Category Archives: Poverty

David Cameron Plots The Social Cleansing Of The South

benefit-cap-banner

A further cut in the Benefit Cap, as pledged by David Cameron yesterday, could lead to the social cleansing of the entire south of England as families on benefits are pushed ever further north by soaring housing costs.

Although touted by the right wing press as an attack on the workshy, this move is aimed squarely at struggling low income families, and almost all them are single mothers.  If these women were looking after one of Iain Duncan Smith’s four children they would be hard working people, toiling for the wealthy on poverty pay and doing the right thing.  But looking after your own kids is no longer considered work and so they are scroungers who should have kept their legs shut as some of the nastiest and most virulent voices now claim.

Perhaps one of the greatest achievements of the social security system was that the days when a working class woman was slut-shamed and stigmatised for having children on her own looked to be a distant memory. Benefits meant that single people of either sex could look after their children with some degree of independence and dignity if they found themselves without a wage coming in.  They would be poor as fuck, but they would be housed at least.  This applied whether they were single parents due to choice, relationship break up, bereavement or simply making a youthful mistake – and most people have had an unprotected shag at least once in their lives which is all it takes after all.

The introduction of the Benefit Cap, alongside workfare and sanctions for lone parents, has meant that single mothers are back in the firing line like never before.   Lone parents now face being driven from the very cities they have lived and grown up in due to a succession of brutal housing benefit cuts that will punish their children most acutely of all.  These are not people living in Chelsea mansions as this government pretend, but people living in the last remaining private rented slums that will still accept benefit claimants in places like Croydon, Tottenham or Catford.

The reduction of the benefit cap to £23,000 will mean cities such as Bristol, Bath and Cambridge will also become unaffordable to out of work parents with as few as two children.  For the small number who need a property with more than three bedrooms, then barely anywhere south of Birmingham will be cheap enough.  Councils in the midlands are already warning of pressures to housing and services in the region due to families being relocated from London and the economic cleansing from the first benefit cap has barely even begun.   Should the cap be lowered even further then the trickle of families in poverty arriving in northern towns from the south could becom an avalanche, re-entrenching the North-South divide like never before.

The truth is that benefits have always been capped, but previously this took place at a local level. Benefits for an adult on unemployment benefits are capped at just £72.40 a week plus an additional amount towards housing costs. How much this is depends on where you live. In Islington, where the average rent for a one bedroom flat is estimated to be £415 a week by estate agents Foxtons, Housing Benefit is capped at £255.50 a week for a single adult without kids. That’s why, apart from those in social housing, not many poor people live in Islington anymore. In Barnsley the average weekly rent for a one bedroom flat is £89.30 according to this property website, whilst the Housing Benefit cap for a single adult is £69.23 a week. Lots of poor people live in Barnsley.

It is not the fault of claimants that rents have spiralled out of control.  It is the failure of free market policies that have led to shrinking wages and soaring housing costs.  Greedy landlords and exploitative employers who don’t pay proper wages are behind the growing benefit bill.  And it is in their interests alone to blame struggling single mums and use nasty policies based on nasty prejudices to bully families out of their homes and communities.

Above pic from Haringey Solidarity Campaign.

A march for homes will be taking place in London this Saturday 31st January with meeting points in both East and South London.  Please help spread the word: South London facebook page
East London facebook page

This blog has no sources of funding so here’s a quick reminder that you can help ensure it continues by making a donation.

Join me on facebook or follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

‘Massive’ Rise In Street Homelessness Blamed On Benefit Sanctions By Charities

sanction-sabsThe Manchester Evening News (MEN) has reported a ‘massive’ rise in street homelessness with benefit sanctions singled out as one of the main causes.

The paper carried out an investigation into rough sleeping in the region claiming that people are living in ‘caves, old air raid shelters and under a supermarket.’  Two charities working on the frontline told the MEN that benefit sanctions are to blame for the rise in homelessness, with one citing the case of a man who had been sanctioned seven times and left unable to pay his rent.  One charity worker told the paper: “Whereas before, most homeless people had benefits, now they have nothing.”

Officially the number of people sleeping rough in Greater Manchester is just 24.  One local charity however claims there are around 60 street homeless people in Stockport alone, whilst local councillor Daniel Gillard told the MEN he believed around 150 people were now sleeping rough in Manchester City Centre.

