What have we become? There’s a dry bitter taste in my mouth

Since when has it been acceptable to not care about 300,000 children per year being evicted and made homeless and have their life chances or their aspiration forever lost?

Since when has being British meant turn the other cheek and sit idly by while a million CHILDREN could be made homeless in this parliament?

The benefit cap policy of this Tory administration which will see children being made homeless in huge numbers is supported by the Labour Party too.  That in part helps discussion here as it takes the political out of this by becoming a policy not of right or left but a policy of right or wrong.

The policy is most definitely wrong and unacceptable to anyone who has an ounce of humanity.

Even the coldest emotionless fish will see the policy costs the taxpayer more leaving a policy called the benefit cap, that implies it will reduce social security spending, yet increases it and in doing so destroys the life chances of 300,000 children per year.

If a politician were to say I know full well that my policy will make 3000 children homeless and this is absolutely necessary to teach their parents a lesson that politician would be skinned alive and the public, rightfully, would be incandescent with rage.  The newly reduced benefit cap of the government is 100 times worse than that and supported by the opposition.

Imagine a friend tells you her husband the sole wage earner has left her.  It’s just her and the 4 children now but she will at least have a roof as she is renting you believe and ‘welfare’ will pay for that until she finds a job …oh and some child care so she can work.  She tells her landlord what has happened and then has to claim ‘welfare.’  She is surprised that the maximum she will get is £320.43 per month towards the rent as that it was the reduced benefit cap means.

Her rent in her smallish privately rented 3 bed semi in an okish area of low rent Liverpool is £600 per month.  Her landlord will not take the financial risk she can make the rent and the next day gives her two months to get out.

33 days later and not having received a penny in ‘welfare’ as Universal Credit takes (at least) one calendar month plus 5 days to give its first payment of ‘welfare’ the council homeless department calls her as she is now officially homeless within 28 days.

They have luckily found her two rooms in a Travelodge for her and her two sons and two daughters aged 5 – 11  on the other side of Liverpool ten miles away.  This means a change of schools, nowhere to cook, do the washing, nowhere to do homework and cramped to hell living on top of one another and all of the family stressed to buggery.

The cost to the council and the taxpayer is two rooms per night at £69 per night or £966 per week or £4,183 per calendar month.

Don’t accept and you are on the streets and social services will take away the kids is the other choice.

The homeless officer even sounds sympathetic but this is the law and she is lucky as hell to have been found a Travelodge and to have been found something so near despite being ten miles away from where she and her four children were settled and managed to make end’s meet barely…until hubby, the bastard ran off with his secretary and left me being called a single parent.

To think we used to talk about ‘them’ too and how they all scrounge off us hard-working families!

Hubby in this scenario may not have left could have had an accident at work, may have overworked and become too ill to work or even run over by a bus or could just be laid off, made redundant or be on a zero hours contract or many other examples and still the above applies – with one significant detail – the family would not get a maximum of £320.43 towards the rent but £169.17.

Currently some 23,000 households are hit by the benefit cap and that will increase 113,000 a rise of 90,000 households each with an average of at least 3 children making circa 300,000 additional children affected as soon as the cap figure reduces which could be as early as mid July.  The number affected will rise each year too and families with 3 or more children will be evicted by social landlords too for the arrears the benefit cap directly creates.

The existing cap of £500 per week costs the taxpayer more and does not save a penny (see below) and the reduction will mean it costs the taxpayer even more as the Travelodge example above illustrates how reducing the cap figure massively increases the housing benefit bill or ‘welfare’ as ALL politicians now describe social security and the welfare state rationale to look after those less able whether hubby has run off with his secretary or been run over by a bus or one of hundreds of reasons.

Here is the already additional taxpayer cost of the £500 per week benefit cap at around £1 billion more per year according to the Institute of Financial Studies (IFS) only this week in research for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation

ifs hb real terms

 

My own figures earlier this year using very specific official figures assessed the increased taxpayer cost at £440 million per year in real terms and less than the IFS.  Yet there is no doubt whatsoever the policy of the overall benefit cap does cost the taxpayer more and it has failed and is a failure.

When the reduced cap limit takes effect, and it takes just 28 days to enact, it will cost billions more each and every year and will make staggering numbers of children homeless in greater numbers each and every year for no purpose or gain whatsoever.

Damaging the life chances of children is always offensive however it happens and regardless of how resilient children can be at the best and worst of times being cooped up in the 2 room Travelodge (if they are very lucky to get a Travelodge and not a mould infested hovel) will inevitably damage their educational achievement and life chances.

