Yet when the same events occur in the lives of someone not just working class, but on benefits, the reaction of some is to immediately start a hunt for character or lifestyle flaws in the recently deceased. “She can’t have been poor, she had a cat” was the astonishing reaction of one person on twitter to news of the suicide of a grandmother driven to the desperate act by the bedroom tax. It can’t be long before right wing cheerleaders of welfare reform join the bandwagon, no doubt to be led by yet more crass utterances from Tory Ministers. After all Iain Duncan Smith said he could live on £53 a week, so what was her problem?
Stephanie Bottrill is not the first death directly attributable to welfare reform and it won’t be the last. This will not stop the vile scramble from pieces of shit like Brendan O Niell to declare she must have had mental health conditions, she should have done this, there must have been other factors involved or that she should have sold her fucking cat. They will look for anything which might deflect from the all too real and predictable consequences of the war against the poor which they themselves are partly involved in waging.
No-one in the right wing press would dare speak like this if someone rich committed suicide over money problems. And for those lucky enough to have never been on the breadline, then imagine the biggest money problem you’ve ever had and times it by a thousand and you’re still nowhere near what Stephanie Bottrill was facing.
Politicians have said that people should just move if they can’t pay the bedroom tax as if this is the easiest thing in the world for those with nothing. Yet there are no smaller social housing properties for people to move into. People are being expected to leave what they thought was a lifetime tenancy – and a home they may have lived in for decades – to rent in the more expensive private sector where they can be evicted on the whims of a landlord with just two months notice.
Not only that, but people are to be expected to do this at a vulnerable time. Shortly after their children have left home, or when a relationship has ended. Not even the death of a child will spare the eviction notices, they are simply delayed for 12 months, the ‘official’ period of grieving that parents are permitted before the bailiffs step in if they can no longer pay for their dead child’s bedroom.
But it is not just the loss of a home those affected by the bedroom tax must face but the near impossibilities involved in securing a new one. Almost all letting agents have bold notices declaring NO DSS on every property they advertise. Increasingly agents ask for fees which claimants can’t afford, or credit checks that some claimants will fail. Huge deposits are required along with anything from 4 to 8 weeks rent in advance. Only an ever shrinking number of properties are affordable to those on housing benefits and in some parts of the UK none at all. People are not just expected to lose their homes, but in some cases will be forced to relocate, hundreds of miles away from family and friends. Even the act of moving costs a lot of money, and few claimants can afford to run a car or rent a van.
This combination of stress, sadness or despair along with seemingly inescapable practical problems is why people end up on the streets. It’s why some people find themselves sat on the pavement amongst their belongings after bailiffs have ransacked and then locked them out of their former homes. That is a money problem, not having to sell the second home or losing a chunk of your investment portfolio.
Yet when someone rich has their finances affected by government policy then the whole fucking world has to stop and listen as their whinging dominates the debate over government cuts. The Tories were far more terrified of cutting child benefit for those earning large salaries than they were of cutting in half the incomes of people like Stephanie Bottrill. Whilst the super rich are given tax cuts and the middle classes gently squeezed, the lives of those with least are being quietly demolished. If we really are all in it together then why are only the poor being expected to give up their homes?
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