A new study is warning that people affected by the bedroom tax are struggling to buy food or heat their homes.
The research, published by a leading academic at Newcastle University, warns that people are struggling to ‘survive’ on a reduced income, with many spiralling into debt and rent arrears.
Dr Suzanne Moffatt said the study disproves the Government’s insistence the policy would not have a detrimental impact on people’s health and well-being, with many residents only having one meal a day or going to bed early to keep warm.
The research also tested the Government’s recommendations for mitigating the effects of the policy such as downsizing or increasing working hours, but found them all nearly impossible to achieve.
‘A few pounds literally made the difference between falling into debt or not,’ said Dr Moffatt. ‘Budgeting advice was offered by service providers but this could not address the underlying problem that many residents simply had insufficient money to meet basic needs.
‘Monumental effort was put in by people to simply “survive”. Their accounts powerfully demonstrate how loss of income as a result of the bedroom tax has a detrimental effect on mental health, with many saying it had left them feeling “hopeless”.’
The research followed around 650 households in Walker, Newcastle upon Tyne, which is in the top 10% most deprived areas in the UK. It looked at the effects on health and well-being; social relationships and the wider community.
Deputy leader of Newcastle City Council, Cllr Joyce McCarty, said: ‘The bedroom tax, more than any other policy, shows how austerity is targeting the poorest people in society and hitting them hardest.
‘It is creating a sense of hopelessness where people are struggling to eat and keep warm in order to try and pay this tax to keep a roof over their head – that is pernicious and inhumane, and it’s hardly surprising that it’s affecting people’s health.’