Saturday, 30 November 2013

"Angel of Woolwich" has been reduced to penury by Bedroom Tax

One of the most reprehensible actions of David Cameron’s government is that they have accompanied their attacks on the income and services of the poorest and most vulnerable with a campaign of stigmatising these same people as “scroungers”, “skivers” and as being somehow morally deficient. Only six months ago, Cameron was rightly praising Ingrid Loyau-Kennett for her quite exceptional moral fibre. Now she is a victim of his Bedroom Tax.

As the trial takes place of the two men who hacked to death Drummer Lee Rigby on a Woolwich street in May this year, spare a thought for Ingrid Loyau-Kennett. She was dubbed an “Angel of Woolwich” for her extraordinary bravery in confronting the killers. Whilst outwardly calm, she talked to them over an almost interminable ten minutes until armed police arrived. All this time the men, both blood-stained from their butchery, were holding a revolver, a meat cleaver and a long knife.

88,600 people have signed a petition calling for the George Medal, the highest award for civilian bravery, for Loyau-Kennett and for the two other “Angels of Woolwich”, Amanda Donnelly and her daughter Gemini. The petition was started by the Rector of Woolwich who said “(They) have been an inspiration to us all. Instead of running away when they saw danger they went straight to the heart of it…These acts of extraordinary humanity in the face of such horror deserve to be recognised at the highest level.”

Cameron saluted Loyau-Kennett’s courage and credited her actions with having prevented further injuries or deaths. He said people like her make the country what it is.

Six months on, the Mirror carries an article about Loyau-Kennett once more. However, this is not about a George Medal or praise from the prime minister. It’s about the Bedroom Tax. 

Loyau-Kennett lives in Cornwall and is unable to find work. Six years ago, she rented a three-bedroomed house from a Housing Association. Her son and daughter have recently moved out and so she now has two spare rooms. She tells the Mirror that she would be happy to move to a smaller property but there are none available. So, she is liable to pay the Bedroom Tax.

According to the Mirror, Loyau-Kennett was living on £58 per week before the Bedroom Tax, which then reduced her income by £21 per week – a cut of 36%.  She is now reduced to £5.28 a day for bills, food, clothes, transport etc. 

The BedroomTax is a cruel and unjust tax. The government presents it as if claimants have a choice to downsize but in the overwhelming number of cases there are no smaller properties available. It affects about 660,000 claimants of working age, almost two thirds of whom 420,000 (63%) have a disability. As these numbers do not include the claimants’ children, it is likely that at least a million people are directly affected.

I am not suggesting that Loyau-Bennett deserves better treatment than others hit by the Bedroom Tax. Her story highlights the reality of the tax for the hundreds of thousands affected by it. These people, our fellow citizens, are no more or less morally deficient than any other sector of society.  Some, like Loyau-Bennett, deserve to be honoured by society for their exceptional moral strength. 

Just as charities after a terrible disaster do not use pictures showing the suffering of many, but always the suffering of just one, so I hope the plight of this one brave woman will draw attention to the wider suffering caused by this iniquitous tax.

1 comment:

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