Tag Archives: bedroom tax

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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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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210,000 Pensioners Face Last Year’s Vicious Autumn Statement Cut

Osborne-mrbeanThe newspapers have been predicting that George Osborne is expected to raise the pension age to 69 in his Autumn statement today.  The cut he made last year to the incomes of some of the poorest pensioners however has gone almost unnoticed by the press.

Last year Osborne pegged benefit rises at 1% for the next two years no matter what happens to inflation.  This measure included Local Housing Allowance, the benefit paid to those on low incomes in to provide help with rent payments.  Pensioners are also eligible for this benefit, and the latest DWP statistics show that over 210,000 private sector tenants over 65 depend on this support.

Almost no-one seems to have noticed that this means that Osborne’s changes will hit pensioners despite government lies they would be protected from the cut.  Over 200,000 of the UK’s poorest pensioners will now see incomes shrink as the money they receive to stay in their homes is reduced and they will be forced to make up the difference out of meagre pensions.

How much their income will shrink is open to question.  A DWP Equalities Analysis predicted they will lose on average about £3 a week (PDF).  For those in high rent areas this is likely to be a woeful understatement.

Around 20,000 people over 65 are currently claiming LHA in London.  Rents are soaring in the capital, with one estimate claiming they have risen by 7.9% in just one year.  If this continues then a pensioner living in a private sector flat and claiming the LHA rate for central London could see their income reduced by up to £30 a week over the next two years.

Just like the victims of the Benefit Cap, these pensioners will be socially cleansed from the capital.  Some of them may have lived here their whole lives.  If they choose to stay they may face homelessness as rents soar.  This  will place even more pressure on Local Authorities to provide one bedroom flats at a time of desperate shortage of smaller properties due to the bedroom tax.  The housing crisis in London is set to get worse, and George Osborne is directly responsible.

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Don’t Believe Esther McVey’s Bedroom Tax Lies – The Public Do Not Support This Policy

smash-bedroom-taxEmployment Minister Esther McVey’s desperate attempt to mislead the public over the Bedroom Tax hit a new low this week with the woefully distorted reporting of a recent DWP survey.

In a breathtakingly dishonest press release, McVey claimed that the public support the Bedroom Tax based on the findings of a recent poll carried out by the DWP. Yet this poll found that only 30% of people support the Bedroom Tax if it means someone might have to move to a different area – the inevitable consequence for many hit by the tax.  40% of people do not support the policy if this is the case.  The survey also found that only 31% agree with the Bedroom Tax if it means people have less money to spend on bills or living expenses compared to 35% who oppose the measure in these circumstances.

These are not the only findings which reveal the public distaste for this policy in practice. 54% of people think the Bedroom Tax is unfair if there are not enough smaller properties to rehouse people locally, compared to just 17% in support, whilst only 33% of respondents thought it right that  someone hit by the tax should be forced to move into the private rented sector compared to 35% who disagreed.

None of these results were mentioned in McVey’s press release.  Yet the survey clearly shows that the public are strongly opposed to the Bedroom Tax if it means people being forced to move or facing increased poverty.   And that’s exactly what the policy will mean to almost all those affected.  McVey chose to ignore this completely and instead  gushed that 78% people believe it is important to tackle over-crowding and under-occupancy in social housing, which is hardly a surprising result. Survey respondents were not asked if this should be tackled by building much more social housing, the only thing guaranteed to help solve the problem.

What the survey reveals is that people have a far more nuanced approach to the problem than DWP Ministers currently seem capable of. So whilst 54% of the public do not think it is very ‘fair’ that some people have more bedrooms than they need – the other statistic the DWP trilled last week – a far larger majority of people believe the measures being taken to address this are unfair.

Few people would argue that society is currently very fair.  It is unfair that a fucking idiot like George Osborne inherited a multi-million pound fortune and slimed his way through a hugely expensive education to grasp control of the nation’s finances.  As the daughter of a highly successful businessman Esther McVey’s only real experience of life has been a non-job in her parent’s company followed by a few appearances on the telly.  It is unfair that a pompous and out of touch fool like her should have been given the power to destroy the lives of thousands of severely disabled people by attempting to close the Independent Living Fund.  Life is not fair, as the public know only too well.

