Acts 435 Giving to anyone who has need

When Lord Freud last week suggested that Foodbanks might be growing due to an infinite demand for free food, many charities and individuals threw up their hands in despair. Add to that the unsurprising feedback this week after 100 days of the bedroom tax (or spare room supplement!) that of 100 carers forced to pay it, three quarters are being forced to cut back on essential spending on food and electricity. You can be sure they weren't overspending in these areas in the first place, so a cut-back can have significant consequences.

We too have seen the reality of this. Take a request posted a couple of weeks ago:

£100 needed for household pack for family with debts

This lady's partner received Employment Support Allowance. He lost that benefit. He has no particular trade. He has become self employed but is struggling to find work and earn enough to keep his family. Since the "bedroom tax" came into being the family of four are having to find extra money to pay for their housing. With a grant church could provide a household pack enabling them to concentrate on unpaid bills.

Now the reasons for the bedroom tax have not been supplied but I begin to wonder if anyone would be a worthy candidate for this apparently 'fair' tax.

The focus this week has been on carers who may use the spare room to sleep in if their partner's disability makes it difficult to always share a room, or to get some extra sleep when caring for a disabled child. Another situation advocates have mentioned to me are people with shared custody of children - a father who still wants to be involved in his children's lives and have them to stay at the weekend will be penalised for that decision because of needing a spare room for when they stay.

Back in January, we helped an elderly lady with removal costs to be able to downsize - this is a very real cost for people struggling on a low income.

The family we helped above, who were struggling with the introduction of bedroom tax may be facing other issues that seem to be contrary to the 'fair' introduction of this tax:

  • There are not enough small properties for people with spare rooms to move into
  • We have found many people have very little support networks even where they are living. To move them away from those networks would be to leave them in a very vulnerable position.
  • Some families have a spare room because a child has moved out, or perhaps is at University. I know when I left, the fact that I could return home to my old bed when I needed to was a huge point of stability as I ventured out into the world as a young adult. This stability cannot be exaggerated - your parent's home can also be a haven for if a relationship breaks down, or you suddenly find yourself out of work and need to move back home to avoid getting into debt.

And let's not forget that in many cases, that spare room is tiny anyway! Our spare room is actually an office. Imagine if someone is trying to make a go at being self-employed and like me, is using their small boxroom as an office as they start working on developing that business. Surely that should be applauded, not penalised.

When I read through Acts 435 requests, the nameless people suffering in poverty in our country today come to life as specific individuals with specific circumstances living at specific addresses. They are already facing rising prices. Another £14 a week is being shown to be too much to cope. Which brings us back to the Foodbank argument ...

Praise God that churches and charities across the country are reaching out to help those in need. We are so glad to be a resource and part of that crucial help to individuals and families in desperate need at this time.