Letters: This ‘immoral and idiotic bedroom tax’ penalises a carer couple

These letters appear in the print edition of The Independent, Monday 8th April, 2013

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My wife and I have just been clobbered by the immoral and idiotic bedroom tax. I’m a full-time carer for my wife who requires daily medication. She is a Christian who does voluntary work twice a week.

We rely 100 per cent on State benefits. We have no car and we don’t smoke. Yet we now have to find £42 a month to stay in our home, and this amount will have to be taken from our food or energy bills. If we had a child, we wouldn’t be penalised.

We now live in a new country, Food Bank Britain. These Coalition idiots are destroying and demoralising decent poor and middle-families. If the welfare system needs changing, let Labour do it; they understand what poverty means.

Tony Blades, Birkenhead, Wirral

If welfare spending is not protected, here’s what it will cost us: those affected will suffer stress and deteriorating physical and mental health, families will break up, children’s schooling will suffer, loans, rent and council tax will be unpaid, houses will be repossessed, homeless and mentally-ill folk will be common in the streets, and crime will shoot up.

We also face huge extra costs for health, social services, the police, the courts, councils and other public authorities, and a poorer service from them.

Do I want to pay the costs of all this misery? No. I’d rather pay a few more thousands in income tax. Surely most better-off taxpayers would agree? Do the rich have no conscience about the gross inequality in our country ?

Iain Duncan Smith said these welfare cuts are going to get 2.5 million people off benefits and into work, a laudable objective but futile, with only 400,000 job vacancies.

Take radical steps to enable massive job creation, and the unemployed will step up to the mark; the 4,000 queuing in the frost for 1,000 jobs at a new Hampshire mall have shown that.

Tom Canham, Hereford

The medieval Catholic Church insisted all Christians must undertake works of mercy such as feeding the poor, caring for the sick and clothing the naked.

Sadly, the Reformers’ fear of creating moral hazards meant that the State had to intervene with measures of relief which gradually coalesced into various sets of poor laws.

Yet by the dawn of the Victorian Age, the Malthusian bien pensant in England were arguing that Elizabethan poor laws actually encouraged irresponsibly large families.

In Scotland, Calvin’s double-predestination inferred that even if poverty was not the fault of the poor themselves, it certainly looked as if it was the “will of God”.

It was to give protection against such fundamentalism that Thomas Chalmers, the greatest Scottish cleric since John Knox, introduced the idea of the “deserving poor”. He made “deserving” as all-embracing as possible so it is wrong to claim that his use of the term was heartless when in fact his intentions were quite the reverse.

Rev Dr John Cameron, St Andrews, Fife

What sort of bizarre, looking-glass world does George Osborne inhabit where churches and charities that comment on the damage government welfare reforms will do to the most vulnerable in society are “vested interests”, but wealthy people who say “Oh, you must get rid of the 50 per cent tax rate” are not?

Stephen Pratt, Dorchester, Dorset

 Last month, I decided to surrender my unemployment benefit and have a go at living on a cabinet minister’s salary instead.

It’s been tough giving up Morrisons and going to Waitrose or Fortnums instead, especially because I’d got used to the checkout girls and the BOGOF specials. I’m also not happy about having to surrender my pushbike for a limo. At least cycling around for all these job interviews was keeping me fit.

The real thing I’m struggling with is being able to claim all my expenses back. Basically, all I have is expenses, so I have nothing to spend the salary on. What should I do with it all? Perhaps I could finally think about getting that east wing built. But then, couldn’t I claim that as an expense as well? How much does a tax lawyer cost, anyway?

If I’d known how difficult it would be, I’d have kept my stupid mouth shut.

Kevin Marman, Herne Bay, Kent

Osborne no joke on Philpott case

There must be people who feel that George Osborne has really put his finger on the shocking aspect of the Philpott case. It is all very well to have six children and burn them to death, but to be in a position where you cover the cost of doing all this out of state welfare payments is, from the point of view of such people, beyond the pale.

Had Philpott pursued his £60,000-a-year career on the profits he had made in some sort of private business, and only at the expense of the public in the same sense as, for example, the bonuses that bankers pay themselves, then perhaps Mr Osborne would have found nothing to criticise in his actions.

A sympathiser might agree with a further implication in Mr Osborne’s remarks, that a disturbing feature of this case is not killing a lot of children, but fathering a lot of children.

Of course, the rest of us may feel that the Philpott case is neither a fit subject for politicising nor a fit subject for joking, however grim. But an uncomforting reflection is that gruesomely ridiculous he may be, Mr Osborne, from a serious point of view, is no joke.

Ian White, Cambridge

With predictable political opportunism, George Osborne has cynically hijacked the horrific case of Mick Philpott as a stick with which to beat the welfare state and, by implication, stigmatise benefit recipients generally.

When you’re a Chancellor in deep trouble it’s all too appealing to bury the reality that the odious, manipulative, narcissist Philpott symbolises the average benefits claimant as much as Harold Shipman typifies midde-class GPs, or Jeremy Bamber the public school system.

But the people, shocked and sickened as they are by Philpott’s awful killing of six of his children and by his sleazy lifestyle, would do well to ask why Mr Osborne isn’t  showing the same zeal in demanding that disgraced and discredited bankers should face prosecution and personally pay some financial penalty for their avarice and incompetence.

Paul Connew, St Albans, Hertfordshire

If it is legitimate to describe Philpott as a “Vile product of Welfare UK”, blaming his action on the provision of welfare benefits, as some have done, then we should surely label Stephen Seddon who murdered his parents for their money as “Vile product of Inheritance Law UK”.

We could label Hitler as “Vile product of Democracy”, bankers who take huge bonuses as “Vile products of the existence of banks” and newspapers and politicians who callously use Philpott to attack benefit provision as “Vile products of a Free Press”.

Peter Cave, London W1

Unregulated immigration fuels far-right

It is a fallacy to imagine that right-wing groups consist entirely of mindless thugs who are intent on violence at any opportunity (Magazine, 30 March).

 They are without doubt over-represented within these movements, but a growing number of citizens take the legitimate democratic route and vote for right-wing politicians as a way of protesting at the ever-increasing number of immigrants moving into European countries. This has been the case in France.

Immigration does have negative effects for citizens of host countries. The first is cost: immigrants access health services, housing provision, welfare benefits and language translation services, all at a cost to existing citizens. The second is culture: most European countries are protective of their culture, visual and social, because immigration changes are rapid.

There seems to be the view among many European politicians, and some voluntary organisations, that anyone who arrives at a country must be taken in. This cannot be. Europe is already fairly densely populated so unrestrained immigration is impractical.

There is also the “running sore” of labelling people who make sensible, fact-based comments about immigration as racists. There are immigrants who have made significant contributions, but this is dependent on proper controls and vetting before entry.

To stop the rise of the far right, politicians need to bring in very restrictive controls on immigration. Europe must make a bold statement of policy on immigration and stick to it in the face of whatever reasons fuel desires to move to Europe.

John Hughes, Hereford

Curriculum is what you make it

The National Union of Teachers’ reported views on the national curriculum reveal deep confusion over the meaning of curriculum and even more worrying, about how teachers see themselves and their work (2 April).

The national curriculum is a framework setting out what we think should be taught in school. That’s all.

In itself, it is neither exciting nor boring. It is not innovative or unchanging. Is the NUT so utterly bereft of imagination that it cannot encourage its members to make the curriculum for themselves, and use it to inspire, challenge and educate?

We need confident, knowledgeable teachers who are able to grasp the responsibility they have to introduce young people to what we know about the world and how we came to know it.  Today’s teachers already know how to do just that

Dr David Lambert, Professor of Geography Education, Institute of Education, University of London

Much as it pains me to support a Tory proposal, I cannot understand the teaching unions’ opposition to Mr Gove’s emphasis on the multiplication tables (1 April).

If a child does not acquire a ready grasp of the tables, how can he or she progress to long multiplication and division without rapidly coming to the conclusion that maths is long, slow, difficult and best avoided?

As for Mr Gove’s call for action on spelling, you rather prove his point for him on the next page, when you describe Clive Reader as “swarve”. Can we really ignore these things? I’m a frayed knot.

Nigel Halliday, Liss, Hampshire

Again we have a union, this time of teachers, that hides behind the adage of “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, to avoid progress. Am I the only one who thinks it is broke? Despite the economic downturn, I still advertise for staff for our business, and it’s embarrassing that the only grammatically correct applications are from foreign applicants.

How often I get a note saying, “I hope your well”. I’m sorry, you hope my well is what? Ask most young people, what’s 50 per cent of 80: “Err, do you have a calculator?”

Fred Crook, Milton Keynes