National statistics on street homelessness are based on little more than a guess and the government is determined to keep things that way.  Previously local authorities who believed they had more than ten rough sleepers in their jurisdiction were required to carry out an annual ‘street count’ and report their findings back to the Department of Communities or Local Government (DCLG).  Following changes made last year they are now only required to provide an ‘estimate’ of the number of street homeless people.

The DCLG used to provide some monitoring of the procedure for recording rough sleeping figures however that responsibility has now been passed onto the charity Homeless Link who will rely on volunteers to do the work from their “member agencies and interested faith groups”.

Even when councils can still be bothered to carry out a street count the true number of homeless people is likely to be woefully underestimated – sometimes perhaps even deliberately.  When the first street counts were carried out in London they were largely believed to have been fixed with widespread stories of the police clearing the streets of homeless people before the count took place.

Street counters are warned not to venture anywhere they feel unsafe and not to record people living in squats, on camp sites, organised protest sites or travellers.  Unlike homeless people, street counters do no break into parks or other areas which may be closed to the public at night and therefore safer to sleep in then on the High Street.  Only those spotted asleep, or in the process of ‘bedding down’ are included in the count, ignoring the large number of homeless people who wander the streets at night and try to sleep in the day time.  Few street counts extend far out of city centres and therefore miss the people hidden away in local communties, or camping, or sleeping in cars and other vehicles because they have nowhere else to go.

Despite all of this, the number of street homeless people that do get recorded in the figures has still soared under this Government, by around a third between 2010 and 2013.  The figures for last year are set to be publised next month and are unlikely to be worth the paper they are written on.  But as the Manchester Evenings News found, and we can see all around us, this most damaging form of homelessness is becoming much worse and it is far from just a London problem.

This blog has no sources of funding so here’s a quick reminder that you can help ensure it continues by making a donation, and many thanks to those that did over Christmas!

Join me on facebook or follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Sandra Gives The Game Away: Jobcentres Given Sheriff’s Stars For Hitting Benefit Sanction Targets

sanction-sheriffSandra Lambert, manager of 149 Jobcentres and self-styled lifestyle guru, has spent much of the last few days frantically blocking people on twitter who have been taking the piss out of the cringemaking motivational advice she inflicts on the poor bastards who work for her.

She wasn’t fast enough however to hide the tweet in which she awarded a Texas style sherriff’s badge to Jobcentres in the midlands for upholding their DMA decision rate – as spotted by @refuted.  A DMA means a referral to a Jobcentre ‘decision maker’ to process a benefit sanction.  It is the second time this month a DWP manager has been exposed praising their staff for hitting benefit sanction targets - targets that Iain Duncan Smith’s department have repeatedly claimed do not exist.

It is not just that the DWP are lying which is so contempible, all government departments lie after all.  It is the sheer glee that has accompanied this policy of driving people into desperate poverty should they happen to miss a meeting with the Jobcentre or call in sick for workfare.

There is no argument anymore, benefit sanctions kill.  They are the cause of desperate suffering as has now been well documented by organisations which work with claimants such as Citizen’s Advice, MIND, Gingerbread, Oxfam, Homeless Link and countless others.  Whatever your views on the social security system there should be no doubt, benefit sanctions are intended as punishment, and that punishment is severe.

To hear that Jobcentre staff are being given Easter eggs, or gold stars or Texas fucking badges as prizes for inflicting this regime is repugnant.  There is something very wrong at the DWP when the tears and broken lives they cause are met with laughter and merriment and fucking competitions to do it to as many people possible.  Do they get a bonus if they sanction someone who goes on to top themself?  An extra pat on the head if someone is sick and may not last the Winter if they can’t afford to put the heating on?  At the very least you might expect some dignity, sensitivity and awareness of the seriousness of their actions.  But instead it’s just a big fucking joke.  Has a government department ever sunk any lower?

Perhaps this is the reason for the glassy-eyed nonsense that seems to inflict many of the managers at the DWP.  Perhaps it is the only way they can sleep at night. By turning the whole wretched and inhumane system that they oversee into some kind of twisted game where they compete to keep each other’s spirit’s high as their hands become ever more stained with blood.  But that is no excuse.  The consequences of their actions are all too real and no amount of happy clappy slogans will fill a hungry child’s belly or talk a desperate person out of suicide.

This blog has no sources of funding so here’s a quick reminder that you can help ensure it continues by making a donation.

