Hundreds Turn Out For Bedroom Tax Demo In Birmingham

Birmingham Bedroom Tax Demo March 16th (19)Hundreds of people came out to demonstrate against this coalition’s unpopular bedroom tax policy. One of the biggest anti-cuts demonstrations in the past couple of years saw the two sides of the Labour party speak in between amongst community activists and people affected by the bedroom tax, as John Mcdonnell MP and Liam Byrne MP both addressed the crowd – to rather different receptions.

You can read more about the bedroom tax, and the “spare” rooms that aren’t spare in these posts – More concessions show we can defeat the bedroom tax and Birmingham bedroom tax demonstration.

Unite the Resistance and DPAC have called a public meeting on Thursday 28th March to discuss and plan further resistance to the bedroom tax and building a general benefits justice campaign in the city to draw together the groups that have been united by being affected by the bedroom tax.

Birmingham Bedroom Tax Demo March 16th (9)This demonstration was part of a national day of demonstrations that saw over 50 towns and cities hold actions. This day of action was called and organised by Labour Left activists, but in Birmingham, Labour did not get an easy ride, as speaker after speaker attacked Labour for their dreadful record on social security – they introduced workfare as part of the New Deal Scheme, they brought in ATOS and the Work Capability Assessment in 2008, Liam Byrne is part of the Progress group that supports benefits sanctions, workfare and the “biopsychosocial model” of disability that underlies the changes to disability benefits that are leaving disabled people without the support they need and deserve.

Birmingham Bedroom Tax Demo March 16th (16)John McDonnell showed the other side of the Labour party, as he called for people to stand up against this measure:

People are coming together around the country to stand together against the immorality of this government.

He called for Labour councils to follow the Scottish National Party in Dundee and Greens in Brighton and Hove and to refuse to evict people affected by the bedroom tax and called for communities to come together and occupy homes to prevent the bailiffs from throwing families out onto the streets.

Liam Byrne on the other hand gave a speech about how Labour will repeal this and don’t worry Labour are on your side. He was roundly heckled for his speech, which could be summed up as “don’t worry, let your politicians sort this out for you”, but we know that Labour are a neo-liberal party, committed to austerity, and will not help us unless or until they feel the pressure and see the votes, as they have with the bedroom tax.

Birmingham Bedroom Tax Demo March 16th (18)In between the politicians, two people told us how they were affected by the charge. Both are disabled. One has his son living at home, and has been told under the regulations that his room is considered spare, and even his MP can’t believe it. The other lives in adapted accommodation. Both face the prospect of finding 14% of their rent out of the £71-110/week disability benefits they receive, which already hardly stretch to covering the increasing costs of food, gas, electric and transport.

Birmingham Bedroom Tax Demo March 16th (6)Further concessions are being made on the bedroom tax, as Iain Duncan Smith more that doubles the Discretionary Housing Payment fund, adding £36m to cover the charges placed on families with disabled children who cannot share a room with their sibling. This will also affect disabled children in private accommodation who have faced problems since Labour introduced size restrictions on rents in private properties in 2009.

These concessions, along with those for foster carers (but only those with one foster child, not two or more) and for army personell away on duty, show that people are starting to wake up to how badly thought out this charge is, how many “spare” rooms aren’t spare, and the injustice of forcing someone who has lived, worked and raised a family in a community to move away from their friends, neighbours and support network.

The only way we’ll defeat the bedroom tax!

This tax won’t be stopped from coming in on April 1st, but we can stop it by coming together in our neighbourhoods and communities to defend those who can’t or won’t pay the charge, whose rooms are not spare or shouldn’t be forced to move by physically occupying and surrounding properties to prevent bailiffs from evicting families.

The poll tax wasn’t stopped before it started, it was stopped through mass non-payment campaigns and through militant and large demonstrations. We can do the same with the bedroom tax.

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “Hundreds Turn Out For Bedroom Tax Demo In Birmingham

  1. Pingback: Hundreds Turn Out For Bedroom Tax Demo In Birmingham |  SHOAH

  2. mental student

    I don’t get the comment about the biopsychosocial model.

    • Our understanding is that the biopsychosocial model of disability is the ideology that underlies the changes from IB to ESA and DLA to PIP, and that the progress end of the Labour party have bought into this idea, and that whilst this informs their thinking on disability, they are not going to be able to recognise the problems with the WCA or reform the test so that it gives better outcomes for people.

