scared of. It is the same with the bedroom tax etc it is all illegal and against common law. Watch the videos on the latest post at my blog, Paisley Expressions, re the Vatican owns your soul by Santos Bonacci and the one by John Harris – It’s all an illusion. Watch all the videos by these two people if you haven’t already to learn how much we are all being conned. I have already had my local council run away from challenges I have made against them re parking tickets and their other unlawful “policies”.

    1. Big Bill

      I believe you could easily have won your appeal just by referring to case law which says the assessor and so Atos and the DWP have to establish, ie prove, your circumstances have changed for the better since your last appeal which you won. Here’s a snippet I got from an old forum, can’t find the original now sadly

      “Fantastic news – review not done yet? Brilliant. I’m going to help you right here right now in a small, quick way. Please take note of all of this, all you posters out there with DWP appeals and ATOs problems etc. This is how you win.

      Firstly, you don’t need loads of medical evidence, just enough to make your case. The DM (decision maker) at the DWP tend always to take the ATOS report much more seriously than what doctors or consultants say about you, on the grounds that the PCA and WCA are not a ‘medical’ as such, but rather a screening mechanism which shows what you can do. You really must understand this first. You have been duped into thinking that ATOS do ‘medicals’ they don’t. ATOS specifically assess only capability to work.

      You can only win hands down by knowledge of the law. This is the only thing the DWP will respond to, and the only thing they are really scared of, so here we go with some golden snippets:

      “The tribunal needs to start from the basis that the claimant has an existing award, and it is for the DWP to justify its suspension decision by showing that there was a relevant change of circumstances”. (CIB /946/2009)

      This case law alone is a winner. If your condition remains unchanged or has got worse, then the DWP cannot justify stopping your benefits or migrating you on to some other benefit. They have to “justify” any deicision by actually stating clearly exactly what the “relevant” cahnge in your medical condition was.

      Here is case law on new medical opinion, and here’s how you stuff it to ATOS.

      “Tribunals can look at earlier PCA decisions and the evidence on which it was based”.
      So, if you’ve had a PCA orr WCA before in the past, that earlier medical which you passed, counts as evidence in your favour, unless you have had a miracle cure. Demand your old records of this if you have had one in the past. Do not get fobbed off or take no for an answer. Threated a Freedom of Information request if they get stroppy with you.

      Just a final quickie:

      Oaths are allowed at appeals and an affadavit is admissable.(CDLA ?1576 /2007) and naything that’s allowed at appeal tribunal is allowed at review, so get down your local solicitor, pay a tenner, and swear and oath. Make sure you include words to the effect of my first bit of case law – there has been no change or it’s got even worse.

      There is further fascinationg case law on the Burden of Proof and medication.

      When you write your letter to the review, state the case law you believe they have broken and threaten them that you are going to cite this at Tribunal and tell them straight they cannot win, because they have broken the law.

      I have found through hard experience this approach really works.”

      Now that earlier poster was referring to case law and quoting, say, (CIB /946/2009). Now I assume that’s a case law reference but does anyone know what it refers to exactly, where to go to look the whole thing up?

      1. Billy Carlin

        Yes you are correct but the fact is the present legal system is illegal and set up for the benefit of the elite bankers, Royalty and Vatican through our governments and thus the Judges, Courts etc. including your lawyer do NOT represent you and they can make up and do anything they wish – they have been doing so for hundreds of years. It is all corrupt!

        The same goes for the Court of Human Rights – set up by the same people to hide the fact that under Common Law you already have ALL of these rights.

      2. Karen M

        You can’t win using case law unless it is completely relevant to your case, as I found to my cost (and yes I was represented and he rewrote my summary for me).

      3. Karen M

        I failed my tribunal. The medical evidence was fine but my representative decided the relevant test cases were CE/1516/2012 and CM/267/93. Whilst the test cases can be seen as supportive they were neither substantial nor necessary as I have chronic CRPS interrelating with age-related problems to do with spina bifida plus diabetes and visual impairment. My summary as I wrote it was a testimonial with the somewhat complex medical evidence. He rewrote in legalese that did not correlate to the medical evidence, fine perhaps for the judge and not so great for the medical expert at the hearing.

        I’m of the mind when an appellant has a complex and rare set of medical conditions that test cases do not help but that the appellant’s own voice is more powerful. I can write quite well (if my brain is in gear) but I need that script to read from. My representative unknowingly took that away from me.

      4. Karen M

        Big Bill, to look up the test cases go to then click on ‘decisions database’ and fill in the form or go through cases page by page by clicking on ‘most recent decisions’ above the form. The cases will appear in date order and the reference no. appears too. They make fascinating reading.

