We started our School with the question ‘Where are you feeling the pinch?’ Many issues were raised, but the main topic affecting this group was welfare reform – in particular, the Bedroom Tax (aka spare room subsidy). 5,500 households are affected in Salford, and many will be £50 per month worse off, causing great hardship.
After doing some research and talking to local contacts, the group realised that there is still a general lack of awareness about the Bedroom Tax – even amongst those who are affected. So we decided to use a stall in Salford Shopping Centre to raise awareness and find out how the Tax is actually affecting the people of Salford.
Group members used their talents in many different ways, including the design of a poster and leaflet to raise awareness. One member, an experienced community researcher, trained others in research skills and produced a survey form. We also joined forces with a local group called ‘Pendleton – Axe the Bedroom Tax’.
On 5 July we donned our pyjamas and held our Bedroom Tax stall. We handed out information leaflets, obtained 465 signatures on a petition, and completed 31 surveys with people affected by the Bedroom Tax. We found from the surveys that…
- People felt powerless, and resigned to the fact that they would have to pay or lose their home.
- 67% had fallen into some degree of rent arrears because of the Bedroom Tax – including some people who had never been in arrears before.
- 55% of people had not even enquired about moving because they didn’t want to. 60% had lived in their home for more than five years.
- 80% said they had received no help or support from anyone about their situation. Only 12% knew what help was available to them.
- Those who were paying the Tax were cutting back on food and other essentials. 42% did not have enough food; 45% experienced health problems; 51% had mental health problems; 38% were dealing with debt; and 32% felt their family life had suffered.
“I cannot sleep”
“I try not to use the heating and water as much and I miss out on food and social events.”
- The Bedroom Tax provoked a powerful emotional response. Over 60% of people felt stressed, anxious or angry. Almost half felt they were being victimised, and over one in three were feeling scared or desperate.
- 96% of people surveyed felt that the Bedroom Tax should be abolished.
The evidence we collected will be submitted to local decision-makers, housing providers and other organisations. It will also support campaigners opposing the Bedroom Tax.
Just as importantly, participants from our School benefitted individually from learning new skills such as community research, dealing with the public, creating information documents, and working with local partners.
“I was surprised how confident I felt”
“I felt upbeat, like we’d done something good”
“I was ecstatic out there facing people, letting them know, giving them information”
At group level, participants said:
“This has helped us with the confidence to do other events”
“I am so proud of the group”
“Collectively we did something that individually we might not have attempted”
Benefits to wider society were evident too.
“It felt good that we were out there and showing that we were prepared to do something”
“I think we inspired some people and raised their expectations of what could be achieved”
“We got to give information to people who didn’t know how to get it”
“We made people ‘think’ and created more allies for people affected”
We run Schools of Participation for individuals, groups and organisations who face poverty and exclusion. Schools train people to play an active role, to have a greater say, and to take action to improve their communities. Click here to find out more.