It is quite possible to think that some people having bedrooms they don’t need is probably a bit unfair and yet still be strongly opposed to crude measures like the Bedroom Tax to address this disparity. And that is what the results of this survey seem to suggest.  That only 49% of people surveyed agreed with the Bedroom Tax ‘in principle’ – if not in practice – shows that in fact many people accept someone might need an extra room due to disability, having children come to stay or a wide range of other factors that reflect the diversity of human needs.

A recent study on the Benefit Cap revealed that support for this policy began to disintegrate when people were made aware of the possible consequences – such as families being socially cleansed to different cities.  This week’s  survey shows that people have a similar, and stronger, opposition to the consequences of the Bedroom Tax.  People want benefit cuts without anyone getting hurt.  And they have been deceived that this can take place by a ten year campaign by politicians of all parties to portray life on benefits as easy.

The reality is that people dependent on social security were desperately poor before welfare reform began.  The only people getting rich out of the welfare state were landlords.  With hundreds of thousands of people set to be forced out of social housing into the private sector due to the Bedroom Tax, the landlords will keep getting rich. But as homelessness continues to rise, the use of foodbanks soars and with a two year wave of evictions just around the corner, the public is about to discover the truth about the UK’s scant safety net.  They will not forgive this Government easily when they see what has been done and the lies that were told to justify this savagery begin to unravel.

The survey results can be read at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/255654/public-perceptions-of-rsrs.pdf

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Fuck The Courts, We Are The Law Says DWP In Bedroom Tax Diktat

Iain-Duncan-Smith-workfareIn yet another astonishing outburst from the DWP, tin-pot dictator Iain Duncan Smith is treating the laws of the land with utter contempt and demanding that local authorities ignore a recent Bedroom Tax court decision.

Earlier in the month a first-tier benefit tribunal judgement ruled that a room of less than 70 square feet should not be considered a bedroom for the purpose of the Bedroom Tax.  This important judgement against Fife Council led the local authority to call the bedroom tax ‘unworkable’ and demand it should be scrapped.

This ruling was immediately seized upon by campaigners who rightly demanded that their own local councils introduce Bedroom Tax  policies in line with the ruling.

Yet not for the first time, the DWP have decided they are above the law and have this week sent out an ‘Urgent Bulletin’ to Housing Benefit staff (PDF) across the UK ordering them to ignore the court ruling.  According to the DWP, the only definition of whether a room is a bedroom is the one set out by the landlord of the property, and consideration must be given as to whether the room is large enough to contain a single bed.

Whilst the ruling in Fife did not set a legal precedent, according to The Scotsman lawyers have said it will “have repercussions for other cases across the UK, making it more likely that other appeals would find in claimants’ favour.”

The DWP claim they are seeking permission to appeal the decision, although as the SPeye blog makes clear, they don’t even seem to know even the most basic facts of the case.

This is unlikely to trouble Ministers at the DWP however where ignorance is bliss and the law of the land is a minor inconvenience to be dodged, bent or re-written at will.

So it is likely that another Bedroom Tax court ruling, as reported by The Guardian yesterday, will also be shrugged off.  Surinder Lall, who is blind  brought a case against Westminster Council and was able to convince the court that a room used to store equipment needed to help him manage his disability was not, and had never been, a bedroom.

Westminster Council had argued that this man’s landlord had classified the room as a bedroom and this led to the decision to cut his housing benefits. This is the same argument used by the DWP in their panicky diktat to Housing Benefit staff earlier in the week.  It is also an argument that appears to have been completely ignored by the judge in the case who said in a terse one page judgement (PDF)“The term ‘bedroom’ is nowhere defined.  I apply the ordinary English meaning.  The room in question cannot be so described.  The appeal succeeds.”

The DWP have said they are considering appealing this ruling as well.  In the meantime however the judge has ordered that Westminster Council should revise Mr Lall’s entitlement to Housing Benefit in line with the Tribunal’s decision.

