Tag Archives: benefit cap

Hunger, Homelessness and Despair, The Stark Reality of the Benefit Cap

benefit-cap2It is hard to imagine a more poisonous piece of legislation than the lowered Benefit Cap, set to be introduced this Autumn, which will plunge quarter of a million children into desperate housing insecurity and possible homelessness.

This will be the third time that the Benefit Cap – which limits the weekly amount that can be received in benefits – has been lowered in just five years.  In 2011 George Osborne capped Housing Benefit in a sweeping move which made much of central London unaffordable for those unable to work due to childcare responsibilities, sickness or unemployment.  Then in 2013 benefits were capped further, at £500 a week for a family with children, extending the problem of unaffordability out to Greater London, the Home Counties and beyond, with many large cities seeing families affected.  And now the cap is to be lowered again, to around £440 a week in London and £384 elsewhere.

On average this means families set to lose £60 a week according to an Impact Assessment published by the DWP last week and it will no longer be just a London problem.  Leeds, Cardiff, Manchester, Glasgow and Bradford are all likely to have at least 1000 households affected whilst in Birmingham 3,900 households will face an abrupt cut in housing benefits.  It is not the fault of struggling families that rents in the UK have soared out of reach in many areas which has led to the growing Housing Benefit bill.  It is the result a failure to build enough low cost housing.  But it is the poor who will pay.

benefit-cap5

The government claim the Benefit Cap has been a huge success, pointing to a series of evaluations that showed a small rise in the number of people subject to the cap who found work.  But behind these celebratory statistics lies a bitter truth.  It has become common, in evaluations of DWP policy, to use ‘job outcomes’ to justify any atrocity.  Someone hangs themselves after being found fit for work and having their benefits stopped – well this is just fine because someone else got a job in Poundland.  No other social policies would be evaluated this way.  It is like testing a new drug and completely ignoring deadly side effects on the basis that a handful of people’s health had slightly improved.

benefit-cap6

With families facing eviction due to the Benefit Cap it has indeed forced many to desperately look for any job they can find.  Those able to find between work, of between 16 and 30 hours a week  depending on their circumstances, become exempt from the cap leading many to hound their employers for more hours, often unsuccessfully.

benefit-cap4

For the 18% of claimants affected by the Benefit Cap who are long term sick or disabled this of course has not been an option.  Despite repeated lies from DWP ministers that disabled people are not affected by the cap this only applies to those with the most serious health conditions or disabilities.  Claimants of the sickness and disability benefit Employment Support Allowance are not exempt from the cap if health assessors decide their condition may improve in the future.  Many claimants are battling ill health as well as facing the prospect of losing their homes.

benefit-cap3

Neither is simply finding a job a realistic solution for those with very young children, or even babies.  This hasn’t stopped many local councils simply shrugging off the upcoming trauma faced by those with young children who face losing their homes.

benefit-cap7

What the interviews with claimants do seem to suggest is that if the cap has had any impact at all, it has been to encourage lone parents to seek work before they felt their children were ready to be left alone.

benefit-cap9

These were parents who intended to go back to work anyway.  Others have had dreams of furthering their education shattered by the cap.

benefit-cap8

Sometimes it has not been the claimant themselves who was affected.

benefit-cap10

Rarely has government policy had such a devastating impact on children’s lives.  Behind the lauded ‘job outcomes’ lies a trail of destitution.  Countless families have reported being left without enough money for food.  Huge numbers are in rent arrears.  Many have been forced to move – at the time of the most recent evaluation 10% of households had moved house due to the cap.  These evaluations were carried in 2014 however, meaning many families covered by the reports would have only been subject to the cap for a short period.  The growing rise in homeless families, especially in London, points to the devastating long term impact of the Benefit Cap.

benefitcap-11

Punishing children with homelessness because of the eye-watering rents demanded by landlords is a new low for even the Tory Party, but it is the upcoming lowering of the cap which will perhaps inflict the greatest cruelty.  According to last week’s impact assessment, “those already capped at £26,000 will have the new, lower, cap applied to them.”  This is estimated to be around 22,000 households.  These are families that may have already moved to a cheaper area and are just starting to get their lives back on track.  They are the families featured in the quotes that accompany this piece.  Some of the poorest people in the UK, already struggling to survive and raise their children.

benefit-cap13
And now the government is coming for them again.  Imagine explaining to a young child just settling into a new school, who may have recently faced a spell in temporary housing that they now have to go through it all again.  A child just starting to make friends to replace the ones they lost due to the last forced relocation will now be looking at a future in yet another new school, or even another new city.

benefit-cap12

Most of those facing the Benefit Cap are women, usually lone parents.  Black and Ethnic Minority families are hugely over-represented amongst those affected, as are disabled people.  For those unable to find work or increase their hours their options are stark.  Many have only been able to stay in their homes due to Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) paid by local authorities to families facing imminent homelessness.  These payments will not last forever and are increasingly being used to meet the cost of housing families in temporary accommodation.  A recent homelessness update from Westminster Council (H/t @nearlylegal) showed that around half of the borough’s spend on DHP’s is paying for temporary accommodation for those made homeless due to the benefit cap.  It is only now that Local Authorities are starting to feel the impact of the Benefit Cap introduced in 2013. With a new further cut set to pile on the pressure even further homelessness amongst those with children could soar to levels not seen in generations in the UK.

