Category Archives: Housing and Homelessness

Boom Time For Landlords, The UK’s Soaring Housing Benefit Bill

landlord-772876Whilst the Tory Party pat themselves on the back at conference for the misery their welfare reforms have caused, recently updated benefit expenditure figures  make a mockery of any claims that these vicious cuts were carried out to save money.

Housing Benefit (or Local Housing Allowance) makes up one of the largest parts of social security spending and every last penny of it goes to landlords.  Ever since this government weren’t elected they have made brutal cuts to this vital benefit which pays for the UK’s poorest people to have a roof over theirs heads.  Despite this the Housing Benefit bill is soaring and expcted to rise even further.

£24.8 billion was handed out to landlords in the form of Housing Benefit cheques in 2012/13 – the latest year for which exact figures are available.  This is a rise of £2.7 billion, in real terms annual spending on Housing Benefit since the Tories came to power.

Much of this increase is in payments to private sector landlords rather than towards  housing association or council rents.  But it is not soaring private rents that have caused the increase in spending, Housing Benefit rises are now capped at 1% annually whilst total caps on the amount landlords can receive are in place in high rent areas such as the South East of England.  It is claimants who have had to absorb the cost of rent rises, out of already meagre benefits.

Nor is the rise due to people who are unemployed.  Less than £4 bilion of the £24.8 bilion total Housing Benefit spend pays for accommodation for people on unemployment benefits.  Much of the rise is due to new claimants who are in work, which shows the true picture of the UK’s labour market.

Housing Benefit provides a good indicator of how many people in the UK are poor.  It is available to those in or out of work, as well as pensioners.  The only criteria for help with rent payments is an income low enough to qualify and less than £16,000 in assets.  The Tories may claim that the recovery is in full swing, and thousands of pretend jobs have been created, but that doesn’t change the harsh fact that there are now more people poor than at any point since the Housing Benefit system began.

This is reflected in the number of people actually claiming the benefit, which hit a record 5.05 million in 2012/13.  This figure has fallen slightly since last year – by around 25 thousand – but is forecast to rise again and is still almost half a million people higher than in 2009/10.

Surprisingly, another factor that may be driving up the Housing Benefit bill could well be the bungled attempts at cost-cutting reforms – the most notorious being the Bedroom Tax.  There has been no better gift to the landlord class than this nasty policy which is driving people out of secure homes at low, social rents and into the out of control and hugely expensive private sector.  Even the Benefit Cap might be increasing spending on Housing Benefits as families evicted due to no longer being able to afford the rent are rehoused by local authorities in emergency temorary accommodation which can be eye-wateringly expenisve.  Last year the BBC reported on families being placed in £3000 a week hotels after being made homeless due to caps on housing benefits.  The most recent homelessness figures showed the number of families living in B&Bs is at a five year high.

Many tenants are struggling with desperate poverty after cuts to Housing Benefits.  Some Bedroom Tax victims are now paying up to a third of their meagre benefit payments towards the rent.  Yet the cost of Housing Benefit is soaring.  All Iain Duncan Smith has created is more poverty at more cost to the tax payer.  Whatever your political persuasion that is nothing to be fucking cheering about.

You can download the most recent Benefit Expenditure tables at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/benefit-expenditure-and-caseload-tables-2014

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Something Is Stirring In The Capital: The Fight Against Social Cleansing Bursts Into Life

poor-doorsWith the Tory’s threatening a new benefit cap and cuts to Local Housing Allowance if they win the next election, it is unsurprising that London’s fucked housing market is emerging as a key site of struggle in the capital.

Two diffrent events this week will highlight the grotesque inequality in a city where global billionaires buy luxury penthouses to keep empty as investments whilst people sleep in the streets below

Wednesday (1st October – tomorrow!) the biggest demonstration against the Poor Doors so far is set to take place.  This weekly protest, outside 1 Commercial Street E1, began after it emerged that the residents in the meagre supply of social housing in this yuppy block of flats are forced to use a different door to the toffs who occupy the luxury properties.

The protests are now in their 10th week and are growing.  Last week the lobby of the building was briefly cccupied, whilst veteran anarchist and fellow blogger Ian Bone, who has supported the protests, was arrested.  Unbowed Bone says tomorrow is likely to be the crunch as Redrow* and the TSG (riot cops) throw their resources into maintaining apartheid in central London…..we’ve got to win this one.”  Get down to 1 Commercial Street, E1 from 6pm, Wednesday October 1st and show the rich they are the ones who are not welcome in the East End borough of Tower Hamlets. 

