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]