There has been a lot of talk recently - partly due to the general state of the economy and rising food and fuel costs and partly due to the Government introduction of the so-called Bedroom Tax - about how many people are struggling to make ends meet and put food on the table.
Helen Goodman, Labour MP for Bishop Auckland has even undertaken an experiment living on just £18 a week - which the amount she says some of constituents will have to manage on once the Bedroom Tax comes into force. You can see her week of video diaries here .
Whilst I commend her for trying to raise awareness of the issue, I think it's pretty plain to see that she is NOT used to having to think so carefully about what she spends her money on! No, you can't have fresh coffee or quality steak or fish for dinner every night but then how many people can afford to that anyway?
This Bedroom Tax won't affect us - we are struggling to pay a mortgage and keep hold of our home and do not receive any kind of housing benefit. Our combined income is minimal so we do get Working and Child Tax credits to top us up but even so I have way less than £18 per head to feed my family each week (probably more like £13.50 a head). I think the same is true for many working families.Yes it's hard, but not THAT hard. With a bit of careful shopping and planning it is perfectly possible to eat a healthy and varied diet on a small budget. Cooking from fresh instead of relying on packets (and in the wake of the recent horse meat scandal that is an even better idea), using the freezer and learning to bake - it's amazing what you can do with flour, sugar, margarine and eggs - all help.
I know there are many people out there who already live frugal lives, who do their best to feed their families a healthy diet, who scrimp and save for little treats and who will be losing out once this 'tax' comes in. It IS unfair that families who have lived in their home for many years or even decades will feel that they are being forced to move out and leave behind their memories.
My grandparents, had they been alive today, would have been affected - they lived in their 3 bedroom council house for best part of 40 years, raised three kids and had grandkids to stay on a regular basis. But would they would be deemed to be under-occupying and forced to move to a one bed property - assuming one was available - or pay the difference out of their state pension? And here is the crux of the matter. It's all well and good telling people they can no longer live in their 3 bedroom terrace and have to down-size to make room for other needy families but are the smaller properties actually available? And if there aren't any properties available, how many people will struggle on until they default on their rent and lose their homes anyway?
Many people will be facing a stark choice - either learn to manage on next to nothing or find themselves on the street.
I would be interested to see how the Government will deal with the inevitable increase in those finding themselves without any bedrooms at all . . .
added - I have since found out that my grandparents would not have been asked to leave their house as those over 63 are exempted from the 'bedroom tax'. Which is something I suppose . . .