I realise it is hard to fathom how a cap and especially an overall cap can result in higher costs of welfare benefits as it seems absurd as surely a cap must reduce cost as night follows day.  Yet it doesn’t because it increases other benefit costs such as the £966 per week increased cost or £50k+ yearly cost for homeless accommodation which local councils have to provide and cannot escape its mandated legal duty to provide and pay for.

A forerunner of the overall benefit cap was the cap the last Tory government put in place on Local Housing Allowance in January 2012 which limited the maximum amount of housing benefit in privately rented property – the LHA above – to £400 per week.  The BBC did a news piece on the impact of this in LB Westminster that the council were paying £12,789 each month or £153,000 or so per year in housing benefit directly because of the LHA cap.

If you genuinely want to know what the benefit cap does and will do to 300,000 children this year alone click on that BBC London 2 minute or so video here and prepare to get angry and astonished.

I will continue to rant and rave and use profanity at will to describe this outrage and I have already done so at the Tory Party, at the Labour Party and at social housing chiefs who refuse to challenge this truly offensive policy.

One final point as I take you back to your friend above, it could be your sister or cousin or niece or granddaughter or just someone you know who is (luckily!) in the 2 rooms of the Travelodge and not in a damp vermin-infested hovel.  Good News she thinks I have found a part-time job at national minimum wage that will qualify me for working tax credits which exempts me from the benefit cap.

Your friend is elated as you can imagine….however….

She, with or without the help of the homeless officers at the council, seeks somewhere to live yet no private landlord will touch her with a bargepole as they no longer take risky claimants and certainly not ones with 4 school age children.  She speaks to social landlords who because she has a previous history of arrears AND they have tightened up their financial risk at allocation won’t touch her either.  She, your friend, your daughter, granddaughter, niece or whatever, has become a too toxic financial risk for any form of landlord,in simple terms too great a financial risk and there is nowhere for her and her 4 children possibly to live.

She is forced to turn down the NMW job offer she has had a she cannot afford to do this job and pay the amount she needs to pay for the £966 per week Travelodge.  Yet because she has turned that job she is sanctioned for doing so and receives no money whatsoever in welfare by the unaccountable officer working in Job Centre Plus who can and will do this and who has targets for the number of persons to sanction.

Surely you think reader those last two paragraphs are scaremongering political nonsense or a little bit Hans Christian Anderson right?

No they are not! Sanctions have been given for far less than what I describe above.

So just in case you thought 300,000 children being made homeless and life chances irreparably damaged wasn’t enough…

Get angry and ask yourself what have we become by buying in to the rhetoric of welfare, scrounger, lone parent, and work will always pay more and Benefit Street and all the rest of the blame game and poverty porn TV an even that welfare reform has saved money when it has nt as all the official evidence shows.

Reform means to improve and so the policies like the benefit cap which cost you the taxpayer more and destroy the lives of children never fits the definition of improve.

susie_dent_countdown_135

 

Late last night I watched BBC This Week and it had Susie Dent (above) from dictionary corner of the TV programme Countdown on the derivation of words.

She said that Austerity means literally:

…to leave a dry bitter taste in the mouth

Doesn’t it just!

 _____________________________________________

PS – I know you’ve been busy lately and you haven’t gotten round to calling that friend of yours just for a catch up and a bit of a gab as you promised you’d do and stay in touch a few months back when you last spoke…

 

 

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7 thoughts on “What have we become? There’s a dry bitter taste in my mouth

  1. Joe you ask “Since when has being British meant turn the other cheek and sit idly by while a million CHILDREN could be made homeless in this parliament?” I would suggest this was a lesson taught to society a generation or two ago by the PM at the time Mrs M Thatcher; her look after number one, get rich quick on the back of others and “there is no such thing as a society” rhetoric; has apparently worked?

  2. One other thing worth mentioning is that the cost of temporary accommodation will not be accounted for as HB or UC and the Council will not receive any direct HB subsidy from central government above the level of the cap: the cap still applies even if you live in temp acc, but the council still has a 1996 Act homelessness duty and cannot charge you an unaffordable rent for your temp acc. The Council will simply have to pick up the tab. So while the cost to public funds increases that cost is localised making it easier for the government to deflect blame and still boast about how much they have reduced the benefit bill.

    A cheaper option than Travelodge would be private sector leasing, but for councils in London that isn’t much cheaper, yet they get blasted by the courts if they try to lease elsewhere.

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