Whilst Iain Duncan Smith is likely to continue playing fast and loose with the courts to dodge the consequences of his bungled reforms, claimants everywhere who face the Bedroom Tax should still consider whether they are able to appeal.  At the very least it will slow the bastards down.

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London Homelessness Soars In First Three Months of Benefit Cap

homeless1The number of families accepted as homeless by London local authorities has rocketed by 26% compared to the same period a year earlier.

4,230 households – almost all with children – were owed a main homelessness duty between April and June of this year.  These are families who councils have accepted they have a legal duty to help and only represent the tip of the iceberg.  Thousands more single people, families judged intentionally homeless, or those refused help for not meeting strict criteria, are also facing life without a home in the capital.

This huge rise came after the Government introduced a Benefit Cap for families at £500 a week in some parts of London from April this year.  Whilst this is unlikely to affect many households in Scotland, Northern England or Wales,  it has made much of the capital, and surrounding areas, unaffordable to families on benefits due to soaring rents.

This is reflected in the figures.  In London the main reason given for the loss of a settled home was the ending of an Assured Short Term tenancy, representing 1,450 households who became homeless in the period.  This is a staggering rise of 78% on a year earlier showing that the very worst predictions about the Benefit Cap – which could see over 200,000 children made homeless – are already starting to appear.

And this really is just the beginning.  The Benefit Cap had only been rolled out in four London boroughs during the period which these figures represent.   Some families have been protected by Discretionary Housing Payments – money set aside by Councils intended for the most vulnerable and which is only a temporary measure.  Even those families who did not receive this support may have clung onto their homes for a couples of months and not yet had to apply to the council for emergency help.

The Benefit Cap is currently being rolled out across the rest of London and the UK.  This comes along with the Bedroom Tax – a measure which will not see a spike in homelessness immediately as Housing Benefits are gradually chipped away at and some of the poorest households in the country fall deeper and deeper into arrears.  Almost all of those evictions are still to come and 600,000 people are set to be affected.

On top of this the Benefit Uprating Bill means that Housing Benefits are to be cut from next year whatever happens to rents.  Rules already introduced which mean those under 35 are now only entitled to a room in a shared house are also having an impact as there aren’t enough rooms in shared houses to go round.  This measure has – according to a report published by the DWP themselves – led to some landlords stopping renting to anyone under the age of 35 in case they lose their jobs and can no longer pay the rent.

Homelessness across the UK rose by 5% in the last year, a still alarming figures.  But as tens of thousands of people are socially cleansed from the South East pressure on housing elsewhere will start to mount and rents are likely to rise everywhere.  The upcoming Treasury created house price bubble is also likely to impact on rents whilst spending on building social housing (remember that?) is being cut to the bone.

It is impossible to predict how bad homelessness is going to get.  But savage cuts to housing benefits, cuts to social housing, soaring rents and one of the least regulated private rental sectors in the world could lead to a truly terrifying  future for millions of low income households in insecure and expensive private rented accommodation.  Very soon losing your job in many parts of the UK is likely to mean losing your home.  And there are no cheaper homes to go to.  A dramatic failure of free market housing policies led to the crisis which saw rents sky-rocket and Housing Benefits take up much of the slack.  Now those benefits are being stripped away, and rents are still soaring.  The biggest housing crisis to hit the UK in generations could be just around the corner and not a single MP, from any of the main three parties, seems to give a flying fuck.

The latest homelessness figures can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/statutory-homelessness-in-england-april-to-june-2013

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The Mass Sleep Out Against The Bedroom Tax – August 24th

mass-sleep-outOver 40 towns and cities in the UK and Ireland planning to take part!

https://www.facebook.com/MassSleepover?ref=stream

To gather in all main cities in the U.K. and sleep on the streets, to raise awareness of the impending mass homelessness brought on by bedroom tax.

Help spread the word on Twitter Please Hashtag #TMSO

Also: Actions against sanctions in Glasgow today and Bootle on Thur! https://www.facebook.com/events/479667628794945/?ref=22

Blogging will remain sporadic until September.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid