British Prime Minister David Cameron. (Reuters/Peter Macdiarmid)
Britain's government has introduced sweeping changes to the country's welfare, justice, health and tax systems, including a "bedroom tax" that will reduce housing subsidies that primarily benefit poor people. The levy ostensibly aims to "tackle overcrowding and encourage a more efficient use of social housing," resulting in an estimated million "social housing" households losing 14-25 percent of their housing benefits.
Critics say it is an inefficient policy as in the north of England, families with a spare rooms outnumber overcrowded families by three to one, so thousands will be hit with the tax when there is no local need for them to move. Two-thirds of the people hit by the bedroom tax are disabled.
Thousands of trade unions, advocates for the disabled, leading churches, and anti-poverty protesters held marches against the changes over the weekend, calling the cuts "unjust." In a joint report released over the weekend, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church and the Church of Scotland criticized the government of perpetuating myths about poverty in an attempt to justify the cuts.
The Methodist Church's public policy adviser, Paul Morrison, told the BBC the cuts suggest people in poverty “deserve” the situation they are in.
“Our feeling is that these benefit changes are a symptom of an understanding of people in poverty in the United Kingdom that is just wrong,” he added.
Keeping with the theme of penalizing poverty, and as Morrison states, making it seem as though poor people "deserve" their plight, the government refers to the bedroom tax as an "under-occupancy penalty," again placing the onus on the poor.
The cuts have already resulted in some seriously warped means testing. The AP reports parents whose children are not considered "disabled enough" by local officials have been told they must pay. A particularly heartbreaking testimony came from a bereaved couple who couldn't bear to change the bedroom of their 7-year-old daughter after she died of brain cancer. Under the cuts, they'd essentially be forced to pay a fee for their grief.