Many people in Worsley and Eccles South wrote to me recently to support a Private Members Bill in Parliament which sets out to reform the Bedroom Tax imposed by the Conservative-led Government. With my support and that of other Labour MPs, Conservative opposition was overcome and the Bill was voted through for further scrutiny.
It is good that the Bill sets out to reform the Bedroom Tax but it does not go as far as abolishing it, which Labour has pledged to do if we win the election in 2015. In my view, abolition is the best option as the Bedroom Tax has brought misery and debt to thousands of people in Salford.
1,700 households in Worsley and Eccles South were hit by the Bedroom Tax initially and the number still affected is around 1,400. We know that around two-thirds of those affected by the tax are people with a disability and nationally 60,000 carers are hit by the tax.
The Bedroom Tax policy is failing because there are too few smaller homes to allow all those people affected by the Bedroom Tax to downsize. There have been tragic cases where people struggling with debt from the Bedroom Tax have committed suicide and I know it causes real worry to many people in Salford.
In many cases, a couple might need an additional bedroom so that the partner who is a carer can get much-needed sleep. The Bedroom Tax is based on the rigid enforcement of rules which say a couple are only entitled to one bedroom despite the existence of medical conditions which make it difficult or impossible to share a room.
Unpaid family carers give so much already by providing the care and support on which many family members rely. It shocks me to think that this uncaring Conservative-led Government is penalising 60,000 carers by making them pay the Bedroom Tax.
Carers deserve our support. I am going to bring in my own Bill in October to exempt them from paying the Bedroom Tax if an additional bedroom is needed for a family member who is a carer.