Guest blog by Rev'd Paul Nicolson of Taxpayers Against Poverty
FAMILIES AT THE FRONT OF THE PM's MIND
The dreaded Tina – “there is no alternative” – has spooked ministers at the Department for Work and Pensions into the mantra that the bedroom tax is absolutely necessary to get the housing benefit under control (Woman killed herself after worries about bedroom tax, 13 August). No matter that they were warned that the stress of demanding both bedroom tax rent up to £24 a week and council tax up to £8 a week from single adults receiving £72.40 jobseeker’s allowance (JSA), employment and support allowance (ESA) or income support from April 2013 would lead to suicide.
During the passage of the Welfare Reform Act 2012 they were sent a case reported by the local government ombudsman in 2001 of a single, semi-literate adult living alone in Southwark (and 30 other debt-related suicides). Jobcentre Plus mistakenly cancelled his JSA, so Southwark cancelled his housing and council tax benefits, creating arrears in both accounts. Southwark’s outsourced agent sent him a summons for unpaid council tax of £235.10, plus costs.
The summons (about 3m of which are dispatched a year) contains the following threats, in bold type and highlighted: “The council will be able to … instruct bailiffs to take your goods to settle your debt – this can include your car. You will be liable to pay the bailiffs’ costs which could substantially increase the debt. Instruct your employer to deduct payments from your salary or wages. Deduct money straight from your jobseeker’s allowance or income support. Make you bankrupt. Make a charging order against your home. Have you committed to prison.”
His body was found hanging in his flat. The police found the summons with him, paper littered with rough calculations and a note: “Dear … I at to do this I am in so much in Detr good By for ever Love …”