(continued from 14 December)
Research by a team from Manchester University concerning the impact on children of the bedroom tax has since been confirmed by a study which the government itself commissioned. This shows that it is proving impossible to move to smaller accommodation or find better paid work, so families are doing without household essentials and frequently running out of money.
The Manchester research shows that children themselves are being damaged. The consequences of the bedroom tax for children include:
- Loss of space, to sleep, to do homework, to have congenial (heated and tranquil) environment to do schoolwork
- Anxiety and worry about parents
- Having to move (homes and sometimes schools); being unsettled
- Loss of friendships, activities, social support networks
The option of moving house
There are obvious consequences to children’s education from having to move schools – a frequent consequence of moving house under duress.
Even if this doesn’t happen, overcrowding can affect schoolwork. Children of different ages sharing bedrooms, as the government rules, can have an impact on family harmony, friendships and school work. The Director of Housing Services in one housing association describes one situation:
I saw a woman yesterday and …. She has two daughters sharing a bedroom. One is two and one’s fourteen and she says it doesn’t work and the two year old is now in with her ‘cause the fourteen year old throws her out and she’s got friends around; she can’t do her school work. Where you’ve got younger children sharing with teenagers it’s really impacting. She feels it is affecting their education ‘cause how can they possibly revise and stuff if you’ve got a two year old running in. you can’t sort of keep a two year old still for very long…
There are additional problems where parents are separated. For example, one father was seeing his sons less:
There is nowhere for them to sleep, they’ve tried to sleep… this [points at the sofa] is very uncomfortable, even I’ve tried it . (Harry, father of four)
Hiding it from the kids?
Parents’ accounts show how much they try to shield their children:
We hide it. Like I said before we just budget … or we just say have a word with the teacher on your own away from the kids… But I’m quite lucky like this because their dad pays for most of their school trips and stuff… I’d never let it affect them, never ever!
Older children in particular are acutely aware, and often try to shield their parents from distress. According to Anna (mother of four):
He finds it very hard, and you know, at one point he was going to school with the fleece and a jacket, he was freezing and he was too scared to say to me ‘mum I need a coat’ because he didn’t want to put added pressure on me.
These extracts from a discussion between a single child and her headteacher show just how much children are aware and affected:
“I just want my mum to stop crying”… “What’s she sad about?” And she rhymed off all these things that, you know, you think “You shouldn’t know about all these things.”
I wish my mum would spend some time with me and be happy when she’s with me.
I hope my mum can pay the TV license because if she doesn’t we’re going to lose… we’re not going to be able to afford to pay the rent.
[To be continued soon]