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  18. Big Bill

    Then there’s this from an old Posterous post, now lost to us;
    “Just when all hope seemed to have vanished… It occurred to me an hour or so ago to actually try and find out what, if any, the ECtHR’s findings on welfare benefits were. Two results leapt out at me. One, Stec & others v United Kingdom [2005], found that noncontributory benefits counted as possessions under Article 1 of ECHR Protocol 1 – the protocol which guarantees the right to peaceful enjoyment of one’s possessions. As this summary explains, previously the Court of Appeal had ruled (in Reynolds [2003]) that noncontributory benefits could not be held to be property, but the ECtHR’s judgement elegantly sweeps that reasoning away in a single sentence.
    On its own, this judgement has considerable signficance; whilst the ECtHR has repeatedly found that the ECHR creates no right to welfare provision, a state which designs one must respect all articles of the ECHR. More significantly, it would appear to make retroactively changing entitlement very difficult indeed – as that would involve depriving a person of their property, and thus infringing their Art 1(prot 1) rights.
    But its significance becomes overwhelming when considered alongside the findings in another case, Kjartan Ásmundsson v Iceland [2004]. In that case, a man in receipt of disability benefits on grounds of incapacity to do his previous job was reassessed in the face of a raised threshold of eligibility, found to be not sufficiently disabled, and stripped of his entire pension; the Court found that this was excessive and disproportionate, especially in view of the fact that whilst 54 people had been stripped of their entitlements, 689 people claiming the same benefit continued to do so at previous levels. And they awarded Ásmundsson €78,000 overall. The grounds on which they based their finding? Article 1, protocol 1 – yep, the same one that was declared in 2005 to extend to noncontributory benefits.
    Now, admittedly I’m not a lawyer (although I wish to god I were on days like this!) but as far as I can see, those two rulings mean that the entire ESA migration process is illegal, has been illegal for 7 years, and was known to be illegal when it was announced. Moreover, the implications for the PIP migration process are exactly the same; and even the removal of my £10.13pw excess LHA – the basis on which I changed over from claiming housing benefit, no less! – may have been illegal, in the face of people living in properties with rather higher rents continuing to receive their full allocation of LHA. Is £530 a year worth taking the government to court? Probably not. But is the principle worth suing over? I think it is – because as I say, the government either knew it was about to act illegally, or didn’t do due diligence first.
    Of course, now we see exactly why the government – by their own admission; Lord McNally protested that the amendment restoring legal aid to welfare tribunals would “tear out the heart of the rationale of the bill”, which tells everyone all they need to know about what the government are trying to pull here – are so keen to remove ECtHR jurisdiction, the Human Rights Act and access to legal aid when challenging authority in any way. If they are found to have acted illegally, based on judgements that predate their actions by several years (and I can’t see how they can possibly argue otherwise; the cases match in such detail) the likely liability for damages will more than counter any savings made by throwing people off Income Support – and stop the PIP migration in its tracks. Of course, it remains to be seen how many people will survive long enough to benefit from that compensation – or whether Britain will withdraw, or be expelled, from the ECHR before that can be brought to pass – but it is clear to me, now, that the process that brought me to the brink of collapse yesterday is quite demonstrably illegal – a fact I won’t hesitate to bring to the attention of ATOS in any future dealings I’m forced to have with them.
    And of course, this is exactly the ray of sunshine I needed after the darkness of yesterday’s skies. I hope I’m not the only one..”
    That was from the blog of one Gwenhwyfaer, who I think has popped up here from time to time. Someone should really be getting behind this this. It seems to me we’ve had the tools, proper, legal tools, to stop the entire migration from incapacity benefits process all along – so why has no-one used them?

    1. Mike Sivier

      Can anyone confirm that this works?

      I’m considering putting together a small book/ebook on the DWP and its changes to benefits, and would like to include this, if accurate.

    2. Billy Carlin

      They cannot take away your Human Rights as it is enshrined under Common Law. They can take away the ECHR if they wish but that is only a front to hide your rights under common law. They also cannot stop you getting legal aid as again you are entitled to it under Common Law that is why everyone should be fighting under Common Law and exposing this illegal legal system for what it is.

  19. christine bremner

    I was on income based J.S.A.and due to an error on their part I have been without any money for 4 weeks now , I have an illness which limit’s me to the hours and work I can do but try telling the dwp that I consulted my doctor who gave me a fit note to give to the dwp which I did and it resulted in me getting signed off jobseekers allowance ,they told me to claim ESA which I don’t think I will stand a chance of getting reading all the stories so far but meanwhile I have no food no money to put in my electric and still have rent,bedroom tax and council tax to pay because of my son living at home , with both departments on my back it is causing me stress and a lot of worry I for one worry about losing my home.

  20. christine bremner

    sorry I should have stated in my comment above I already work part time and have had 2 part time jobs I have been doing for the last 15+ years with my illness I gave up one job as it is getting too much for me but the hassle I have had from dwp to look for another job they are not listening to what I have been telling them even the fit note from my gp I was getting bombarded with txt messages from them telling me what job’s I could be doing and what coarses I could also be doing . the mistake was made to showing my wage slips but yet again they didn’t listen this mistake was in may of this year and only in july they decided to stop my jsa , I had a shortfall in income in may (inland revenue got the wrong tax code and took £95.of my wages which I had to wait until june to get it back) so therefore they think my wages has gone up ,I tried filling out the form to get help with the bedroom tax the reply I got was I had too much income coming in when does £71.70 become too much income so now I am sitting waiting while they sort it out but I still have the council to pay what with I wonder.

  21. christine bremner

    during the shortfall month I received a letter from dwp stating that they were paying me £32.97 per week and the first payment was to include arrears of £58.00 which I did not receive but have had to show the council these letters so they can work out my benefit I have had to show my po statement to prove I never received this money , but do the council take this into consideration a right mess they have left me in and trying to sort out.

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