Tag Archives: Housing Benefit

Benefit Cap For Single People Is Just A Claimant Bashing Propaganda Stunt

Iain_Duncan_Smith_pissedThe benefit cap for single people, which comes into force this week, appears to be little more than an attempt to use the law to tell lies about benefits.  The cap for those without children will not save the government a penny, and apart from gradually eating away at the income of a handful of sick or disabled claimants* – who may not even exist – it will barely affect anyone at all.

The cap overall will have a devastating impact on London poorest families with up to 40,000 people now staring homelessness in the face.  For those who are single and without children however the cap is set at £350 a week.  This is higher than anyone unemployed is currently receiving on benefits, and just 15p less than the maximum currently available for those on sickness or disability benefits.

Disabled people, which in this case means those on DLA, its replacement PIP, or those in the Support Group part of Employment Support Allowance (ESA) are exempt from the cap.  Not disabled enough people, in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) part of ESA, are affected, but only those living in properties which are priced at the maximum possible level which can be paid by housing benefits – £250 a week for a single person.  This handful of people in high rent central London boroughs, will lose 15p a week, although that will become worse over time as rents and prices rise and benefit levels stays the same.

Most single claimants in London are not eligible for anything like £250 a week in Housing Benefits, which are also capped at the bottom 30% of rents in the local housing market.  Even if 500 people in the high rent London boroughs are currently claiming the full rate of Housing Benefit – and are in the ESA WRAG group –  then the single person’s benefit cap will save less than £100 a week in total.  This is considerably less than it will cost to administer and inform everybody about the cap.

Claimants on Job Seeker’s Allowance can currently also claim a maximum of £250 in Housing Benefit, but again this is restricted to those living in the central London boroughs.  Job Seeker’s Allowance is currently £71.70, meaning nobody on the dole will be affected by the benefit cap for single people of £350 a week.

Iain Duncan Smith’s seemed to love his benefit cap so much that he did it twice.  The first time, when he capped Housing Benefits, it genuinely hurt, with every measure of homelessness –  including the number of people sleeping on the streets – rising as vast swathes of London became unaffordable overnight to the poorest.

The second time it also hurt, but only for those with children who are now being socially cleansed from most of London.  For single people however it seems to have been little more than a crass PR exercise designed to give the impression that many claimants were receiving far higher benefits than is legally possible.  The only reason for this can be an attempt at entrenching Tory benefit bullshitting in legislation.  Not content with the endless abuse aimed at claimants from the right wing press, the DWP have introduced a pointless law simply to mislead people into believing that everyone on benefits was receiving a small fortune.

*It is technically possible that should there exist a non-resident carer, who happens to be paying the full rent of £250 a week and is on income based Employment Support Allowance in the WRAG group, then they may see their income affected by the cap.  If such a person exists they must feel very special that Iain Duncan Smith has invented a whole new law just for them.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Nationwide Bans The Poor From Private Renting

no-dssUPDATE: Nationwide have backed down releasing the following statement on their facebook page: 

“The Mortgage Works, a subsidiary of Nationwide Building Society, has removed the exclusion of tenants on benefits and Local Authority tenants from its Buy-to-Let terms and conditions. This follows concerns raised by its customers.

“The clarification of the terms and conditions, which took place last December, brought The Mortgage Works into line with several other Buy-to-Let lenders. This will now be removed.”

In a shocking, and possibly illegal decision, one of Britain’s biggest buy-to-let mortgage lenders is to ban landlords from accepting tenants on Local Housing Allowance.

This nasty little move will mean unemployed, disabled people, many pensioners and people on low wages will be locked out of a large sector of the private rental market.  This comes at a time when homelessness is soaring and the bedroom tax is set to force hundreds of thousands of people out of local authority housing and into the private sector.

Nationwide’s subsidiary, The Mortgage Works, are one of the largest mortgages providers for the buy-to-let vermin who have caused soaring rents and house prices.  The company say:  “Previously, lending to landlords with local authority tenants was not explicitly referenced in TMW’s lending criteria. Our re-issued terms and conditions make it explicit that local authority tenants are not acceptable.”

By local authority tenants they actually mean Housing Benefit tenants.  Many tenants on Housing Benefits are working, however should they lose their job, become disabled or fall ill, then they may now face homelessness as their landlords will have no choice but to evict.

In truth it is none of a landlord’s fucking business, or his banks, whether tenants are on benefits or not and there is no requirement to tell them.  This will sadly be of cold comfort to many tenants however, who all too often live in fear of eviction on the whims of the landlord.  Most tenants can be thrown out of their home for any reason or none with just two months notice.

