Tag Archives: single parents

Over 8000 Children Face Homelessness Due To Benefit Cap … And It’s Barely Even Begun

homeless kidsOver 8000 children are staring homelessness in the face this Summer due to the vicious benefit cap which punishes parents for the astronomical rents charged by landlords.

Recently released statistics show that 1,621 families in the London boroughs of Bromley, Croydon, Haringey and Enfield have had benefits cut by over £50 a week meaning homelessness is virtually inevitable.  A further thousand have lost up to £50 a week, which combined with other benefit changes means many of them will also also be unable to pay the rent.

Most of those having benefits capped are larger families and statistics show over 8000 children will be affected.  Families are likely to be forced into temporary, and often more expensive, accommodation to await relocation elsewhere in the UK.  According to the DWP themselves families are expected to head for the seaside towns in South East England or the Home Counties.  A recently released report by London Councils (PDF) warned that the previously introduced cap on Housing Benefits may be responsible for rent rises in outer London boroughs as the social cleansing of central London pushes up demand for rented properties to the outskirts.

The statistics were released in the week that it was revealed bungling DWP officials are spending £1.3 million a month administering the cap.  A rough analysis of the figures suggests it is saving about a million a month so far.  That saving alone is likely to be wiped out by the cost of temporarily housing these homeless families, without the social costs of these lives destroyed or the impact on local services wherever they eventually end up.

This Government is spending money to make children homeless.  Children who will not understand why they have to leave the house or flat they may have grown up in and move into a single room in a dismal B&B or hostel.  Why they have to leave not just school but friends, grandparents, and other family members.  Why they can no longer see a separated parent, or why mum cannot afford the astronomical public transport fares for them to maintain relationships with extended family members.  The impact of homelessness followed by relocation on these children will be devastating and remain with them for a lifetime.

Tragically these 8000 children are just the beginning.  The four boroughs in the pilot area already represent some of the cheapest rental areas in London.  Between now and October the cap is being introduced nationwide.  According to the Government 200,000 children are set to be affected.

Even then the cleansing of London and other Southern cities will continue as rents soar and Housing Benefit rises are pegged at 1%.  Women who find themselves pregnant at some point in the future will also be hit and face a choice between homelessness or abortion.

The Benefit Cap means the safety net of the welfare state has disappeared for families in London and the cost of that will be 200,000 childhoods destroyed.  As rents rise in other cities a similar exodus is likely to occur whilst for some very large families there will be nowhere cheap enough to go.

Whilst the Tories sing this brutal policy from the rooftops children will go hungry and homeless as the Government takes revenge on their so-called feckless parents.  And feckless means widows, disabled people, women fleeing domestic violence or parents unable to find a full time job that also allows them to also adequately care for young children or even new born babies.  These children do not know that they are benefit scrounging scum.  And when they see their mother’s crying as much loved family homes are abandoned they will not be able to comprehend the cruelty that has brought those tears.

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How the DWP Harass Single Parents

In the midst of the workfare madness, this post about the DWP harassment of single parents, got a bit lost.  With typically malevolent timing the DWP released a press release on Valentine’s Day this year warning of a crackdown, on women in particular, who might live with a partner without informing the DWP.

The DWP claim this type of fraud takes £65 million from the Income Support budget, not much more than the Queen costs and less than 1% of the annual 7.5 billion spend.  When the Tories wanted to rebrand the Flexible New Deal as the Work Programme, essentially the same thing with another name, they paid £63 million to private contractors like A4e as compensation for ending the New Deal contracts.

The new Welfare Reform contains even more draconian sanctions and penalties aimed at parents who are deemed to have broken the rules.  The problem is that the DWP aren’t even clear on what the rules are.  This leave single parents facing questioning from salivating and pervy officials about the details of their intimate relationships.  Whilst the guidance for DWP investigators (PDF)  states people should not be asked about their sex lives, it is clear in the rules that having sex with someone is seen as one of the things which may indicate a relationship that could be described as living together as man and wife.

There is no doubt that this guidance is often broken, and even when it isn’t claimants can be subject to ever more demeaning grillings about their personal relationships as officials skirt around the issue in an effort to find out whether they have had a shag recently.  These interrogations often take place  in very public Jobcentres and in front of the claimant’s children.  If this type of personal interrogation happened in the workplace it could well be end up forming part of a sexual harassment claim.

For benefit claimants it’s just one more aspect to the ever more intrusive and sinister regime required to keep a roof over the kid’s head and food in their bellies.

The impact of this was summed up in the comments by darkestangel32, who’s recent blog about the brutal cuts to services for people facing domestic violence is also well worth reading:  http://darkestangel32.wordpress.com/

“I was told off by the compliance unit. They spotted me getting out of a car driven by a male when I attended a work focused interview! My brother (the driver) thought that was funny. Interrogation lady at the job centre didn’t. She told me you don’t even have to spend the night with someone to be breaking the rules, shopping together, sharing a meal etc can be viewed as breaking the rules because its down to each local authority so she said. I continue to feed my ex once a week. At every work focused interview I am asked ‘do you have a boyfriend?’ ‘Are you thinking of getting back with your ex, ever?’ ‘Have either of you talked about it?’ ‘How often does he visit his children?’ ‘Which days?’. Not being funny but what’s it got to do with them? I wasn’t aware that my sex life (or lack of) and contact arrangements for the kids were any of DWPs business! I’m living like a nun at the moment. I don’t go out, only my family visit occassionally and my ex takes the kids somewhere else, just so there’s no petty excuse to drag me in for interrogation in front of the kids.”