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

Advertisements

Social Cleansing In London Is All Too Real, To Deny It Is Irresponsible

social-housingSome things need nippng in the bud.  So here’s a long and probably quite boring explanation of why Dave Hill’s recent claims in the Guardian that social cleansing is not taking place in London are a load of bollocks.

Hill based his recent piece on research carried out by the New Policy Institute think tank which examined the number of moves made by housing benefits claimants both within the capital and from London to other parts of the UK.  It found that the number of London claimants who moved house has changed little between 2010 and 2015.  As such the report’s authors conclude that housing benefit cuts have not caused the social cleansing of the city that many feared.

This led the Hill to declare that we should forget about social cleansing and instead focus on the poverty that has been caused by housing benefit cuts, saying that households had not been forced out of London but were staying put and making up rent shortfalls themselves.  To some extent this is true, many Londoners are now living in desperate poverty due to soaring rents and benefit cuts.  But to dismiss social cleansing, on the basis of this report, is a big mistake.

The first significant error in this research is that it examined all of those on housing benefit, not just those in the private sector.  Almost 70% of London housing benefit claimants are in social housing and unlikely to be subject to the benefit cap due to much lower rents.*  This means that large chunks of their data could be meaningless when analysing the impact of cuts on private sector tenants – and they don’t know which chunks.

There are many reasons why tenants might not move in such a brutal housing market.  With the number of London landlords who will accept those claiming housing benefits growing ever smaller, the sensible thing to do if you have found somewhere is to stay put.  Some social housing tenants may be hoping to buy eventually –  especially now that right-to-buy is being extended to Housing Association properties.  This could impact on the number of social housing transfers to outside the capital.  These factors would both offset any exodus due to benefit cuts.  But these assumptions, like the conclusions of the report, are speculation.

A further error in the research is that it treated claimants as one never-changing mass rather than examining flows on and off benefits.  This means that if someone comes off housing benefits as a result of moving to a cheaper area they will not be included in the figures. The report fails to show whether the number of private sector Housing Benefit claimants is falling or rising in any given area.  This leaves the question of whether people moving are being replaced by someone in similar economic circumstances.  You would expect this if the number of poor people was not decreasing overall as the researchers claim and you can find out by looking at the Housing Benefit caseload statistics.  They tell a very different story to the one told by the New Policy Institute.

The social cleansing of London did not begin when the Tory government first stole power in 2010.  Gentrification had already hollowed out much of inner London with both rents and house prices soaring even in once largely working class areas such as Hackney and Lambeth.  In more prosperous boroughs the eradication of the poor was almost complete except for those in social housing.  There were just 7,790 private sector Housing Benefit claimants in the City of Westminster in 2010 – and Westminster is big, with a population almost as large as Hull and with areas which would not have been described even as middle class a couple of decades ago.

According to the most recent figures, the number of Housing Benefit claimants in Westminster now stands at 5,001, a drop of over a third since 2010.  This trend is repeated throughout inner London – both the boroughs of Kensington & Chelsea and Islington have also lost around a third of private sector housing benefit claimants. In Camden, Hammersmith & Fulham and Southwark the number has dropped by around 20%, whilst Lewisham, Lambeth, Wandsworth and Tower Hamlets have all seen over 10% of private sector housing benefit claimants disappear.  In the largely uninhabited City of London there were 100 private sector housing benefit claimants in 2010 and now there is only 20.  The only inner London borough during the period to see a rise in this claimant group was Newham, by far the poorest and the least central borough.  In total there are over 11,000 less private sector housing benefit claimants in inner London since 2010, and there weren’t many to start with.  In many ways the Benefit Cap was simply a mopping up exercise, driving out the hangers-on that gentrification hadn’t yet managed to displace.

Despite plummeting number of private rented sector claimants in inner London the reverse is taking place further afield.  Almost every outer London borough saw a rise in the number of private sector Housing Benefit claimants between 2010 and 2016, with only Waltham Forest, Merton and Richmond seeing a fall – and the last two are both posh.  The main reason for this is soaring rents and a huge rise in the number of people in work who are claiming Housing Benefit.  The overall number of Greater London Housing Benefit claimants, including social tenants, is higher now than in 2010 despite falling unemployment.  The overall number of inner London claimants has fallen however.

The trend is plain to see. The richer and more central a borough is, then the more likely it will have seen a drop in the number of private sector housing benefit claimants.  In outer boroughs the opposite is happening.  London’s poor are being displaced to the margins

In some boroughs, such as Westminster, the process of social cleansing is near complete for almost all those without social housing.  And for those clinging on the situation is chilling. Westminster spent around £3 million on Discretionary Housing Payments in 2014/15 specifically to mitigate the impact of the Benefit Cap.  Assuming an average award of £50 a week – and this is a guess, there are no available figures – that’s enough to pay for over 1,000 of Westminster’s dwindling private sector claimants to remain in their homes.  These are emergency payments, which can be withdrawn at any time, and will eventually stop.  These households have simply been given a stay of execution.

In addition to this Westminster has 2,435 households who are homeless and in temporary accommodation.  Around half of this number have been relocated outside the borough.  Those still in Westminster will be in some form of private accomodation, whether that’s a hostel, B&B or in a temporary placement with a private landlord.  They are also likely to be claiming Housing Benefit.  So of Westminster’s 5000 private sector Housng Benefit claimants up to a quarter could be homeless, and possibly another fifth are receiving Discretionary Housing Payments which will eventually be stopped.

The Benefit Cap is just one, very small part of what is driving social cleansing.  London’s failure to build enough social housing is also displacing the poor from the capital.  Despite a population increase across Greater London of almost half a million between 2010 and 2014, the number of new social houses was just 7,455.  Housing stock estimates from the Department of Communities and Local Government show that Islington, Camden, Kensington & Chelsea, Wesminster and the City of London have all seen a reduction in the number of socially rented homes since 2010.  As numerous campaigners around the capital will tell you, they are now coming for the housing estates as well.

It seems astonishing that there would be those who refute that London’s poor are being gradually forced out of the city when the evidence is so visible.  Take a walk round Hackney and you will see streets that have been not just socially, but also ethnically cleansed.  This is not to undermine the sufffering of those still living in the capital who have been forced into poverty and  destitution.  That is part of social cleansing too, as the poor are sliced out of civic, economic and social life, even if they manage to cling onto their homes.  Those that are left become as invisible as the departed.  With further benefit cuts on the way and the near eradication of social housing it is irresponsible, and just plain inaccurate to deny what is taking place.

*this post was corrected on 28/5/16 due to previously saying social housing tenants are exempt from the Benefit Cap.  This was a daft mistake, they are not exempt, but due to much lower rents in social housing then very few claimants are affected.  H/T  @nearlylegal who pointed it out.

Above pic from Turbulent London

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

Who Will Be Hit By Benefit Cap? People Like Stephen Crabbs’ Own Mother

crabb-cap2

An estimate of Stephen Crabb’s mother’s benefit claim were she raising children today.

New Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb would have faced possible homelessness and desperate poverty as a child if the benefit reforms he is introducing had been in place.

Savage new rules due to come into force in Autumn will slash social security to £20,000 a year for parents unable to work due to unemployment, sickness,  disability* or caring responsibilities.   This will leave many struggling families with just a few pounds a week to feed their children after eye-watering rents have been paid.  According to Crabb the caps on benefits are necessary to avoid ‘sky high’ payments and will incentivise single parents – even those with newly born babies – to get a job.  Yet the people who will suffer most from this cut will be lone parents just like his own mother.

Crabb has been all too happy to drag his family’s traumatic past into the spotlight when it serves his political needs.  He has spoken at length of the poverty his mother suffered when – in his words – she became “welfare dependent”.  In an interview with The Spectator he even admits to truanting from school so he could work on a farm to buy some trainers.  This was around the time his hero Margaret Thatcher claimed that “people who are living in need are fully and properly provided for”.  So fuck knows what he’s complaining about.  Perhaps he thinks children should have to work on farms so they can afford shoes.

Crabb says he was just 8 years old when his mother left a violent relationship with his father and took him and his two brothers to Scotland where they stayed in a spare room in his grandparent’s council property.  Of course this was before the Bedroom Tax intended to stop council tenants from having an extra room that extended families or grandchildren could stay in.  And this is far from the only protection that Crabb’s mother relied on that has been brutally dismantled by the current Tory government.

After returning from Scotland, Crabb’s mother was able to secure a council property in Haverdfordwest, the area of Pembrokeshire they had previously fled from.  Today chronic social housing shortages would leave Crabb’s mother abandoned to the far more expensive and insecure private rented sector – assuming she wasn’t forced into homelessness and sub-standard temporary accommodation.