Nationwide’s decision comes on the back of savage cuts to Housing Benefits which have already made much of the South East of England unaffordable for people on low incomes.  The growing homelessness epidemic in the South is soon to be matched by mass homelessness in Northern England, Scotland and Wales as the bedroom tax begins to bite.

On top of this will come the drip drip effect of George Osborne’s decision to cap annual Housing Benefit rises at 1%, despite a soaring rental market.  And in April this year the benefit cap begin to kick in which will force thousands of people out of London or onto the streets.

Already the cuts have led to local councils placing homeless families in hotels which can cost almost £3000 a week.  People’s lives are being torn apart and the Housing Benefit bill is still rising.

No DSS has long been a common sign on the windows of letting agents.  Some landlords say they will not even take working tenants on DLA, effectively banning disabled people from their housing.  This, along with punitive deposits, credit and reference checks, mean accessing private sector housing is more difficult than ever before for those on low incomes.

At present people with resident children, or those disabled or unwell enough to convince their council they are officially ‘vulnerable’, are legally able to gain some help should they become homeless.  Increasingly that means B&Bs as the number of people presenting as homeless rockets.

Yet landlords, mortgage lenders and property speculators are making millions as they exploit the soaring demand for housing.  In many parts of the UK, even a so called ‘living wage’ is not enough to pay the rent.  If Nationwide’s greedy demand is repeated by other lenders and landlords then it will mean disabled, sick, unemployed or low waged workers are effectively barred from housing in the UK.  You can tell the recession profiteers what you think of that on twitter @AskNationwide or at: http://www.facebook.com/NationwideBuildingSociety

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Homeless Families Living in £3000 Per Week Hotels Due to Housing Benefit Reforms

homeless-familyNothing sums up the toxic mix of brutality and blundering at the DWP than the news that homeless families are being housed in hotels at a cost of almost £3000 a week.

BBC London last night reported on the families kicked out of their homes due to the Housing Benefit cap who are now being put up in hotels at huge cost to the tax payer – an entirely predictable scenario for anyone who has a basic understanding of the housing and benefits system.

The Housing Benefit cap was introduced after lurid stories appeared in the tabloids about families living in £2000 a week Kensington mansions.   David Cameron himself denounced the housing benefit system that led to people claiming £100,000 a year.  The truth was not so dramatic and it turned out that less than five families were actually receiving that much in benefits – which it should be repeatedly pointed out went into to the pockets of landlords, not claimants.  The average Housing Benefit award was just £85 a week.

This didn’t stop Iain Duncan Smith steaming ahead with the Housing Benefit cap which has seen most of London become unaffordable for private tenants on a low wage or who are out of work due to sickness, disability or sky high unemployment.

At the time IDS claimed: “‘We have got to bring an end to the hysteria and scaremongering around housing benefit we have seen this week.  Our reforms are not about making people homeless.”

Since he made those remarks every measure of homelessness has risen sharply,  from the number of people living on the streets to the number of children living in B&Bs and hotels.

London Councils have been overwhelmed with homelessness applications, leading to some, like Westminster Council – a flagship Tory borough – housing families in hotels at astronomical cost.  Less than five families who were living in what was very likely temporary housing at a cost of £2000 a week have been replaced by possibly scores of homeless families living in hotels which cost £3000 a week.

These are families who have already faced the trauma of eviction due to the benefit caps.  Whilst the BBC points out that the shortage of accommodation is so acute that Westminster are sometimes using 4 star hotels, a posh carpet and and a concierge are unlikely to make up for large families forced to share a room without cooking facilities or any long term security.

When the overall benefit cap is introduced in Croydon, Haringey and Enfield in April, this is a problem that is only going to get far worse as even more families will find themselves unable to pay the rent and forced from their homes.

Iain Duncan Smith whinged in the Spectator yesterday that criticism of the upcoming bedroom tax is ‘pathetic’ and ‘scaremongering’.  Which sounds a lot like his tantrum when people warned the Housing Benefit cap would lead to a huge rise in homelessness in London.

IDS was wrong then, and he’s wrong now.  There will be no comfort in saying we told you so however when hundreds of thousands of children’s lives are shattered by the inevitable poverty and homelessness that is to come.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Squaring Up to The Bedroom Tax: Resistance Grows Around the UK

bedroom-taxResistance to the Bedroom Tax, which will lead to thousands of people at risk of imminent homelessness, is sweeping across the UK.