      • mental student

        The biopsychosocial model is merely a holistic approach to disability or mental health. All it means is that it is a model which looks at the biological,the psychological and the social. It means taking into account physiological changes, psychological processes and the social impact of mental health difficulties or disability.

        To say it “is the ideology that underlies the changes from IB to ESA and DLA to PIP” is meaningless.

        The biopsychosocial model is not an ideology. The ideology that underlies these cuts is neo-liberal capitalism.

        • Sorry, ideology was the wrong word (though to me ideology simply means a collection of ideas under a term so I don’t think it’s really wrong but perhaps not accurate), swap that for approach and that’s what Black Triangle Campaign say in the link we gave:

          “The Cardiff papers advocated a “biopsychosocial model” of disability which Unum says “informed its approach to medical underwriting”. It is the same approach upon which the current Atos work capability assessment (WCA) is based”

          So the model provides the thinking which underlies the changes. The progress end of the Labour party subscribe to that thinking so they cannot be relied upon to do any differently.

          I’m happy to remove this reference if we’ve misunderstood how that particular model of disability feeds into policy, but it’s there because of what groups like Black Triangle Campaign and DPAC say about it.

          • I did read the article on DPAC website about it (well, skimmed it). Tbh, I didn’t understand a lot of (probably ‘cos I skimmed it). Of course all ideas are situated within particular ideological frameworks, I guess its possible to argue that the biopsychosocial model is one which particularly reinforces the individualist ideology of late capitalism, I haven’t looked too deeply into its origins. However, I tend to see it as an attempt to integrate all perspectives, although in practice (in mental health at least), the medical model still dominates.

            If DPAC have this view, its certainly not up to me to tell them they’re wrong.

            • A thought occured overnight which is that the biopsychosocial model doesn’t necessarily lead to policy outcomes like the WCA but that it is the model chosen by insurance companies like UNUM and think tanks like Policy Exchange to give the theoretical basis to their policy suggestions, presumably because it is best suited to it.
              However, best suited may just mean that it is the most flexible and could therefore lead to many different policy outcomes, it’s just that right now it’s being used to justify the ones we have.

  3. Pingback: Birmingham Trades Council » Hundreds Turn Out For Bedroom Tax Demo In Birmingham

  4. Pingback: Help End Workfare – Online Actions All Week And Picket On Saturday | Birmingham Against The Cuts

  5. Pingback: Axe The Bedroom Tax Public Meeting – Thursday 28th March | Birmingham Against The Cuts

  6. Baggiebob

    There is much confusion around the ideological platform being used to re-define who is and who isn’t a disabled person. Lord Freud said PIP, for example, was using the ‘biopsychosocial’ model however this isn’t strictly true. Firstly, a “model” exists to enable one to explore an issue, therefore George Engels sought to develop a ‘holistic approach’ to looking at the treatment of mental illnesses. This has nothing to do with the ‘model’ offered by Freud.

    Most approaches towards defining disability start from an evaluation of an individual’s functional or capacity loss – in crude terms the less a person is judged ‘normal’, the more disabled (sic) they’re seen to be – this reductionism ignores the social context in which someone lives and therefore is totally judgemental and oppressive. Disabled people separate out the reality of impairment (bodily restrictions) from the social restrictions “imposed on top of impairments” by inappropriate responses to life with an impairment. A wheelchair user is unable to walk (impairment restricted) but in terms of access the disabling factor is whether there’s a lift or not. This is the social model approach. The World Health Organisation in 1990s combined the individual/social by focusing on “functioning” in body and environment hence the ‘biopsychosocial model’. This isn’t the end of the story however.

    UNUM the capitalist disability insurance company developed an off-shoot which played down the social barriers element in favour of Talcott Parson’s idea of ‘the sick role’. Thus sick and impaired people are “conditioned” into accepting their absence from mainstream activity (e.g. work) therefore you mentally ‘rehabilitate’ them back into being as near normal as possible – socially useful and no longer a burden on society. It is this ideological nonsense that underpins ATOS’ assessments for ESA and PIP.

  7. Pingback: Birmingham Benefits Justice Campaign Bedroom Tax Demo Report and Photos | Birmingham Against The Cuts

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