While speaking online with my brother yesterday, concerning the welfare of an acquaintance of his, who has attempted suicide because of poverty-related mental health issues, details of another person’s despair appeared on my Facebook. As reported via a link in the Daily Mirror, Mrs Stephanie Bottrill, who faced benefit cuts of £80 a month unless she left her home, couldn’t face the consequences of either ‘choice’ and threw herself under a lorry.
On Facebook’s own Bedroom Tax protest groups, many people expressed their shock sadness and distress; and some also revealed how near the edge they were. Others explained their living situations with obvious anxiety.
So how does one come to terms with leaving a home of many years, a home where community, memories, financial investment, ashes scattered in beloved gardens, and where there are familiar places of worship or trusted doctors are nearby. And aren’t spare rooms where children or grandchildren might need to stay? How to suddenly give this up in exchange for the unknown or the non-existent?
It’s not a question I’ve got the answer to. But it is a commonly known and psychologically proven fact, that moving house is the second most stressful life event after the bereavement of somebody close. This includes when the situation is voluntary, so add to this, the stress of having no choice as well as losing the sanctity and familiarity of all those things I have just mentioned. This is what thousands of people across this land now have to face.
Those willing to move have no alternative places to go to: or that the smaller, privately rented, short-term-let house across town, or in another town (away from community) costs more than their social housing and the government will pay it; presumably because private landlords deserve to be subsidised with money more than poor people deserve to stay in their established cheaper homes that he Government says we cannot afford to ‘subsidise’ .
I am currently not in this situation, and but for the grace of fate or God, you might not be either. But for those who are, the nightmare is real. It feels like it feels when the bullies have won. It feels like grief. It is terrifying to feel so powerless.
This government policy demonstrates an attitude that reduces people to units of bedroom consumption – but only if you are poor. It is dehumanising and divisive and it is a lie. And the bigger lie is that we ‘can’t afford’: oh yes we can. We can afford to prioritise. We, as a nation can afford to write off taxes to big companies, can allow loopholes for the top 1% to slip their taxes through; we can allegedly afford a high speed rail link between London and the West Midlands; we can afford MPs expenses and can afford to bail out banks and to give money to royalty and to have jolly jubilees; and to send armies across the world, allegedly to prevent terrorism at home.
But there is already terrorism at home. The security of citizens means they/we have to feel safe in our homes. Putting the very poorest into a position where they/we have to face the issues I have described above, or face starvation and debt, is not a choice it is a dilemma caused by lack of Duty of Care by this government. It is an insidious, subtle terrorism. And what we cannot afford, lest we lose our very humanity, is to expose people to terrorism by stealth; least of all from the very people meant to represent us in parliament.