From this April, council tenants with a spare room will see vital housing benefits cut by an average of £15 a week.  This will see those who are unemployed, on low incomes, or out of work due to sickness or disability, facing paying a huge chunk of paltry benefits towards keeping a roof over their heads.

Along with changes to Council Tax Benefits, and soaring fuel and water bills, some claimants could find themselves left with virtually nothing left at all to buy food. Amongst those hit will be parents whose children have recently left home, separated parents, foster carers and disabled people living in specially adapted properties.  Around 660,000 tenants are estimated to be affected by the change.

The Government has demanded that tenants should just move if they have a problem paying the extra costs.  Yet there is a woeful supply of one bedroom social housing meaning transfers to smaller properties in most cases will be impossible.  This is likely to lead to an exodus of social housing tenants to the private sector – where rents are far higher.  Not for the first time this policy seems to be more about attacking the very poorest and undermining social housing then actually saving money.

Tenants are now acting together to resist these changes, with news of meetings, campaigns and actions happening across the UK.  Here’s a list, which is far from exhaustive, of some of what’s been organised so far.  Please feel free to add details of anything that’s been missed in the comments.

Liverpool – A wide network has emerged opposing the bedroom tax with a ‘Ruckus at Mutual Homes’ on Wednesday 7th February at noon.  Astonishingly the Chairman of Liverpool Mutual Homes proposed workfare for tenants to make up the rent shortfall.  For details of the protest visit: http://www.facebook.com/events/472210886178901/

Several local planning meetings are being held around Liverpool in the next few weeks – for full details visit: http://combatbedroomtax.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/liverpool-tenants-meetings-housing.html

Glasgow – Groups including Black Triangle Campaign, Govan Law Centre  and Glasgow Housing Action are all agitating against the bedroom tax with some form of action inevitable. A meeting has also been called by the Socialist Party Scotland on February 11th: http://www.facebook.com/events/615638345129882/ whilst Coalition Of Resistance have a meeting on the 13th.

Edinburgh – Similar mobilisations are taking place.  A call has also gone out on facebook for a protest against the bedroom tax in Scotland on March 30th: http://www.facebook.com/events/369488576491663/

Leeds – A website is up and a meeting has already been held in Seacroft, with a further meeting being held in Armley on February 14th.  Full details at: http://leedshandsoffourhomes.wordpress.com/2013/01/29/armley-stop-the-bedroom-tax-meeting/

London – A protest has been called on March 30th when campaigners will meet at Trafalgar Square then walk down to Downing Street to literally hand over the shirts off their backs – full details at: http://www.facebook.com/events/147409045413846/

A meeting in London recently took place in which a new network to fight all the welfare cuts was established including DPAC, Right To Work, Defend Council Housing as well as the PCS and UNITE Unions – more info at: http://www.dpac.uk.net/2013/01/campaign-for-benefit-justice-sign-up-to-our-statement-against-tory-attacks-on-the-poor/

And there is of course the inevitable petition aimed at scrapping the bedroom tax at: http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Paul_Higgins/

Finally worthy of a mention is the SPeye blog which has featured some of the best coverage of the bedroom tax, including revealing that despite Tory lies, it seems many pensioners will be hit by the tax.

Please tweet, share and spread the word about all groups and events.  It’s early days yet and networks are still being formed and co-ordinated.  If your group is organising a meeting, action or protest then please spam the fuck out of the comments below.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Rents Set To Soar as Wages and Benefits are Slashed

rent-risesOver one third of landlords are planning rent rises already this year, with around a quarter set to inflict an inflation busting 3% hike on struggling tenants a new survey has revealed.

The stark warning was issued by letting agents Spareroom, who also recently revealed that rents for rooms in shared houses had rocketed by a staggering 7% in the last year.

Average rents across the UK were 4.7% higher in December than a year previously according to the Homelet Rental Index.  This makes a mockery of internet con-man and Tory Party Chairman Grants Shapps’ claim last year that rents are falling due to welfare reforms.

In fact it is tenant’s wages which are falling, by on average 0.3% over the year according to Homelet.

With the bedroom tax and benefit cap to come into force this April a perfect storm is brewing which could lead to unprecedented homelessness.  MPs voting through the freeze on benefits last night mean it is possible any explosion in homelessness this year will just be the tip of the iceberg.

Housing Benefits, a benefit available to those in and out of work alike – as well as parents, pensioners and disabled people – will only rise at 1% from 2014, no matter what happens to the rental market.  With falling or stagnating wages, cuts to other benefits and soaring rents, this will create an ongoing catastrophe in the lives of the very poorest.

