Housing Benefit (now called Local Housing Allowance) is paid to those in and out of work alike, as well as low income pensioners, those on sickness or disability benefits and lone parents. In London it has recently been estimated that 44% of housing benefit claimants are in work but on wages which leave them unable to afford to pay the rent . The only factor taken into account when assessing claims are income and savings, meaning that the number of people on housing benefit gives a good indication of how many people are poor in the UK.
And despite Tory lies about a million new jobs being created, the sad truth is that more people are poor than ever before. Recently released statistics (PDF) show that in February 2013 there were 5.08 million recipients of Housing Benefit, up from 4.74 million in May 2010 when this Government weren’t elected. This is the highest figure since Housing Benefit was introduced in 1983.
The truth is that any job creation which might have taken place has been workfare, low income self-employment, zero hours contracts or part time work, leaving unprecedented numbers of people dependent on some benefits to survive.
The figures also reveal that despite endless propaganda about benefit claimants living in tax payer funded mansions, the average housing benefit entitlement is just £89.30 a week.
Around a quarter of housing benefit recipients are pensioners, a figure which has stayed fairly stable over recent years. Pensioners are exempt from the recent vicious cuts to housing benefit, however 4 million claimants under pensionable age now face this vital benefit being cut due to the bedroom tax, benefit tax, benefit uprating bill and other measures.
Some of those people will be left with just a few pounds a week after paying the rent, whilst others will be driven from their homes completely. Almost every working age Housing Benefit claimant has been affected by the cuts. This means that not only are there more poor people than ever before, but that 4 million of them are now at very real risk of homelessness as incomes shrink and rent rises. A recent DWP report revealed how many landlords are in the process of evicting housing benefit claimants due to the cuts.
Iain Duncan Smith boasted over the weekend that he is prepared to make even further cuts to housing benefits, once again raising the spectre of ending the benefit completely for those under 25. Homelessness is already soaring and the Secretary of State is determined to make the problem even worse. The UK could look like a very different place in just a few years time as vast numbers of people lose their homes. The responsibility for that will not just lie with George Osborne and his fucked economy, but with Iain Duncan Smith’s reckless, bodged and brutal attempts at social security reform.
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