The government is coming under more fire over its bedroom tax policy, almost four months after it was imposed on 660,000 poor or disabled households.
The policy survived its first judicial review on Tuesday of this week. Ten disabled tenants argued that the bedroom tax discriminates against disabled people.
Many disabled people have special adaptations to their homes, or need extra rooms to store equipment or as a result of their conditions.
But the High Court ruled it does not breach their human rights.
People deemed to have too many rooms are losing between 14 and 25 percent of their housing benefit—which can push them onto less than £50 a week for all their bills, food and travel costs. Some have found it too much to cope.
One man hit by the bedroom tax slashed his throat in a jobcentre in Runcorn, Merseyside, last week. He said he had “had enough of this shit”.
This comes after the suicide of Stephanie Bottrill in Solihull just weeks after the bedroom tax was introduced.
Riverside Homes is one of several housing associations receiving training from the Samaritans. Call centre workers there say they have had to deal with several tenants trying to kill themselves.
But a growing movement of estate-based campaign groups is providing an alternative to despair. They are calling for the bedroom tax to be defied until the government is forced to repeal it.
Groups around Britain protested against it last Saturday. More than 100 marched on the magistrates court in Manchester, led by PCS union members who work there. Columnist Owen Jones and Julie Hesmondhalgh, who plays Hayley in Coronation Street, joined them.
A coachload of protesters came from Bolton, where they have organised a series of meetings on estates across the town in the past four weeks. Janet Bryan, Unison union steward at Bolton Homes housing association, addressed the crowd.
Their joint union shop stewards committee has voted to back any housing workers who refuse to take part in the process of evicting tenants hit by the bedroom tax. Another 500 people marched in Liverpool.
Barnsley council is among the first to begin seeking eviction orders, with at least one court hearing threatened next month.
More than 20 protesters hung their “no evictions” banner from the public gallery of a full council meeting last week, and 30 joined Saturday’s day of action.
They marked out on the ground the size of some of the rooms designated as spare bedrooms.
There was also campaigning in a number of London boroughs. Tenants and trade unionists in Tower Hamlets in east London made a big splash with mass leafleting at Roman Road market followed by door to door on a local estate.
People took leaflets away by the bundle.
Also in in east London in Hackney passersby queued up to sign a petition against the bedroom tax, and take part in a “ballot” calling for a no evictions policy.