*Redrow are the property developers behind the poor doors, you can find them on twitter @RedrowLondon

Then on Thursday 2nd October the Focus E15 mums have called for support outside the courts where Newham Council will attempt to have them evicted from the flats they have occupied on the Carpenter’s Estate in Stratford.

This group of local single parents have been fighting for secure housing for their children ever since they were kicked out of a hostel that Newham Council decided to close to save money.  They have been told they face being socially cleansed from the city and could be rehoused as far away as Manchester.

After repeatedly being snubbed by nasty piece of shit Robin Wales, the Labour Mayor of Newham, last week the group occupied several empty flats on the Carpenter’s Estate which is set to be demolished – no doubt to make way for more yuppy flats.  The council are seeking a possession order at Bow County Court this week and the E15 mothers have called for support – be outside the courts at 96 Romford Rd E15 4EG from 9.30am Thursday October 2nd.

You can also follow the campaign on twitter @FocusE15 and @E15OpenHouse or join them on facebook.

Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth (HASL) have also been fighting against evictions due to welfare reforms and rampant gentrification, follow them @HousingActionSL  Residents of West Hendon Estate in Barnet have faced arrests after fighting the destruction of their homes to make way for million pound flats.  Join their facebook page for more details.

And that’s not all as resistance to austerity, forced work and shit housing bursts back into life.  Next week sees a Week of Action Against Workfare with events already announced in Edinburgh, Bristol, Brighton, Haringey, Central London and even Amsterdam!  Online actions are also set to take place, keep an eye on the Boycott Workfare website for full details.

Meznwhile Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) are calling on people to crash the Tory Party Conference Twittersphere by hijacking their hashtag #CPC14.  Send your own tweets or visit DPAC’s website for some of theirs.

Please tweet, blog, share and spread the word about all events and join in if you can.

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Benefit Sanctions Are Political Admits Welfare To Work Boss As Housing Charities Flee Work Programme

sanction-sabsThe Chief Executive of ERSA, the trade body established to lie on behalf of the welfare to work industry, has said that benefit sanctions are ‘political’ and called for a better evidence base for the current regime.

Kirsty McHugh made the comments in an interview with Inside Housing magazine discussing the number of homelessness charities and Housing Associations that have ended their involvement with Iain Duncan Smith’s Work Programme.  According to McHugh:

“(Work Programme) Providers want to be able to make a judgement themselves as to whether there is good reason why a client has or hasn’t broken the conditions of their benefit. But right now the system does not allow this.

“For political reasons, this government likes a “stick”, but I think we need a better evidence base.”

This flies in the face of the DWP’s current position, which is that benefit sanctions ‘help’ people gain work, even giving them a ‘welcome jolt’.  In reality, as those involced in the Work Programme know only too well, they often destroy people’s chances of finding a job as those sanctioned sink into poverty, destitution and ill health.

Inside Housing also spoke to the boss of SHP – the homelessness charity who pulled out of the Work Programme saying that sanctions were causing people to beg and steal to survive.  Chef Executive Liz Rutherford gives a vivid description of the type of people who face losing their benefits: “They might be people who were sleeping rough, or with severe mental health difficulties or people with an addiction. They were people who basically needed to deal with these [issues] before looking for work.”

This sentiment is even shared by the odious Bromford Group, the welfare reform loving housing association who recently quit the Work Programme after whining that they weren’t making enough money out of it.  According to John Wade, boss of Bromford Support, they were having people referrd to them that weren’t expected to get a job ‘in a million years’ by the welfare-to-work companies running the scheme.

Both SHP and Bromford have spotted the huge scam that underpins the welfare-to-work industry.  As SHP point out there is an “‘assumption that something like 30% of those referred to the Work Programme will get a job anyway” whilst Bromford say: “[Prime contractors] would have already modelled, for example, that, if they got 28% of every 100 people into work, then they’ve done fine [as a return on their investment].”

In other words, the welfare-to-work companies represented by ERSA can do precisely fuck all and still get paid billions of our money.  Their Chief Executive even admits this is going on, warning that there is a danger people on the sickness and disability benefit ESA are being ‘parked by the system’.

ERSA’s criticisms of the Work Programme show an industry panicking that the game might be up as the dreadful performance of the scheme has shined new light on their grubby little racket. But no matter what they plead, they are fully culpable for the horrific suffering that benefit sanctions have inflicted, often on some of the most marginalised people in society.

The welfare-to-work industry was born with the emergence of Tony Blair’s New Deal, the first attempt at mass workfare and compulsory training for those over 18.  For the first time large companies like Reed and Manpower were given eye-watering sums of money to harass unemployed people by forcing them into endless pointless activity.  The so-called training they offered was so sub-standard that the only way the government could make people attend was by threatening to take their benefits away.  As such the welfare-to-work sector has always been dependent on benefit sanctions for its survival.  Their fake concern now is merely them attempting to be given even more power over claimants lives by pleading that they should make the decision about who gets sanctioned, not the Jobcentre.  They will want more money for this responsibility of course.  The tragedy is that the DWP is currently being run by such a bunch of fucking idiots that they will probably get it.

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Beggars To Be Grassed Up To DWP On New Scheme, Can The Salvation Army Sink Any Lower?

jesus-beggar3

The entire homelessness industry has questions to answer about how they are treating those they claim to support, but none has sunk so low as Jesus’ little fucking helpers in the Salvation Army.

A local paper in York reports that the Salvation Army are now teaming up with the police in a scheme which will could see homeless people grassed up  to the DWP if they are caught begging.

According to the paper, Salvation Army members, along with the police and local council busy-bodies will be patrolling the streets of York hunting for beggars.  The charity claim they will provide housing advice whilst the police will be ‘reminding people’ that begging is against the law, no doubt by arresting them.  Not to be outdone, representatives from York Council say they will inform the DWP if people found begging are receiving any benefits.  Which means their benefits will be stopped.  And they’ll have to beg more.

None of this will trouble the Salvation Army, who are quite happy to have people’s benefits sanctioned themselves should someone refuse to work without pay in one of their shit charity shops.  Some charities have warned that benefit sanctions are causing people to beg just to be able to buy food.  This latest initiative will ensure that in York at least, anyone sanctioned by the Salvation Army and forced to beg will now face harassment and possible arrest under a scheme part run by the same Salvation Army.  A vicious noose is being tied around the neck of some of the poorest and most marginalised people in the UK.  And everyday some of the UK’s best known charities help pull it a little bit tighter.

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DWP And Homelessness Charities Link Up To Bully Homeless Benefit Claimants

HomelessThe homelessness industry is today welcoming an upcoming change in the law which could see homeless people forced to live in unsuitable or unsafe accommodation or face losing eligibility for benefits.

Homeless Link and St Mungo’s Broadway have published a gushing press release cheering amendments to the rules for Jobseeker’s Allowance set to come into force next month.  The changes mean that newly homeless people may only be considered meeting the criteria for benefits if they take “such steps as are reasonable for him (sic) to take to find living accommodation.”

Homeless people will have an easement of jobseeking requirements if they follow these conditions, but this will usually only last four weeks, despite the average length of hostel stays being significantly longer than that.  The minimum length of stay in one of St Mungo’s Central London hostels is eight weeks, with most residents staying an average of six to nine months.  The so-called easement period will be granted only at the discretion of Jobcentre busy-bodies and will not apply to people who have been homeless for a long time.

This trivial concession has been won by the homelessness industry in exchange for a yet further extensions of Jobcentre powers over the lives of some of the most marginalised claimants.  Overpaid charity bosses have been working for a long time with various government bodies and local authorities to establish the homelessness industry as a sort of soft police force aiming to clear the streets of those destitute.  Instead of analysing why mass homelessness exists, which is first and foremost an economic problem, it has been assumed that there must be something wrong with homeless people, something that can be cured.  This is no different to the current thinking at the DWP which blames unemployed people for unemployment and it is vile.

The main way to cure people of homelessness, charity bosses believe, is to move everyone off the streets into one of their hostels. Of course they will still be technically homeless but at least the charity gets a huge Housing Benefit cheque every week. These hostels have slightly improved over recent years but they can still be dangerous and hostile places.  The rules and regulations are endless, bullying can be rife, they are often riddled with heavy drug use and evictions can happen at the drop of a hat and for the most trivial reasons.  Yet under the new regulations a newly homeless claimant who turns down a hostel place will now not be considered for the easement period.  If they are then judged unable to meet benefit conditions, which could include workfare, they will face sanctions or possibly even be disallowed benefits completely.  Homelessness charity bosses are either extremely fucking naive or have quite another agenda if they honestly believe this will be better for homeless people, who do not appear to have been consulted about the changes.  They never are.

