Author Archives: johnny void

Keep The Jobcentre Out Of The NHS – The Fightback Against The Health And Work Programme Starts Now! #donoharm

do-no-harm

Job coaches in GP Surgeries? No!

We call on GPs to #‎DoNoHarm.

Join DPAC, Boycott Workfare, Mental Health Resistance Network on

4 March, 3pm at the City Road Surgery, 190-196 City Road, London EC1V 2QH.

Groups supporting benefit claimants and disabled people are uniting for a protest on the 4th March following the news that Employment Coaches from shadowy US outsourcing company Maximus are to be stationed in GP surgeries in Islington.

The demonstration will take place outside City Road Medical Centre, one of six GP practices in the borough who have opted to take part in the DWP funded pilot scheme.  These surgeries will now have their own Employment Coaches drawn from the welfare-to-work industry who will provide the kind of Jobcentre harassment that disabled people and those with health conditions are already all too familiar with if they are unable to work.

The scheme has been devised by Islington Clinical Commissioning Group who oversee healthcare in Islington and is backed by the local Labour Council who say on their website that this service will create ‘jobs on prescription’.  Many claimants fear the reality could be benefit sanctions on prescription, as doctors are turned into a weapon to impose labour market discipline and bully unemployed, disabled or unwell people into low paid or unsuitable work.

GP referrals to Employment Coaches will not be compulsory to attend – yet.  But this pilot scheme forms part of a national strategy by Iain Duncan Smith to bring Jobcentres into the heart of the NHS.  A new Health and Work Programme is being planned, with the aim of slashing spending on already meagre sickness and disability benefits.  Even those with the most serious conditions may soon to be forced to prove they are constantly looking for work whilst the government are examining the possibility of compulsory treatment for some health problems.

Campaigners warn that any attempt to merge healthcare with the vicious benefit cutting agenda of the DWP will demolish the trust that exists between doctors and patients.  An activist from Disabled People Against Cuts warns that “many disabled people already feel they have to watch every word they say when seeing their GP in case it is used against them at some point to stop their benefits.   Placing Jobcentre funded staff in doctor’s’ surgeries could destroy the doctor/patient relationship and may lead to some people not accessing vital healthcare when they need it most.”

Perhaps most appalling is that the Employment Coaches in Islington are set to come from Remploy – once a government run service that provided jobs for disabled people – now sold off and turned into a privatised welfare-to-work company responsible for sanctioning disabled people’s benefits.  Remploy have become a subsidiary of Maximus – the same company who run the despised Work Capability Assessment used to declare that disabled people or those with a long term health condition are ‘fit for work’.  Maximus are also providers of the Work Programme, a Jobcentre scheme which involves compulsory training or workfare with brutal benefit sanctions inflicted for ‘non-compliance’.

At a time when some claimants have been driven to suicide by the constant bullying, assessments, threats and sanctions that now form part of the UK’s benefits system, there must be no place in the NHS for Jobcentre busy-bodies.  Disabled people, benefit claimants and supporters can and will defeat this appalling attack on the fundamental principle that healthcare professionals should ‘first do no harm’.  Join campaigners from DPAC, Mental Health Resistance Network and Boycott Workfare outside City Road Medical Centre, 190-196 City Road , London, EC1V 2QH on Friday 4th March from 3pm.  Please spread the word and make this huge!

An online protest will also be held for those unable to attend in person.  Watch this space for further details and in the meantime please tweet using hashtag #DoNoHarm

See the Facebook Event Page for more details and please support the Thunderclap – timed to go off just as the protest begins

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How Islington’s Labour Run Council Are Dancing To Iain Duncan Smith’s Tune

ids-laughing2

So the doctor says to their patient “I’ve got some good news, and some bad new.   The bad news is you’ve only got six months to live … but the good news is that I’ve found you a temporary job working in Poundland.”

You might have noticed that this joke is not very fucking funny.  But this is the dream of council bureacrats in one London borough who are developing a horrifying strategy for local healthcare which will see “employment viewed as a clinical outcome.”