Every year people with almost nothing will see incomes squeezed as they attempt to pay ever increasing rent rises out of slashed benefits or poverty pay.  This can only lead to one thing, and for many tenants that will mean the streets.

As greedy landlords cash in on the ongoing housing crisis, the Government seem intent on making things worse.  The appalling lack of social housing is one reason that rents are out of control, a shortage caused by the right-to-buy policies which began under the Tory Party in the 80s.

Astonishingly Inside Housing this week reported that the Housing Minister Mark Prisk is throwing tax payer’s cash around like confetti in a bid to extend the scheme.  Almost £1 million has been spent on marketing and mail shots to social housing tenants encouraging them to buy their properties.

Already polls show that the public is finally turning against the escalating war on the poor.  Homelessness is one of the most visible signs of both poverty and a fractured society.  Few will forgive this Government when they see for themselves the carnage that has been created in so many people’s lives.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

The Tories’ Big Lie on Tax Credit Cuts

tory-posterAccording to Iain Duncan Smith groupie and chief chinless twat at The Telegraph, Peter Oborne, it appears the Tories have watered down the benefit bashing campaign planned before Christmas.

Instead of the infamous sofa pic,  internet con man Grant Shapps is today unveiling the above lie which will be prominently displayed at locations across London.  Goebbels famously said the bigger the lie the more people will believe it.  Grant Shapps thinks the bigger the poster the more people will buy his bullshit.

What the poster doesn’t say is that today the Tories and their yellow lib dem lapdogs will be voting to cut benefits for working people on a low wage.

Labour have, as ever, missed a trick in this argument.  They could have argued that they supported a public sector pay freeze because they thought Tax Credits would protect low income workers.  Now Tax Credits are being cut this no longer applies.

It will be the gradual erosion of Housing Benefits, available to those in and out of work, that will cause the real damage however.  Today’s bill breaks the link between how much rents actually are, and how much Housing Benefit can be paid.  With rents soaring above inflation and Housing Benefit rises pegged at 1% this will only lead to yet more homelessness over the coming years.

Labour have not even mentioned this change that will in time price many benefit claimants out of the rental system completely.  It’s almost as if they don’t really give a shit.  And they don’t.  Today’s vote is about party politics and nothing else.  The Tories are lying quite openly about Osborne’s changes to benefits and Ed Milliband thinks he might score a few points by pointing it out.

Never forget, it was Labour that started the war on welfare and sowed the seeds for the scrounger/striver rhetoric that the Tories are utilising today.  They have just as much blood on their hands as Iain Duncan Smith and no amount of crocodile tears now at the damage they inflicted will change that.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

8% Less New Houses Built Due to Universal Credit Warns Housing Association Boss

eviction_noticeA director of one of London largest housing associations has warned that house building and provision of new properties has been scaled down due to fears about the upcoming changes to the benefits system.

Speaking before the Public Accounts Committee today, Mike Donaldson, a director of social housing provider L&Q, warned of a double whammy with evictions and arrears set to rise under the new regime.  The impact of this will be that housing associations will be unable to spend cash building new homes meaning a toxic combination of fewer homes and more homeless people.

Such are his organisation’s fears of the oncoming debt tsunami that Donaldson claimed they had already cut the number of new properties provided over the last year from 1000 to 920, a fall of 8%.

Benefits are to be paid monthly under the new system and payments will go direct to tenants, leading to fears that some of those on the lowest income may find managing money difficult and fall into arrears.  On top of this a ‘bedroom tax’ will mean claimants having money docked from benefits, leaving them with either a weekly shortfall or forced to move.

Donaldson’s shocking admission comes on the day that information from pilot schemes to test the new payment system was announced by the DWP.  The figures suggest that rent arrears have doubled in the pilot areas, even though many of the most vulnerable tenants have not been included in the pilots.  No tests of the new system had taken place for tenants in the private sector, where around 30% of claimants have rent payments sent direct to their landlords.

With homelessness already soaring it seems that everyday this Government does something to make the problem worse.  The cardboard cities which emerged in London under the last Tory government may yet become a feature of every major city in the UK.

You can watch the meeting of the Public Affairs Committee, which also includes questions on the Work Programme (haven’t watched it yet so don’t know what was said) at: http://www.parliamentlive.tv/main/Player.aspx?meetingId=12123

Join the Housing for the 99% protests in London tomorrow (Tuesday 18th December)