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Housing Minister Encourages Landlords To Breach Discrimination Laws

no-dssThe invisible Housing Minister Kris Hopkins has said it is “perfectly legitimate” for landlords to refuse to rent to people on Housing Benefits despite serious doubts about the legality of this practice.

Hopkins was being interviewed by Panorama, who this week revealed that the number of people who have become homeless due to a private tenancy coming to an end has trebled over the last five years.  The investigation featured buy-to-let scum Fergus Wilson who earlier in the year announced he planned to evict all of his 200 Housing Benefit tenants due to concerns about rent arrears related to welfare reforms.  This is just fine according to skiving Housing Minister Hopkins who said:  “If they actually decide they don’t want to have somebody on housing benefit in the future, that’s a perfectly legitimate thing for them to do.”

The problem is that it almost certainly isn’t under the Equalities Act – not that anyone seems to care.  As the Legal Director of Human Rights group Liberty explains here, if it can be shown that disabled people are more likely to be on benefits than non-disabled people then the policy of ‘No DSS’ is almost certainly illegal.

For those on out of work benefits due to sickness or disability then this becomes easily proven.  It is hopefully only a matter of time before someone claiming Employment Support Allowance brings a case against a landlord for this form of economic and disablist discrimination.  The landlord’s defence is likely to point out that the government’s Housing Minister said this practice was just fine.  Hopkins was once called Parliament’s ‘nastiest slimiest MP’ by one of his former colleagues.  If this is the sort of shit he comes out with when he can actually be arsed to show up for work then the cunt should stay in bed.

HT – Landless Peasant

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Hundreds of Thousands Of Households Staring Homelessness in The Face

neighbor-homelessHundreds of thousands of households, many of them with children, are staring homelessness in the face as a direct result of Iain Duncan Smith’s bungled welfare reforms.

Recently released figures show that just under 400,000 households received Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) in 2013/14.  These payments are the sticking plaster used to cover up savage cuts to housing benefits and prevent soaring homelessness in  the run up to the election.  Many of the payments, which are administered by Local Authorities, are being used to meet rent shortfalls due to the Bedroom Tax.

The figures do not show how long people have been given awards for, other than around 15,000 ongoing payments being granted to foster families and disabled people in adapted accommodation hit by the Bedroom Tax or other cuts.  They do show however that over 100,000 families were given short term help until they ‘move into alternative accommodation’.  These represent people forced out of their homes due to Welfare Reforms.  How many have had to uproot children from school and move to new cities is not recorded, and neither is whether they actually secured alternative accommodation or are now living in temporary housing.

Over 20,000 households have received DHPs due to the impact of the Benefit Cap.  This is almost half the total of families affected by the cap on Housing Benefits which makes much of London and the South East unaffordable for those out of work.  The main reason the Benefit Cap has not yet caused the exodus from London, and the expected spike in the number of homeless families, is because lots of people’s benefits haven’t actually been capped yet.  Instead housing costs are now being paid in the most complicated and precarious way possible by Local Authorities.

This makes a mockery of Iain Duncan Smith’s claim to have simplified the benefits system.  Every local authority has different rules about who and why someone can receive DHPs creating a postcode lottery for claimants.  As this week’s figures show, some Councils have massively overspent their DHP allowances, but several others have underspent.  Some twat with a clipboard now makes a decision on whether to condemn people to homelessness, based on the whims of whichever bunch of bastards happens to be running the council at the time.

One thing is for sure which is that this mess is costing a fortune.  Whilst lying bastard Lord Fraud desperately tried to mangle the figures, almost £200 million has been spent on DHPs in the last year.  That’s on top of the huge costs administering the sweeping changes to Housing Benefits which ran to approaching £50 million for the Benefit Cap alone.  This figure also does not include Housing Benefit now being paid out to people forced out of social housing due to the Bedroom Tax and into the vastly more expensive private rented sector.  And of course no-one’s really counting the cost of housing people in temporary accommodation, such as hostels or B&Bs after they have been made homeless by Housing Benefit cuts.

Once again the facts are as stark as they are unarguable.  Changes to Housing Benefits have led to desperate housing insecurity.  What this means is in practice is families unable to plan for the future, children going to bed at night frightened of losing their homes or desperate stress and worry for disabled people receiving help with the Bedroom Tax and knowing that support could be removed at any time.  It is utterly inhumane, breath-takingly inept and costing the tax payer a fortune.  Just another day at the office then for the fucking idiots currently in charge of the DWP.

You can view the figures at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/use-of-discretionary-housing-payments-2013-to-2014

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