Low paid workers in poor cities are set to bear the brunt of the benefit caps as tens of thousands of families, including up to 200,000 children, are exported from London into already cash strapped cities.
This massive internal migration could see some areas overwhelmed with claimants. A recent DWP report (PDF) suggested seaside towns in the South East are expected to be hit hardest as thousands of low income, unemployed, sick or disabled parents are socially cleansed from London along with their kids. This report was only looking at the impact of the Housing Benefit caps already introduced, not the far more extensive overall benefit cap introduced this week and which will make the problem much worse.
The mass forced relocation will not even stop with the Benefit Cap. Some London councils are rewriting the rules on social housing with the aim of turning it into a subsidy for middle class professionals unable to buy a house in the capital. Social Housing rents can now be set at 80% of the average local market rent, meaning that even a council flat will be unaffordable for claimants in London.
The Benefit Uprating Bill which caps annual Housing Benefit rises at 1%, when rents are rising at a rate of 16% a year in some parts of the capital, will only add to the tidal wave of people forced to leave the city. The bedroom tax, and other benefit reforms will also help contribute to burgeoning benefit ghettos in South Eastern seaside towns and beyond.
Astonishingly even this is not enough for greedy Tories who seem intent on exporting all low income families to the North of England, Wales and Scotland where they can then be abandoned to managed decline. A cap on benefits at £20,000 a year, an idea floated this week in the Tory press, will make almost the entire South of England unaffordable for people on benefits.
It is difficult to even imagine the scale of the social chaos this would cause. Up to a million people, possibly even more, would be turned into economic refugees overnight. Cities like Leeds, Manchester, Glasgow or Birmingham could see population increases that will dwarf anything ever seen due to immigration from overseas. None of these people will have homes or jobs. Some will be unable to work due to sickness, disability or childcare responsibilities. The pressure on schools, hospitals, housing and other local services would be overwhelming for local authorities already making vicious cuts.
Currently the cap will only apply to families. Whilst a cap on benefits for single people has also been introduced at £350 a week, this is actually more than single people can currently claim in benefits in all but a tiny fraction of cases – if it impacts on anyone at all. The Benefit Cap for single people has been pure spin, designed to give the impression that people on benefits were receiving more than they actually are. However should this cap be reduced, in line with George’s Osborne’s recent fantasies, then the impact would be huge in those areas swamped by economic refugees.
It is no secret that a very small minority of claimants face significant difficulties in their lives, such as a serious criminal history, or addiction to drugs or alcohol. Many of these people are single claimants in the private sector where rents are soaring. Others are socially housed and vulnerable to eviction due to the bedroom tax or other cuts to benefits. Eviction from social housing in London will now often mean exportation to private sector housing in the North.
Imagine for a second every chaotic heroin addict or street drinker in the South of England, every unemployed convicted violent offender or every family like the Philpotts, turning up in Northern cities after being socially cleansed from the South.
At present these people are dispersed, albeit in already poor areas, throughout the UK. As London and the South East seeks to eradicate poverty by eradicating the poor, the intention is that all of affluent England’s expensive social problems will be exported elsewhere. One of the richest cities in the world is about to get even richer at the expense of everywhere else.
For the poorest in London the cap will be devastating as lives are destroyed and communities have their hearts ripped out. But anyone who doesn’t live in London, and thinks this cap is a good idea, should really think through the consequences of what they are supporting. Some of the biggest losers due to the benefit cap will be Council Tax payers in places like Margate and Southend. If the cap is reduced even further, and those forced to move to outer London towns have to move yet again, then the costs to the North of England, Scotland and Wales will be astronomical.
The benefit cap is one of the biggest confidence tricks the rich have recently played so it is hardly surprising it has been built on a string of lies. Only a handful of families were actually living in Chelsea mansions – and in most cases these families were homeless and in emergency temporary accommodation awaiting rehousing. Housing Benefit is available to those in work, meaning any hard working family could have moved to London, claimed for help with their rent and been better off than those on benefits. The Housing Benefits caps have not brought down rents as promised – with demand for private rented property soaring the opposite has happened. And no matter what the Government claims, there is no evidence that anyone has got a job due to the caps which have already been introduced.
Long term unemployment is at a 17 year high. Iain Duncan Smith’s changes to the benefits systems are undoubtedly hurting, but they aren’t working.
Benefits were already capped, at just £71.70 a week for somebody unemployed over the age of 25. Housing benefits simply lined the pockets of the grasping landlords and buy-to-let speculators who caused the increasing benefit bill. The people the cap affects will not have any less money in their hands due to the Benefit Cap. They just won’t have anywhere to live anymore.
Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid