An event hosted at the Idea Store in Whitechapel Wednesday 24 April investigated how the bedroom tax is affecting local women.
Although this reform is being implemented nationwide, the meeting indicated that social housing residents and housing benefit recipients in Tower Hamlets and across London are likely to feel the pinch as they struggle to keep up with the ever-rising cost of living in the capital.
The event “Beyond the Bad News: The Future for Women 2013” brought together local politicians, women’s organisations and residents, pledging to support women through the latest round of welfare reform that they say will affect single mothers and large families most.
One of the main organisations behind the event was the Fawcett Society, one of the country’s leading women’s rights organisations. Speaking at the meeting, the organisation’s Chief Executive Ceri Goddard called on government to “reconsider their spending decisions” before inequalities worsened.
Young women from the voluntary organisation Leaders in Community were also invited to perform spoken word poetry, rap and interactive drama to illustrate women’s fight for equality in both the past and at present.
Other speakers included Daisy Sands, Policy and Campaigns Manager for the Fawcett Society, and Louise Russell, Chair of the Welfare Reform Task Group in Tower Hamlets.
Sands noted that 60-percent of those affected by the bedroom tax will be single mothers and all run the risk of being “pushed out into cheaper areas of the country”. She added that the cuts would also severely affect larger families who will see huge drops in their income, saying: “many [families] will no longer be able to meet their housing costs, they can no longer stay in their local communities and they will be forced to move out into either cheaper parts of London, out onto the outskirts, or out of London altogether.”
Councillor Rabina Khan emphasised that the concern at the heart of opposition to the current round of welfare reforms was “the impact on children”.
She said that the reforms would make it more challenging for parents to provide a good quality of life for their children. As for her own work within the council she stated “we’re already working with our tenants from Tower Hamlets Homes in order to ensure that people don’t fall into rent arrears, and that we can work with them to either downsize or look for a new tenant or new accommodation, either through mutual exchange or some other kind of housing provision.”
East London Lines sound report on the event: