Consequences of ‘Bedroom Tax’ damaging pupil’s ability to learn

9 December 2015

A recent study by education experts at Manchester University has found that consequences resulting from the ‘Bedroom Tax’ (also known as the ‘removal of the spare room subsidy’) have had adverse impacts on children’s ability to learn; with many suffering from increased hunger, tiredness and stress.

The ‘Bedroom Tax’ was introduced by the Coalition Government in the Welfare Reform Act 2012 which sees the amount of housing benefit paid to a claimant reduce if the property they are renting is judged to have ‘spare’ bedrooms. Families which are affected by the removal of the ‘spare room subsidy’ lose the equivalent of ten to fifteen pounds per week for one spare bedroom, whilst those with two spare bedrooms can expect to lose between twenty and twenty-five pounds per week.

The researchers carried out in-depth interviews with fourteen families affected by the policy across sixteen months, in addition to interviewing over forty community workers/leaders including head-teachers, social workers, housing officers and religious leaders.

Researchers have stated that their findings outline how the policy has had a detrimental effect on local families, with consequences affecting children’s ability to learn. Some of the main findings from the report include:
• Parents reported cut backs on essentials such as food, heating and school uniforms.
• Parents also detailed increased stress, anxiety, embarrassment and a sense of isolation as a result of the loss in income.
• Teachers were concerned that an increased occurrence of hunger amongst pupils was negatively affecting their behaviour and concentration.
• School staff also reported that children were exhibiting signs of emotional distress caused by the effects of poverty, which adversely affected their ability to learn.
• Children living in smaller homes and sharing a room, as a result of the ‘bedroom tax’, often struggled to find a quiet place to do their homework and also were likely to suffer from sleep disruption.
• Some schools and social services responded by spending more of their budgets on clothing, meals and advice for affected families.

Author Professor Ruth Lupton stated that the findings confirm that the change is “contributing to significant hardships among low-income families” and having detrimental affects on affected families wellbeing.

Meanwhile, a Government spokesman spoke to dismiss the findings, insisting that that study was unrepresentative and that other figures suggested that only twenty per cent of housing benefit claimants in the city had been affected by the ‘Bedroom Tax’.