Whilst the final plans for Iain Duncan Smith’s localised Health and Work Programme have not yet been released, the Labour dominated Borough of Islington are jumping aboard the gravy train early and have set up their own scheme to tackle what they call  ‘health-related worklessness’.  In a report published in 2014 the so-called Islington Employment Commission – a bunch of local employers, councillors, Jobcentre busy-bodies and a token TUC representative – called for radical change in the borough’s employment support strategy. Their proposals mirror almost exactly the current direction of Tory social security policy, even down to using the same words.

All young people should be ‘learning or earning’ according to the commission, a phrase first used by David Cameron when he announced the yet to materialise mass workfare programme for all those under 21.  They also claim that many long term sick or disabled people are not receiving enough employment support because “their benefit does not require them to look for work”.  And for those who do have to look for work as part of their benefit conditions, they say the support is not good enough, and they think they could do better.  In fact salaries depend on it.  As such they recommended establishing a local Health and Work Programme to make ‘maximising employment a priority’ for healthcare services.

Six months later Islington Council teamed up with Islington Clinical Commissioning Group who oversee local healthcare and ominously formed a partnership with Jobcentre Plus. The DWP were  only too happy to help and agreed to fund the salary of an Employment Lead worker to be based at the heart of Islington’s NHS services to “to drive employment outcomes through strategic health commissioning”.  What this means is money meant for healthcare will instead be shovelled into the hands of grasping welfare-to-work parasites with the aim of reducing “entrenched worklessness among residents with a health condition or disability in the borough.

One of the first moves, which is already sparking local outrage, is to introduce Employment Coaches into six GP’s surgeries in Islington.  These tax payer funded busy-bodies will come from Remploy who were recently sold off to giant US outsourcing company Maximus who already run many Jobcentre services. Doctors will be encouraged to refer patients for employment support with the same company who carry out the despised Work Capability Assessment used to stop disabled people’s benefits by finding them fit for work.  A company that has been the target of ongoing protests by disabled people and benefit claimants.  It is hard to imagine a bigger insult to disabled or long term sick people in Islington.  But then perhaps that is the point.

This is leafy, lefty Islington, and so there is lots of gushing talk about quality of life and creating living wage jobs in the proposals for the new scheme.  They don’t really mean it though.  In Islington Employment Commission’s report they discuss how some residents object to taking the first job they are offered because it might be unsuitable or low paid.  According to the commission local employers have told them this is not the case and that people should be prepared to take a job that isn’t perfect no matter how shit, just to get their foot on the ladder.  But then they would say that wouldn’t they. Islington’s Health and Work service is being designed with the needs of employers in mind, not local people.

As such, whilst evidence shows that low paid, insecure, or unsuitable work is bad for your health, doctors will still be encouraged to coerce their paients into taking these jobs.  And whilst Islington Councillors and healthcare bueracrats salve their consciences by telling themselves about all the wonderful opportunities they are creating for disabled people, their partners, Jobcentre Plus will provide the teeth – in the form of vicious and life destroying benefit sanctions – to ensure compliance.  Iain Duncan Smith must be pissing himself as the liberal elite dance to his tune in Jeremy Corbyn’s backyard.  If he can get away with this shit here, he will consider he can do it everywhere.  And that is why it must be stopped.

A protest has been called outside City Road Medical Centre, 190-196 City Road , London, EC1V 2QH on Friday 4th March from 3pm.  Please spread the word, more details on the facebook page.

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Over Half Of All Businesses Launched On Government Enterprise Scheme Would Be Shut Down Under Universal Credit

Precariously self-employed?  The Minister of Death is coming for you.

Precariously self-employed? The Minister of Death is coming for you.

Over half of all small businesses launched under the DWP’s flagship New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) scheme will be ruthlessly closed down when draconian new benefit conditions for self-employed people are introduced as part of Universal Credit.

New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) is the Jobcentre scheme under which claimants receive a small allowance for starting a small business for the first six months as long as they agree to occassional harassment from some dickhead advisor from the local welfare-to-work company.  It has been a huge success according to a gushing press release published by Minister of Death Priti Patel today, who claims that 80% of those who started out as self-employed on the NEA are still trading, with nine in ten of them having been in business for over 12 months.

Patel was responding to a survey carried out amongst NEA participants examining the success of the scheme.  A total of 1,500 of those who had taken part were questioned and the vast majority had been sucessfully self-employed for over one year.  The so-called support offered by NEAs was not so popular however.  Of those still trading at the time of the survey 70% had not accessed any help from their provider after the initial launch of their business.  They appreciated the money though, despite it being the miserly amount of £65 a week for the first three months on the scheme and then falling to just £33 for the remaining period.  This is because skint people need money, not lectures from some DWP busy-body whose entrepreneurial flare is so astounding that they ended up working in the fucking Jobcentre.

According to the survey the majority of these businesses were sole traders, with some of the most common sectors including cleaning, health and beauty, IT repairs or gardening.  In other words these are largely precariously self-employed workers, struggling to get by from week to week.  And this is reflected in the amount of money they are making.  Over half of small businesses (58%) questioned at the time of the survey had a monthly turnover of less than £1000, and for 37% it was under £500.  Almost of all these businesses will be forced to close when Universal Credit is fully introduced.

Savage new rules for in-work benefits are soon to mean that after one year self-employed people will be expected to be earning the equivalent of the national minimum wage for 35 hours a week if they have no young children or health condition.  That means profit, not turnover, of at least £985 per calender month at the current minimum wage rate – and as that rises this will become ever more difficult for self-employed people to achieve.  Those who do not meet this threshold will not be classed as ‘gainfully self-employed’ by the Jobcentre and so will be forced to claim mainstream unemployment benefits*.  They will then be expected to carry out ‘work related activity’, which means looking for a job, for up to 35 hours a week.  Self-employed activity may not be counted towards this and they could be stopped from doing it at all and forced to attend full-time unpaid workfare instead.  From budding entrepreneurs starting out as their own boss  to benefit scroungers at the stroke of DWP Minister’s pen.

For those with monthly profit at or close to the threshold and passing the test for ‘gainful self-employment’ then the situation will be little better.  These claimants will then be assumed to be earning the minimum wage rate for full time work when their in-work benefits are calculated.  This will include benefits intended to cover housing costs as well as the replacements for both Child and Working Tax Credits.  So should someone self-employed go through a lean patch for a couple of months they will not only suffer through lack of earnings but their Universal Credit will not reflect that loss of income.  The only solution will be to go back on the dole in an effort to restore housing benefits, and that’s assuming the Jobcentre lets them and doesn’t suspend their claim for giving up gainful self-employment.  This is what Minister of Death Priti Patel secretly has in store for all those small businesses she is cheering on today.  Financial destitution and bureacratic chaos.  And once they on their knees, sanction their benefits for not trying hard enough.  Build’ em up and knock ’em right back down.  She hasn’t had so much fun since she was working in PR for the tobacco industry encouraging poor people to take up smoking.

*Such is the shambles in the delayed roll out of Universal Credit that there is a crass attempt being made to bolt this kind of conditionality onto the current Tax Credit system.  As reported in the trade journal Nursery World (h/t @stukisu) many child miners are being inundated with demands from HMRC to prove that their small businesses are genuine and that they are striving their hardest to make a profit.  Perhaps most appallingly, as this is being done before Universal Credit has been implemented, they are threatened not just with loss of their current in-work benefits but a demand for a repayment of all benefits to date – potentially plunging some into thousands of pounds worth of debt.  That’s child minders, working all the hours God sends for shit money, being persecuted and driven into unescapable debt for not making quite enough profit or being able to produce detailed business plans and advertising strategies on demand to government bureacrats.

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Working Full Time And Think You’re Safe From The Jobcentre? Not If The DWP Get Their Way.

When I click my fingers you will wake up, and all your benefits will have been stopped.

Are you striving hard enough? The nudge unit is watching you.

A study released by the DWP today shows that tens of thousands of Tax Credits claimants  – some of them with full time jobs – have received letters and texts encouraging them to contact government busy-bodies for advice on how to increase their earnings by finding a new job or gaining promotion.

This startling fact is contained in an evaluation of the ‘In-work progression advice trial’ quietly carried out in 2014.  This pilot scheme, run by the DWP in conjunction with the shadowy Nudge Unit, involved 75,000 Tax Credit claimants receiving a letter encouraging them to contact the National Careers Service for advice on how to progress in work.  Around half of participants also recieved a text message.

Claimants were chosen largely at random from those earning a monthly income of £330–£960, so those working full-time at the then minimum wage were included in the study.  When Universal Credit is fully introduced (stop laughing) part-time workers will be forced to endlessly look for ‘more or better paid work’ during the hours they are not working.  They could even be sent on unpaid workfare schemes and if they refuse then vital in-work benefits, including money required to pay for housing costs, could be stopped.   What this pilot suggests is that policies are being considered to ensure even those with full time jobs are subject to Jobcentre conditionality if they are paid low wages.

Of course what the evaluation of the scheme showed is that it was a fucking disaster.  Of the 75,000 people offered this so-called help from the National Careers Service only 1.1% agreed to take part.  Of those only 19 were prepared to take part in the evaluation of the scheme despite being offered a twenty quid shopping voucher by the DWP.  15 people who hadn’t taken up the offer also agreed to be interviewed.  Such a small sample out of tens of thousands of people renders the results of this research worthless as even the Nudge Unit quacks know.  But this is about manufacturing evidence, not any real attempt to find out if this is something people actually want or need.

Of the few people researchers spoke to they found exactly what you would expect.  Many older claimants, such as those in their 50s, were quite happy with their work and saw no reason to change anything.  Often people had caring responsibilities that limited what work they could do – usually looking after children or elderly relatives.  Interestingly both those who took up the advice and those who didn’t were found to have similar motivations and attitudes to work.  Many lone parents said they would look to progress in work as soon as their children were older.  Others had clear career goals already and were merely curious about any advice offered.  It turns out that people are quite capable of making their own decisions about work and their lives, usually on perfectly rational grounds, without any help at all from the government.  Also, and amusingly, the evaluation found that the magically written ‘self-efficacy’ letter, presumably produced by the nudge unit, had no impact at all on whether people got in touch.

Whilst this pilot encouraged participants to call the National Careers Service – a fairly benign helpline which does not have the power to sanction benefits – the report provides some chilling pointers to the DWP’s plans.  In a section discussing how advice might be provided in the future it mentions that Jobcentre Work Coaches might be used as ‘delivery agents’.  Whilst the report’s authors note that Jobcentre staff were not included in the pilot study, they say they include this suggestion for ‘policy reasons’.  More ominously elsewhere in the document it says that “current evidence explores attitudes, communications and support needs outside of the conditions of Universal Credit. It will therefore be important to understand how these factors are affected when the idea of compulsion is introduced.

What in-work conditionality for benefits shows, no matter how it finally takes shape, is that it is no longer enough to be hard working, you are expected to constantly compete.  The days when a life working as a council care worker or cleaning up the park might have got you some kind of civic award or picture in the local paper when you retire are long over.  There is no dignity in work now – not real work.

Instead the Tories imagine a UK PLC – some kind of giant version of The Apprentice, full of selfish grasping wankers, ruthlessly fucking each other over until the second we retire – if we get to retire at all. They want to make us like them – obsessed with money and status above all else.  And so the people who do the hardest work in society, vital work on which everybody’s lives depend, are now to be re-cast as scroungers, who aren’t trying hard enough and so need to be punished with forced work, compulsory ‘personal development’ training and benefit sanctions.  It is the worst of all worlds – cut-throat capitalism mandated by a nanny state that seeks to control every second of our time unless we become rich enough to shake them off.  Economically enforced ideology designed to manufacture Tories and destroy any notion of community or solidarity.

Welcome to dystopia, now get back to fucking work.

You can read the evaluation at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/in-work-progression-advice-trial-evaluation

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Big Disability Rides To The Rescue With Too Little Much Too Late

goofy-on-horse

In an unprecedented show of absolutely fuck all, members of the Disability Benefits Consortium – which includes some of the UK’s largest disability charities – have written a stern letter to Iain Duncan Smith asking him not to cut disabled people’s benefits.

In the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, due to be debated in the House of Lords next week, plans have been announced to slash some out of work sickness and disability benefits by almost a third.  New claimants in the so-called Work Related Activity Group, meaning people assessed as likely to be fit for work at some point in the future, will receive just over £70 a week – the same amount as those currently on the dole.  People in this group include those with degnerative or progressive diseases such as Multiple Schlerosis, Parkinson’s disease or cancer.  This vicious benefit cut is not being done to save money, but to ‘incentivise’ people to find a job.  It is about as vile as anything that Iain Duncan Smith has done so far, and he’s done a lot.

In response the Disability Benefits Consortium have written a letter, which only half of their members bothered to sign, and which was published in the Daily Mirror over the weekend.  Big fucking deal.

According to their website the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) is a “national coalition of over 60 different charities and other organisations committed to working towards a fair benefits system.”  They include Disability Rights UK, an organisation who have recently been handed a huge contract to work for Maximus – the shady US conglomerate who carry out the despised Work Capability Assessments which will be used to decide which disabled people face a benefit cut under the new rules.  Other charities involved in pretending to defend social security are MIND, RNIB, Leonard Chesire and Mencap – all of whom happily accepted lucrative sub-contracts to run Iain Duncan Smith’s  mandatory Work Programme which disabled people are forced to attend under the threat of vicious benefit sanctions.  Also on the list are the workfare supporting Papworth Trust, along with Age UK who in 2013 were accused of running a ‘workfare warehouse’ in East Sussex.  Citizen’s Advice, who welcomed the introduction of the Claimant Commitment under which unemployed people are forced into pointless jobsearch for 35 hours a week under threat of benefit sanctions, are also included in this fight for a fairer benefits system.

Despite the vast resources possessed by the 60 charities who make up the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), their website is hosted for free on wordpress.com.  It looks like someone knocked it up on a cheap smartphone during their fag break.  Last year this group of fearless campaigners made a total of 12 posts on their blog – and I thought I was getting slack.  According to the website they have not been arsed to contribute to a government consultation on welfare reform since 2012.

Compare this to the now defunct Disability Works campaign – launched with a glitzy House of Lords reception by many of the DBC charities and used to lobby the government to hand them juicy welfare-to-work contracts and you see the true priority of these organisations.  Money.

The very worst thing that could happen is big disability charities hijacking the fight against welfare reforms, although there is little danger of that.  The fucking awful Hardest Hit demonstration they organised in 2011 was little more then a march to protect disability charity funding, not disabled people’s benefits.  And it’s been downhill ever since.  For every statement released by charities condemning social security cuts a story emerges of them quietly sidling up to the DWP in the hope of lucrative contracts. Until disability charities form a united stance of complete non co-operation with this government then their words mean fuck all when their actions are complicit in destroying the lives of sick and disabled people.

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Iain Duncan Smith and Frank Fucking Field – Two Sides Of The Same Coin

frank-field-mp-008

If it looks like a wanker, and sounds like a wanker, it’s probably Frank Field.

Few people in the modern Labour Party are as much of a wanker as Frank Field – and there’s some fierce competition.

Reportedly a Tory in his youth, Field has slithered around the margins of UK politics for decades, always looking for a way in and always fucking it up whenever he is given one.  After the 2010 election he even slimed his way into David Cameron’s affections, being granted the title of Poverty Tsar – a lord of misery with an insincere smile sent out to provide ideological cover for the Tory Government’s vicious social security cuts.

Duirng the previous Labour administration Field was briefly Minister for Welfare Reform – a position now occupied by the equally odious Lord Fraud.  During this period he proposed a breath-takingly complex reform of the entire benefits system based on restoring the link with National Insurance.  So garbled were his plans that nobody but him could understand them and Tony Blair –  for once in his miserable, wretched, mass-murdering life – made the right decision and sacked him immediately.

Field has remained obessed with restoring what he calls the contributory principle, despite the stark historical fact that it never worked.  By 1951 almost one and a half million people were already claiming National Assistance, which was not funded from the National Insurance pot.  In fact the overall take from the insurance based scheme – which charges the rich a far lower percentage of their income than the poor – was so low that many people were having pensions and benefits topped up by National Assistance.  But just like Iain Duncan Smith, Field has never let evidence get in the way of his own messianic insistence that if only people would listen to him then he could create a utopian form of capitalism with no poor people.  And he would achieve this by making the poor poorer, to teach them a lesson and turn them into productive strivers.

In 2015 Field was given a new job, elected by fellow MPs to chair the Work and Pensions Select Committee, the body tasked with scrutinising welfare refoms.  This was not good news.  There is barely a fag paper between his views and those of Duncan Smith, and it is in this context that his report examining welfare reform- published this week by the Civitas think tank – should be considered.

Field has made a couple of headlines by pointing out what everyone already knows which is that Universal Credit is a shambles that will not make work pay.  He is also critical of the current benefit sanctioning regime, a bizarre position for someone to take who in 2011 called for greater use of sanctions for people on the Work Programme.  His solution to the mass poverty being engineered by Jobcentre sanctions is not to scrap them, but to introduce the so-called yellow card system – the patronising early warning initiative first dreamed up by a chinless five year old from the Policy Exchange think-tank.

Field also proposes a Future Jobs Fund Mark 2, a revamp of the last Labour government’s short lived scheme which involved paying huge subsidies to employers to provide jobs for young people.  This call comes despite his objection to in-work benefits which he says subsidise low wages – he wants to scrap Tax Credits completely for those without kids.  In other words he’s quite happy to subsidise employers, but not workers, who presumably will just fritter all that extra money away on food and gas bills.

Elsewhere in the report he is mildly critical of the despised assessments for sickness and disability benefits, although his chief objection seems to be that not enough people are being found fit for work.  He claims a long drawn out assessment, made up of several appointments, would be better system, whilst he would expect all sick and disabled people to sign an ‘improving your life’ contract.  Really.

Field also praises the introduction of Personal Independence Payments – the replacement to Disability Living Allowance which is currently stripping benefits from around 23% of disabled people.  He’d just like to see people lose their benefits faster, complaining that not enough money has been saved so far.

He is equally gushing about the Benefit Cap, repeating Iain Duncan Smith’s lies that it has encouraged people to find work – a claim not backed by evidence according to the head of the UK Statistics Authority.  On housing he falls into parroting Labour’s election policy that more houses should be built without any real further details of how and who for.  He then goes wildly off-script by worrying that there might not be enough brick layers.  Luckily he has another brilliant idea.  Young people on benefits could be forced to a attend a ten week brick-laying course at a private college and then spend a year learning brick-laying properly in a presumably compulsory minimum wage job.  To pay for this enforced training he suggests that these young people take out a loan, similar to the student loan scheme.  You’ve never fucking had it so good kids.

Field reserves his most lavish praise for George Osborne, for doing what even Thatcher failed to achieve and cutting social security spending.  He acknowledges that this had little to do with five years of welfare reform and was simply down to an old-fashioned cut – the decision to freeze benefits at below the rate of inflation.  Still Field calls this a big success, whilst he also praises Iain Duncan Smith’s obsession with family values and insistence that non-traditional families, like single parents and gays, cause poverty.  It’s like the last half century never fucking happened.

By this point you’re probably thinking who gives a shit what this condescending relic from the past thinks.  Surely a dickhead like this, whose political career is riddled with failure, can never achieve any real influence.  But that’s what everybody thought about Iain Duncan Smith.  Just like his Tory counterpart did in the early part of the century, Field is now positioning himself as an expert on poverty and friend of the poor.  His vile opinions have gone almost unmentioned as he exploits the ineptness of the DWP to raise his own political profile.  With Labour’s social security policies seemingly non-existent he is well placed to position himself as the natural opposition to Tory welfare reforms – despite his rhetoric and ideology being near identical.  He just think’s he’d be better at being Iain Duncan Smith then the Work and Pensions Secretary is himself.  He must never be allowed to get there.

You can read his stupid report at: http://www.civitas.org.uk/publications/fixing-broken-britain-an-audit-of-working-age-welfare-reform-since-2010/

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Chaos In Supported Housing: Almost Half A Million Homes Under Threat As Ministers Dither

George-Osborne Social housing providers are warning that up to 440,000 homes are potentially at risk due to George Osborne’s plans to slash benefits intended to pay the rent of those living in supported housing.

In the Autumn Statement the Chancellor  announced that Housing Benefit for tenants living in socially managed housing would be capped at the same level as payments for those renting privately.  This cap is to include those living in some form of supported accommodation where high rents are charged to cover the additional costs of providing care or supervision.  With weekly Housing Benefit awards capped at less then £50 a week for single people under 35 in some parts of the UK, this will mean the potential closure of every women’s refuge and homelessness hostel along with supported housing schemes for pensioners and those with acute physical or mental health conditions.  The combined financial loss to social housing providers could be as high as £400 million according to housing industry spokespeople quoted in trade magazine Inside Housing recently – and this is assuming that those over pensionable age are excluded from the cap.  To date no-one from the Treasury, DWP or Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) appears to have said they will be.

The DWP have said that any shortfall in payments to cover rents will be made up by Discretionary Housing Payments.  This is money given to local councils which can be used to top up housing benefits of those affected by cuts already introduced such as the Bedroom Tax and Benefit Cap.  Osborne himself has claimed there will be an additional money for these payments, believed to be around £70 million a year, but this will not come close to meeting the funding gap.  Just as importantly these payments are not ring-fenced and are discretionary – there will be no requirement by law for local authorities to meet people’s rents.  The implications are chilling  Without central control then any old swivel-eyed Tory Council could close a homelessness hostel or drug rehab project in their constituency simply by cutting off their income stream.

Perhaps most astonishingly – given that it is only now that the social housing sector has taken notice – is that this is a problem which is four years old.  Way back in 2012 the charity for domestic abuse survivors Women’s Aid warned that a combination of benefit caps and the reforms being introduced under Universal Credit would ‘decimate’ the women’s refuge system.  This led to Lord Fraud, the comedy toff brought in on the cheap to oversee welfare reforms, quickly pledging that payments for supported housing would continue under the current system.   Then followed a bitter row about what exactly the government means by supported housing, as well as concerns raised over funding for emergency temporary accommodation such as B&Bs.  Neither of these matters were ever fully resolved as DWP ministers dithered and dodged questions whilst homelessness charities and housing associations were too busy looking to profit from lucrative government contracts to pay attention to their impending destruction.

And so here we are again, except now homelessness has soared and over 100,000 children are living in expensive and insecure temporary accommodation.  These bed spaces are also under threat with DWP documents suggesting that housing benefit payments for temporary accommodation will now also be capped.  Previously the solution to temporary housing – which doesn’t have the same costs as supported housing but is more expensive than mainstream accommodation – was to allow an additional weekly payment of £40 to be added to housing benefit.  In the latest guidance aimed at social landlords explaining benefit changes however it states that homeless Universal Credit claimants in temporary housing will have their rents capped at the same level as those in the mainstream private sector.  There is no mention of additional funding.   So it is not just homelessness hostels, refuge’s and other supported housing that is under threat, but possibly B&Bs and private sector emergency accommodation.

Whilst these changes are terrifying and if implemented could lead to a street homelessness crisis that has not been seen before in a so-called developed economy, the DWP has a long way to go if this is truly what they want.  The cuts to housing benefits will not be implemented until 2018 and will only apply to tenancies signed after April this year.  This will prevent, at least for a couple of years, mass evictions.  But the biggest problem is that almost all of the people eligible for both supported and temporary accommodation would be classed as ‘statutory homeless’ if they were unable to find a roof over their heads.  This means that local authorities are bound, by law, to house them – there and then if they have nowhere to go that night.  There just won’t be any money to pay their rent.

In short, it’s a giant fucking mess and one the DWP have been trying to sweep under the carpet ever since Iain Duncan Smith’s half-baked reforms to the benefits system were first announced.  Expect another bodge as the realities of a modern social security system clash once again with the delusions of a Secretary of State who thought he could fix poverty by making people poorer.  The truth is this has probably only dragged on so long because no-one really believes that Universal Credit will ever be fully implemented anyway.  It sill might not be.  The tragedy, as Inside Housing reveals, is that this shambles is already having very real consequnces.  Social housing providers say that schemes to provide desperately needed new supported housing are currently on hold until the government makes it’s mind up about whether they should condemn everybody officially classed as ‘vulnerable’ to street homelessness or not.  Decisions, decisions.  What a bunch of cunts.

A march against the housing bill, which will decimate social housing, is taking place in London on Saturday January 30th.  More details on facebook, please spread the word.

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