Join me on facebook or follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Benefit Delays Set To Soar As Waiting Period Increases To Pay For Workfare

macmillanThe number of people dependent on food banks is likely to soar as the government have pushed ahead with plans to increase the waiting period for the main out of work benefits.

According to the largest food bank provider, the Trussell Trust, benefit delays are the reason almost a third of claimants find themselves having to resort to emergency food packages.  On the 27th October this year the length of time before a benefit claim can be made upon becoming sick, disabled or unemployed increased from three to seven days.

Astonishingly this nasty little move was not done to save money.  In a response to a damning report on the change by the Social Services Advisory Committee (SSAC) the DWP admitted they would be “using the savings from the waiting days change help fund the administrative costs of the broader package of initiatives.”  What they mean by these initiatives are the ever increasing range of Jobcentre harassment and workfare type schemes which are backed with punitive benefits sanctions – the other main reason people have to use food banks.  People will have to wait longer for benefits to pay to administer the sanction they get when they are finally able to claim.

Despite being stuffed with Iain Duncan Smith’s cronies, the SSAC slammed the increase in the waiting period for benefits, agreeing with charities consulted that this is likely to lead to increased food banks usage.  The  Committee said these changes should not proceed without a “robust analysis of the costs and benefits”.  The DWP claimed they have already done this and that the increased conditionality for benefits will mean everyone gets a job and that will save loads of money.  They concede the change will mean some people will suffer hardship when going through periods of ‘disruption’ but they don’t appear to really care.

As the report notes, that period of disruption could include being diagnosed with cancer.  Those with a terminal diagnosis are exempt, however not all cancer patients are eliguble for that exemption.  As a result of submissions made by healthcare charities the SSAC said there is a ‘compelling case’ that those on ESA – the out of work sickness and disability benefit – should not have to face the longer waiting period for benefits.  The DWP rejected this, saying it would create a ‘perverse incentive’ for people to claim sickness benefits rather than the dole so they could fraudulently claim four days benefit, around £40.

The SSAC also recommended that details of Short Term Benefit Advances (STBAs) be published on the gov.uk website.  These are the small loans that can be claimed if benefits are delayed.  As reported yesterday, the DWP have done everything they can to hide the existence of these emergency payments.  This is confirmed by the government’s response to the SSAC in which they reject this proposal saying that STBAs are not a: “separate scheme to be advertised in the way that benefits are.”  Therefore they will not, at least as of Autumn this year, be making the existence of these payments known online.

The DWP say they will publish details of the change in the waiting period for benefits on the gov.uk website, which is very big of them.  Except they haven’t done.

Last week Iain Duncan Smith was pleading to anyone who would listen that he cares about people using food banks and will be doing ‘much more’ to raise awareness of emergency loans.  But this report reveals the truth about attitudes towards claimants who are hungry whilst waiting for vital benefits.  They really could not give a fuck about people forced to depend on food banks and are determined to make the problem worse.

You can read the report and the government’s response at:  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/social-security-jobseekers-allowance-and-employment-and-support-allowance-waiting-days-amendment-regulations-2014-ssac-report

This blog has no sources of funding so here’s a quick reminder that you can help ensure it continues by making a donation.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

As Hunger Soars Iain Duncan Smith Is Still Hiding The Existence Of Emergency Benefit Delay Loans

IDS-malnutritionFollowing last week’s food banks report, which found delays in processing benefits are one of the key reasons for growing hunger in the UK, Iain Duncan Smith said to Parliament:

“Today I have announced that we shall be doing much more to raise awareness of interim payments for people who need them, particularly those who are in difficulty.”

These payments are called Short Term Benefit Advances (STBAs).  These are repayable loans that can be accessed whilst waiting fot the Jobcentre to get round to processing a benefit claim.  And the shameful truth is, that whilst the number of people using foodbanks has soared, the DWP have done everything they possibly can to hide their existence.

There is no mention of these payments on the section of the gov.uk website which provides information on “Jobseeker’s Allowance and low income benefits”  or the section on “Benefits for families”.  In fact there is no mention of these loans on any government website at all except buried in policy documents.

This is not surprising.  When Short Term Benefit Payments were introduced, the jobcentre worker’s PCS Union warned that the DWP did “not intend to advertise the availability of STBAs to the public.”  When guidance on the Social Fund was later published, detailing the kind of help available from the government in an emergency, there was still no mention of these loans.

