Meanwhile Lord Fraud’s dithering means that many women’s refuges and homelessness hostels may be forced to close when the benefit cap is introduced in July. The cap on benefits, set at £500 a week for families, or £350 for single people, includes housing benefits which in some cases meet the cost of supported accommodation.
Last year Women’s Aid issued a stark warning that this change could potentially close every single one of their refuge’s for those fleeing domestic violence. Homelessness hostels are also under threat. Hostels and refuges charge high rents to pay for the cost of support staff, with most supported housing having 24 hour staffing cover and specialist support workers.
Astonishingly neither bungling Lord Fraud or Iain Duncan Smith appeared to know this. In a panicky response the Government hastily u-turned, saying that the benefit cap would not apply to “supported exempt accommodation”. Ministers also claimed that when Universal Credit is introduced, the system of Housing Benefits, administered by local authorities, would remain in place for this type of housing.
The problem is that the legal definition for “supported exempt accommodation” is several years old and does not apply to much of the supported housing available today. This also seemed to come as a shock to Lord Fraud, who was forced to write charities promising not to worry, he would have it all sorted out soon.
And that appears to be the last anyone has heard from the bungling old toff. An important piece published on The Guardian website by Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, warns that with just one month to go until the benefit cap is launched nationally, many women’s refuges are still facing closure.
The charity also warns that many women who have already been housed after moving on from a refuge are likely to be affected by the cap and may “face eviction and be left with an impossible dilemma either to sleep rough or return to their violent partner”.
The truth is that the majority of those paying high rents and affected by the benefit cap are not people living it up in Chelsea mansions as the right wing press has attempted to portray. In many cases they are people whose life has taken a desperate turn and who have been forced to take any housing they could find in an emergency. Often this housing, despite being expensive, is sub-standard with grasping landlords charging a fortune for properties they couldn’t get away with renting to anyone who had a choice about where they lived.
The benefit cap is a truly nasty policy which punishes tenants for the greed of slum landlords. A DWP impact assessment suggested almost 200,000 children could be made homeless due to the cap. It is unlikely to even save any money. All it will achieve if the expulsion of poor, often genuinely vulnerable families from rich local authorities into areas where councils are already struggling to pay the bills.
The end result will be lower council tax for the rich and cuts to public services for the rest of us. And this, some would claim, is the Tory’s most popular policy. If that is true then a lot of people need to have a serious fucking word with themselves.
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