The Tory government has already slashed housing benefit payments for private sector tenants by introducing  a four year freeze on payments regardless of how much rents rise.  They also introduced new rules to ensure that housing benefits would only cover the cheapest 30% of properties in the local area.  Whilst rents in Haverfordwest are far lower than many parts of the UK, a search of one of the largest property websites reveals there are only two 3 bedroom flats in the area which have rents low enough to be met by the £120.83 a week housing benefit rate for the town.

Her problems would not end there.  According to the government’s recommended benefits calculator an unemployed lone parent with three children would currently be entitled to £413 a week (plus Council Tax Support) in Haverfordwest .  This is too much according to Crabb who seems to be relishing the chance to lower the benefit cap to just £384.55 a week.  That’s nearly £30 quid a week Crabb is taking from people just like his own mother.

This is the reality of the modern Tory Party.  They are only too happy to take when it suits them.  Look at the number of Oxbridge MPs whose elite university education was paid for by the tax payer.  But they don’t want anyone else to have it.  The horrifying truth is that it is people exactly like Crabb’s mother who have been attacked over and over again by vicous social security reforms.  That doesn’t mean life wasn’t bleak in the 1980s for those on benefits.  But the toxic combination of housing shortages, benefit sanctions, workfare and successive cuts, caps and freezes to child benefits mean that many lone parents today face complete destitution.  And it’s about to get much worse.

If even mid size families in low rent South Wales are to be hit by the cap, the situation in many cities will be even more dire.  A family with three kids in Bristol –  assuming they can find a property at the local housing allowance rate – will be left with just over £200 a week.  In Brighton they will have just £154 a week.  In Hackney, in spite of the cap being slightly higher in London, they will be left with £88 – just £2.50 per person per day.  This will be Stephen Crabb’s legacy.  The re-introduction of poverty not seen in generations into the UK.

*The government are claming disabled people are exempt from the cap.  This is a lie, only the most severely disabled people are exempt.  Many claimants, including those with serious conditions such as cancer, MS or Parkinson’s Disease will be affected.

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

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.

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 Cap Back In The Courts, Join The Fight Against This Nasty Policy

unwaged-care-workFew policies have been as immediately devastating as the Benefit Cap which has seen many families plunged into imminent homelessness overnight as vital Housing Benefits are slashed.

These were not people living in Kensington mansions as the establishment press have claimed.  Often it was those in expensive but low quality emergency accommodation, or who lived in areas where rents have soared out of reach.  Few would have believed even a decade ago that people on low incomes living in places like Tottenham or Lewisham would be priced not just out of London but soon the entire South East.  The reason for this has nothing to be with high Housing Benefits but an out of control housing market combined with a chronic shortage of social housing.  Yet the government has chosen to punish the poorest children for this market failure by forcing them to move – sometime 100s of miles – away from their schools, friends and wider families.

Very soon things are set to get even worse with a new, lower Benefit Cap on the way.  Mass social cleansing of the poor will no longer just be a phenomena in the south of England, but will reach out into cities across the UK.  This is the end of a functioning safety net for huge swathes of people.  Lose your job, and you will probably now lose your home and have to move hundreds of miles away, to an area of high unemployment where rents are low.  Which of course will keep the workers in line – the real intention of this and other welfare reforms.

There is no clear evidence that people have found work due to the Benefit Cap as Iain Duncan Smith repeatedly claims.  And what of those who have.  Imagine the horrifying insecurity of a parent in low paid work, desperately clinging onto a their job knowing that if they get sacked they and their children face homelessness.  People working in sectors known to be exploitative like cleaning and care work.  The end of adequate social security in the cities is a recipe for employer exploitation and abuse.  And doesn’t this government just know that.

One group who cannot simply just find a job to escape the cap are full time carers who are also affected.  This group are required by law to provide care for 35 hours a week or they face losing the pittance of Carer’s Allowance – just £62.10.  Only those caring for their partner or  a disabled child are exempt from the cap.

Two people hit by the cap are currently challenging this nasty policy in the courts, arguing that it is unlawful and unfairly impacts on carers and those they care for.  The High Court has ordered an urgent judicial review, rejecting the DWP’s argument that the claim should be dismissed.  A hearing takes place tomorrow and a vigil has been called outside the court to support the carers.  Meet at 9.30am on Wed 21 October outside the Royal Courts of Justice, Strand (off Kingsway) London WC2A 2LL (Temple tube).

The vigil has been called by Winvisible and is supported by Disabled People Against Cuts, Single Mothers’ Self-Defence, Taxpayers Against Poverty and many more.  Further details are on facebook.  Please spread the word.

For background on the case visit: http://www.scottishlegal.com/2015/06/01/legal-challenge-to-benefit-caps-impact-on-disabled-people-and-carers/

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

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

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

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid