The Bedroom Tax is a violation of Human Rights

“It is undeniable that every human being is entitled to living space, daily bread, and the protection of the law as a common birthright; these are fundamentals and should not be handed out as an act of charity. ”
Alfred Delp, S.J.

Finally someone is taking notice of the plight of vulnerable people in the UK.

The British coalition government has been told by Raquel Rolnik, a UN special investigator on housing, to scrap the Bedroom Tax. Furthermore the government has been critisized for its failure to provide sufficient affordable housing and social housing

During her visit to the UK where she visited Belfast, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh and London,visiting council estates, food banks, homelessness crisis centres, Traveller sites and new housing association developments,  she came to the conclusion that Britain’s housing crisis is in need of urgent investigation:

“I was very shocked to hear how people really feel abused in their human rights by this decision and why – being so vulnerable – they should pay for the cost of the economic downturn, which was brought about by the financial crisis. People in testimonies were crying, saying ‘I have nowhere to go’, ‘I will commit suicide’.

The state has an obligation to “put in place safeguards to protect the most vulnerable and what I am seeing here is quite the opposite – the most vulnerable are having to pay for these cuts”.

Ms. Rolnik says she is disturbed by the misery the tax has caused and how it was affecting “the most vulnerable, the most fragile, the people who are on the fringes of coping with everyday life”.  “My immediate recommendation is that the bedroom tax is abolished,” 

Read the full story:
‘Shocking’ bedroom tax should be axed, says UN investigator:
http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/sep/11/bedroom-tax-should-be-axed-says-un-investigator

Indeed the bedroom tax does go against the declaration of human rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The latter was signed by the UK in 1968 and ratified it in 1976. .

According to Ms. Rolnik the bedroom tax constitutes a violation of the human right to adequate housing:

“ if for example the extra payments forced tenants to cut down on their spending on food or heating their home.”

It is not only the immediate effects of reducing expenditure on vital things such as food and warmth but as time goes on other essentials that we all need such as a cooker, a fridge or a gas boiler break down and more often than not radiators may need flushing out and many people could find themselves with no heating and no means of cooking.

The cost of replacing a boiler is an enormous expenditure, a new boiler and flushing out of your radiators may cost around £3000. A boiler lasts between 10 to 15 years, the cost of repairs is huge as is insurance for repairs which increases as the boiler gets older.

These items are essential . With the end of the government’s Warm Front scheme where are people to go who are on low incomes to get assistance to replace their heating ? Where are people expected to find the money. In the 7th richest country this is a disgrace.

These days slowly but surely many people even those not effected by the bedroom tax or any of the other vile and vicious welfare reforms can find themselves sinking deeper and deeper in the mire of poverty. It goes without saying the cumulative effects of these reforms has a wide-reaching impact that few, except those who are experiencing the effects, really understand.

It is clear that the UK government is in violation of Article 11 of the “The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)

“Article 11 recognises the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living. This includes, but is not limited to, the right to adequate food, clothing, housing, and “the continuous improvement of living conditions.” It also creates an obligation on parties to work together to eliminate world hunger.”

About the The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights :

“The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) is a multilateral treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 16 December 1966, and in force from 3 January 1976. It commits its parties to work toward the granting of economic, social, and cultural rights (ESCR) to individuals, including labour rights and the right to health, the right to education, and the right to an adequate standard of living.

The ICESCR is part of the International Bill of Human Rights, along with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),
The right to adequate housing, also referred to as the right to housing, is “the right to live somewhere in security, peace and dignity.” It requires “adequate privacy, adequate space, adequate security, adequate lighting and ventilation, adequate basic infrastructure and adequate location with regard to work and basic facilities – all at a reasonable cost.” Parties must ensure security of tenure and that access is free of discrimination, and progressively work to eliminate homelessness. Forced evictions, defined as “the permanent or temporary removal against their will of individuals, families and/or communities from the homes and/or land which they occupy, without the provision of, and access to, appropriate forms of legal or other protection”, are a prima facie violation of the Covenant.

Read More details:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Covenant_on_Economic,_Social_and_Cultural_Rights

Also the UK are in violation of Article 25 of the Declaration of human rights

(1) 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.
(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/

Take Action

Raquel Rolnik, wants evidence of how the bedroom tax, council tax and welfare reforms have impacted on you

Raquel Rolnik’s email address is: srhousing@ohchr.org

Please also sign the  petition also accessed by clicking the link above: We call for a Cumulative Impact Assessment of Welfare Reform, and a New Deal for sick & disabled people based on their needs, abilities and ambitions

You can write to the United Nations Enable:

Why not write to the UN about the shocking treatment of the most vulnerable in our society, the sick and disabled who have seen their lives destroyed as a result of vicious, unfair and unjust welfare reforms which have resulted in many suicides and people dying as consequence of all the extra pressure brought to bear on lives already blighted by disability and ill health.

You might not get a reply but it is still worth writing, the more letters and e-mail received the more someone will take notice. I wrote a long e-mail. I did not receive a reply and did not expect to do so. But do not be deterred, unless we speak out nothing will happen.

http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id=175

Also see

http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id=150

http://www.un.org/disabilities/

Things are changing, these developments concerning the bedroom tax are a positive beginning

“The amount of violations of human rights in a country is always an inverse function of the amount of complaints about human rights violations heard from there. The greater the number of complaints being aired, the better protected are human rights in that country.”
Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Now I know to many that it may seem rather way out to write to the UN Enable but yes, you can write to them and I know of at least one other person who has done so and no doubt many more have. You do not have to be an expert just write and express your concerns, your own experiences and perhaps highlighting some of or even all of the issues. Regardless of experience or even writing skills the more letters they receive the more someone way take notice. Who knows it maybe worth a try.

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