If it’s not a bedroom tax then it’s not a spare room subsidy policy either

This is a clip from the Six O’Clock News on Radio 4 today. It is about a woman who killed herself and left a note blaming the government cuts to her housing benefit.

I suppose I should be grateful that the BBC are reporting this story at all, because most people who get their news from the BBC would hardly know that cuts to welfare are even happening. However, I am furious about this story because of the way they phrased the report. Here’s how they referred to the cuts:

“her benefits were being cut as a result of the coalition’s spare room subsidy policy.

…she was facing financial difficulty because of what critics have called the bedroom tax”

This is repetition of government propaganda. True, the cut is not called the bedroom tax. Nor is it the removal of a spare room subsidy, because there never was any such thing, merely people receiving enough housing benefit to cover their rent in the available social housing. The official name of this cut in the legislation is the under-occupancy penalty. Because that’s what it is – a penalty for having a spare room, even if you had no choice about the number of rooms in the home you were allocated or if you need that room for medical equipment or numerous other reasons. It was never, ever a subsidy in the first place to remove. “Removal of the spare room subsidy” was a name given to the cut by a panicking government because people were calling it a bedroom tax and that was too close to the truth.

That the BBC repeated the official government line and referred to a spare room subsidy when reporting a suicide is a serious problem. Of course I don’t believe the BBC is unbiased any more; if anything the BBC follow a pro-government line no matter who is in power. But if the BBC won’t call it a bedroom tax then they shouldn’t call it a spare room subsidy either. They should use the official name of under-occupancy penalty, but they won’t because the word penalty is too revealing about this government’s actions when they are still claiming that this is not about money and that they are protecting the most vulnerable.


Author: Latentexistence

The world is broken and I can't fix it because I am broken. I can, however, rant about it all and this is where I do that when I can get my thoughts together. Most of the time you'll find my words on Twitter rather than here though. I sometimes write for Where's The Benefit too.

7 thoughts on “If it’s not a bedroom tax then it’s not a spare room subsidy policy either”

  1. But it makes you wonder how anyone can still believe that this government are protecting the vulnerable. What was this sick grandmother, if not vulnerable? Spare room subsidy never existed in the first place. Your housing benefit was never based on how many bedrooms you have, although you were asked how many rooms you had in the house or if it was sole occupancy. So there was no subsidy to remove. It is in essence a tax on a spare bedroom or rooms, except that the renter doesn’t pay extra for having an extra room, they are paid less on their housing benefit for having an extra room. I agree that it is an under occupancy penalty, but the government is not fooling many of us out here in reality land. We KNOW what they are doing, and yes they are panicking because they know that they are not going to get voted in come 2015.

  2. So brave of her son to speak out at what must be the worst time of his and his families lives, mine as well of thousands of others thoughts are with them all, heinous in this day and age to be governed by this cruel uncaring shower wh o call themselves a Government, they are supposed to protect the vulnerable not drive them to this outcome. R.I.P lovely Lady x x

  3. Considering the numbers of disabled suicides over ESA/Atos, without a peep from the BBC, I suppose we should be ‘grateful’ to them for mentioning it at all – although only to smooth over the furore stirred up by the People/Mirror over the weekend.

    In fact suicidal ideation (and suicide) are cardinal symptoms of Complex-PTSD, a psychological INJURY. This is a disorder ROUTINELY developed by refugees. How is somebody facing eviction from their home of 20 years, and suffering starvation due to life-shattering weekly ‘fines’ while they wait for the same council to re-house them, NOT a refugee – as well as an abuse victim?

    Mrs. Bottrill was physically disabled – not a MH patient. Her suicide notes clearly and irrevocably blame the government, and her death CAN’T be attributed to ‘inherent’ mental illness – only the inducement of C-PTSD due to government abuse. By all accounts, Mrs. Bottrill had led a stable and well-organised life, successfully raising a well-adjusted family DESPITE already being in poverty. She was ‘vulnerable’ only due to being too physically unwell to work and living on the breadline. IOW, she was NO MORE MENTALLY VULNERABLE THAN THE AVERAGE DISABLED INDIVIDUAL CURRENTLY TARGETED BY THE BEDROOM TAX.

    This means that if this iniquitous fine on the poorest is not suspended pending a public inquiry, many more such ‘domestic refugees’ are at risk of developing C-PTSD and being driven to the same desperate measures.

  4. Since day one of this debacle with the so-called “Bedroom Tax” I have only referred to it in quotes or as the Bedroom Penalty. It is not a Tax, if it were it would hit all people in Council Housing equally, i.e. those who work and pay rent would have to pay extra for having a spare room.

    It is a penalty levied by people who think that £71 is a single price in a restaurant, not a whole week’s money.

  5. When I received this reply from BBC’s Mark Easton when I pointed out to him the correct legal term


    Govt changed the name of its ‘Under Occupancy Charge Factsheet’ to ‘Removal of Spare Room Subsidy Factsheet’ #bedroomtax

    It seems to me that this government ‘factsheet’ is nothing other then a PR spin leaflet put out to journalists in the hope it can influence the terminology used. The journalists are in no way obliged to adhere to it. The BBC’s compliance just shows how supine it has become.

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