Aged 16 – 59? How does a further 15% cut in welfare benefits sound?

The Tory Party Conference this week and like all party conferences but especially the incumbent government party ones such conferences are often described or known as the silly season, and with good reason.  They are used often to espouse silly policies and more often than not internal wranglings in the politics of the party involved has greater priority than policy.  Yet that doesn’t excuse the housing media talking so much silly stuff, or quite frankly, crap, about the housing issues that emerge from them.

The under 25s will not get any Housing Benefit is a case in point.  When first raised in April 2012 I said this was a non-runner and gave a few examples why – it would close all DV refuges and all single homeless hostels and prevent the returning war soldier coming back from a term of duty in Afghanistan the right to live somewhere.  It was then re-raised by Cameron in a Telegraph article to which I restated all the above AND stated it was a non-runner gain BUT it was a smokescreen or kit-flying exercise to prepare for the real policy – making the shared accommodation rate or SAR apply to social housing as it does now to private rented housing.

I am now fully convinced of this for two reasons, cost and politically sensitivities.  In terms of cost once you exclude the 171,000 single parents, then the numbers of single hostel residents (14,000 or so) the number in a refuge (5000) the number of care leavers (13,000) or so and of course those under 25s that are working and having to claim HB to supplement their low pay (between 66,000 and 103,000 depending on which figures you believe) then out of the initial 383,650 under 25 and receiving housing benefit you have very few left to sanction.  In short the nearly £2bn per year saving that Cameron stated comes down to about £182m per year.  With the political flak that goes along with that, which would risk Joe Public turning against the entire welfare savings agenda, it is a non-runner.

By contrast all those single persons under 35 in the PRS already have the shared accommodation rate or SAR applied.  The whole issue of SAR applying caused consternation when I raised it initially back in January (here, here, here, here and all reference further posts) leading to a wide-ranging consensus in housing that it’s a case of when and not if it will apply,

If the coalition applied SAR to social housing it simply levels the playing field and is, and would be seen as, politically acceptable.

Why should we the government discriminate for the already taxpayer-funded sector….

Yes we can all see the arguments that would be used by this coalition to stifle any challenge!

We ‘subsidise’ them already and now they want special privileges too!

Yes you begin to get my point I think (and no I havent accepted a commission from Conservative Central Office!)

A quick calculation on my infamous £1 calculator (something that the coalition seemingly can’t afford or know how to use – do keep up reader!) would see applying the SAR to social housing save about £466m per year or about 2.5 times the amount the already diluted yet still embryonic banning HB to under 25s would realise.  That’s a no-brainer despite the horrendous consequences it will have.

It also shows the social housing sector who realise the mayhem this will cause in the SRS dont shout about the plight of under 35s in the PRS who receive a maximum SAR of as little as £47.06 per week in LHA in Stoke!) that bedroom tax is much higher than the SRS one and always has been but hey it only applies to young people….er!

We also had it confirmed this week that the chancellor will be seeking a further £10bn of welfare benefit cuts in the first two years after the next election. Not as many comments or blogs on this as you would think but the few around all say this means the banning of HB to under 25s will definitely happen!  They I maintain for the reasons above are wrong.

Yet the lack of comment on the additional £10bn of welfare benefit cuts is a huge concern for me.  Perhaps its just more of the same and we have become immune to such cuts?  If so, hopefully what I’m about to say will wake you out of that slumber –

The coalition is planning a further 15% cut in working-age welfare benefits!

To explain: Yesterday saw a National Audit Office report on the DWPs welfare benefit spend.  You know how young people always get the blame for welfare benefit spend (not just HB ban to under 25s) well it must come as a huge surprise reader that pensioners receive £3 out of every £5 the government spends on welfare benefits.  So when scratched under the surface we see about £95bn of the total welfare benefit spend go to pensioners and about £65bn per year go to working-age people.

To date pensioners have been excluded from welfare benefit cuts and future policies (Council Tax Benefit, Universal Credit and the Overall Benefit Cap to name but a few).  If that continues – and re-read my political sensitivity points above and remember 40%+ of the electorate are pensioners – the grey vote – which I fully expect it will and they will continue to be ‘immune’ from cuts, then the £10bn additional welfare benefit cuts, so long talked about but only confirmed this week, is £10bn from the £65bn per year that working-age people receive – a cut of 15.38% no less!

Reader, please don’t dwell over the weekend just what a further 15% cut to welfare benefits for working-age people will mean for you, your family, your friends or the economy or the country at large in so many other areas such as NHS, criminal justice costs, housing evictions, increased homelessness, increased homeless costs or even increased bile blaming all those on benefits in the Daily Mail…bugger…sorry!

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