Short Term Benefit Payments were brought in to replace Crisis Loans which Iain Duncan Smith scrapped in April 2013.  These were small interest free loans which could be taken out if benefit payments were delayed or in the event of a household emergency.  The average sized loan was about thirty quid and the repayment rate was almost 100%.  So blasé was the Secretary of State about ending this vital support that when he was interviewed a year later he seemed to have forgotten his petty and vicious decision and claimed that they still existed.

Crisis Loans were a well publicised part of the benefits system and could be accessed by calling a dedicated phoneline. Unlike STBA’s, Crisis Loans still even have their own webpage – which states they no longer exist in Scotland, England and Wales – but makes no mention of their replacement.  This is not an oversight as Iain Duncan Smith is now trying to pretend.  It is clear that as families with children have gone hungry whilst waiting for benefit claims to be processed, the DWP have pursued a strategy of hiding information detailing the emergency payments they are entitled to.

The reason for this has not been to save money or cut the deficit, these loans barely cost the tax payer a penny.  The existence of these payments was hidden out of pure spite – to deliberately make life harder for people in desperate circumstances to access the help they need.  Now we are seeing the results of that policy with unprecedented numbers of people dependent on food banks to survive this Christmas.  That means children going hungry and all because of a nasty and vindictive little move by Iain Duncan Smith – and one that he is now trying to hide.  Don’t let the bastard  get away with it.

Short Term Benefit Advances can only be accessed by speaking to Jobcentre staff.  Child Poverty Action Group have published details on how the process works.

This blog has no sources of funding so here’s a quick reminder that you can help ensure it continues by making a donation.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Custard Creams Are Cheaper Than Cous Cous, But You Can’t Expect A Fucking Baroness To Know That

custard_creams

The lowest priced flavoured Cous Cous, at £4.55/kg, costs five times more than a kilo of custard creams.

Anyone who claims that healthy food is a cheaper option has clearly never enjoyed the dubious nutitional delights of a pack of Everyday Value Custard Creams (35p, 1,972 calories).

They’ve also probably never been to a supermarket.  Or at least never been to a supermarket with less than a tenner to last until the end of the week and two kids to feed.  This hasn’t stopped a string of pompous twats from appearing in the media this week and telling us how much better they would be at being poor than the plebs using foodbanks.

The nearest supermartet, who shall remain nameless because they are bastards, sells a kilo of value oats for 75p.  This means you can, just about, make a large bowl of porridge for 4p, as Baroness Jenkins claimed at the launch of this week’s food bank report – although that’s porridge with water and ignores the cost of cooking it.  But it is bollocks that a bowl of sugary cereal will cost 25p as she also suggested.  A well known national discount retailer are currently knocking out 450g boxes of Sugar Puffs for a quid, which works out at just under 7p a serving.  A cheaper option to this would be supermarket value Rice Snaps, which are 10% sugar but come in at under 5p a bowl.  Value cornflakes are even cheaper at around tuppence per bowl.

The cheapest source of meat protein I could find in the supermarket this morning was a tin of value meatballs in tomato sauce for 40p, which works out about £1.06 a kilo.  Despite the sauce this still probably beats the price of the lowest cost unprocessed meat alternative, which is raw pigs liver for £1.50 per kilo.  According to their website this store does packs of cooking bacon for about 80p, or £1.60/kg, although there was no sign of them today with the cheapest bacon at £3.79/kg.  Frozen value chicken portions also come in quite cheap at £1.75/kg, as do chicken legs at a similar price, but much of that weight will be bone.   In terms of bang for your buck, or more correctly calories, then value chicken nuggets, at 72p a bag, or £2.25/kg are probably a more economical buy.  As are chicken burgers (£2.13/kg) and value sausages at £1.44/kg.  Avoiding meat altogether will not save you any money.  Vege-sausages of all types are a lot more expensive than the value range meat alternative whilst a kilo of lentils will set you back £1.80.

The humble carrot or a white cabbage can both be bought for 60p/kg.  Onions cost about the same, but the price of veg rises steeply after that jumping to £1.47/kg for loose broccoli, the next cheapest source of fresh green veg.

