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Monday, 13 May 2013

“Spare room subsidy policy”. The bedroom tax.

Stephanie Bottrill was found dead on Junction 4 of the M6 motorway at the beginning of the month aged 53 and explicitly blamed the government for her actions.

Stephanie Bottrill and her house in Meriden Drive, Solihull

Already, the usual suspects are churning out the divisive comments designed to rubbish Stephanie Bottrill and her son. Headlines in the story leaders, and many remarks in the comments sections of the articles are quick to point out that "she was offered smaller accommodation" and "the council offered a relocation package" or "she declined the alternative as unsuitable". None of the commentators of course bother to report that Stephanie had the auto-immune system deficiency Myasthenia gravis, an illness which weakens muscles, and was on constant medication. Nor do they mention that she was not in receipt of any disability living allowance as she was never registered as disabled, and that the system had failed her. 

Stephanie Bottrill's son Steven outside her house
Stephanie Bottrill's son Steven outside her house

Whichever way you look at it, and regardless of these spurious factors, the cause of Stephanie Bottrill's suicide was the reduction of £20.00 per week due to the “spare room subsidy policy”, the so called “Bedroom tax”. Admittedly, it may have been the “straw that broke the camels back”, the final burden which led her to tell neighbours that “she simply could not afford to live any more because of the benefit changes”.
However, it is reported that until the welfare changes were proposed and until the effects on Stephanie Bottrill's personal circumstances were established, there was no indication that she was suicidal or had any tendencies in that respect.
Baroness Warsi has stated that it would be wrong to link the suicide with a general policy discussion on welfare reforms. Warsi has been wrong before with so many of her comments and contributions and she is way off the mark with this one.
The whole Iain Duncan-Smith conceived and ConDem coalition endorsed, welfare reform measures are unfair and ill conceived. In the case of the “Bedroom Tax”, not only are they unfair in conception, they are evil in application. An evil policy applied by a government who know the price of everything and the value of nothing, a government who will never understand the effects that their out of touch policies will have on ordinary people, a government of rich MP's more concerned with their own pockets and with ensuring that their divide and rule policies maintain and even create more schisms in society. Stephanie Bottrill's suicide is perhaps the first that can be directly linked to the governments welfare reforms. I fear that it will not be the last..