Carrots are also one of the cheapest forms of tinned veg costing 19p a can, although you only get a measly 300g.  In contrast 420g of value baked beans are 24p, competing with a 300g tin of value mushy peas (16p) as the cheapest form of vegetable the local supermarket sells.  Cheaper still is a 420g tin of value spaghetti at 20p.  Stick that on a few slices of economy range white sliced bread and you’ve got dinner for two kids for about 30p, or the price of an apple.

This is far cheaper than the recipes that the Daily Telegraph helpfully published this week teaching us all how to make meals for 50p a portion.  One of those meals was a vegetarian chilli – which would actually cost over £2 for a single person because you can’t buy an eighth of a tin of chick peas.  This chilli, whilst undoubtebly nutritious, only contains about 250 calories.  Half a deep pan cheese value pizza provides almost twice that amount and costs the same price.  According to the NHS an 11/12 year old child needs around 2000 calories a day.  It would probably be healthier and cheaper to feed them a pizza and a vitamin pill for dinner than the Daily Telegraph’s suggestion.

As for afters, well you can usually pick up a banana for just short of 20p, if you really want to be the kind of person who gives their kid a banana for pudding.  A far lower cost option would be a value chocolate mousse for 4 and a half pence.

These are not isolated examples, everywhere you look it is the same.  A litre of pure apple juice is 65p, two litres of own brand coke is 55p.  14 tiny lunchbox size packs of raisins costs £1.89, whilst a multipack of 12 bags of crisps is 66p.  The cheapest mild chedder is priced at £5.40/kg whilst processed cheese slices come out at £3.53/kg.

One of the reasons for the constant sneering at those using food banks for not being able to cook is that there is little understanding of how poor some people actually are.  People with nothing will buy a pack of biscuits because it’s the only thing they can afford.  Someone with a quid left on a prepay meter cannot afford to risk turning on the hob to make porridge because that might mean the lights go out that night.

Unless you’ve been that poor you just won’t see how much cheaper it is to buy shit food.  You won’t notice that pound shops do big boxes of sugary cereals for a quid, or that value chicken nuggets are a cheaper source of protein than lentils. And that’s okay,  It doesn’t make you a bad person, just lucky.  But it does mean you should shut the fuck up about things you know nothing about.

This blog has no sources of funding so here’s a quick reminder that you can help ensure it continues by making a donation.

Join me on facebook or follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Shock New Figures: UK Spends Less On Healthcare, Benefits and Pensions Per Head Than Any Other Northern European Country

social-protection-spendingThe UK spends less on social security benefits, pensions and healthcare combined per head than any other northern European country figures released by the Office for National Statistics reveal.

In news which has sent the Daily Mail spinning out of control, the UK’s spending on ‘social protection’ is lower than France, Germany, the Netherlands, Ireland and in fact every country in Northern Europe, as well as Italy.  These figures are based on spending per person from 2012, before many of the benefit cuts were implemented.  With even more savage cuts to social security threatened, then the UK could soon slip even further down the ranking behind the beleagured economies of Greece and Spain.

Social protection covers a wide range of spending including benefits, pensions, healthcare and social exclusion.  In a worrying trend the Daily Mail has decided to lump all thse vital services under the banner of ‘welfare’ suggesting that pensioners and people who use the NHS may be next in line to face being smeared as scroungers by the right wing press.

Almost half (47%) of the UK’s social protection spend goes on pensions.  Just 2.5% of the total is spent on unemployment, just over half the European average, The UK also spends less as a proportion of the budget on disabled people and families with children.  Subsidies for landlords remain healthy however with 5.5% of the spend going towards housing costs reflecting the ever growing Housing Benefit bill.

Social protection spending works out at £6,959 per head each year but that doesn’t mean that’s how much it costs you as the Daily Mail implies.  It is how much you get.  People on lower incomes will pay considerably less than that, whilst corporation and other business taxes also contribute.  Depending on how long you live you will receive much if not all of what you have paid out back in your penson.  At least for now.  On top of that comes a comprehensive (for now) system of healthcare alongside now sadly less than adequate income protection insurance in the event of illness, accident or unemployment.  The welfare state is still good value though for everybody except the very rich and were it to disappear then we would be paying a lot more to line the pockets of insurance company spivs.  And it would be the rich who get the tax cuts were that to happen.  Don’t get mugged by the Daily Mail into thinking otherwise.

You can vew the figures on the ONS website.

This blog has no sources of funding so here’s a quick reminder that you can help ensure it continues by making a donation.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid