No sanity or morality clause in the ideological Benefit Cap

The Benefit Cap and the lone parent and some more surprising, outrageous, horrendous and dangerous manifestations of this ideologically and morally bankrupt policy which is not just hundreds of thousands of children evicted.

In a BBC news report yesterday which said more lone parents are in work than ever before something caught my eye.

“Since 2008, more single parents have had to prove they are looking for work in order to qualify for benefits. Those with children under the age of 12 used to have no such requirement; now all lone parents with children over the age of five have to show they are actively looking.”

44.3% of all households that have ever been capped under the policy are lone parent households with children under the age of five and that is straight from the official DWP data on this.

As the above report says these households are not expected to work yet if they do not they are hit with the average current benefit cap deduction of £57 per week in their housing benefit.

The same official data on the overall benefit cap also shows that 15.5% of those capped are in receipt of ESA, Employment and Support Allowance which replaced Incapacity Benefit and thus we can also include these households in the not expected to work category – yet even though not expected to work these households will be capped if they don’t work. Additionally those who still receive Incapacity Benefit or Severe Disablement Allowance are also hit by the Benefit Cap policy and they are clearly unable to work due to disability.

Don’t hit a man when he’s down. kick him it’s easier!

There’s no such thing as a sanity clause ….

groucho2 politics

The current cap or limit of £500 per week nationally tends to affect those with at least 4 children and in London’s perversely high private rented sector and those with 5 children in the regions.

Yet when the cap reduces in just over 9 weeks time by 11.5% in London to £442 per week and by a staggering 23% in the rest of the country to £384.62 per week, the Benefit Cap will hit the family with 2 children and the families with 3 children and in social housing too not just the private rented sector.

That is the best and simplest and most valid way to see what this policy will do and that is a huge increase in families that will be hit and the majority of them will be families who are unable to work or not expected to work.

I detailed the case of a lone parent dad with two children who lives in a social rented 2 bed flat outside of London but in the South East here.  He will get a £32 per week cut in his housing benefit and he and his two children will be at severe and imminent risk of eviction and he lives in social housing not the much more expensive private rented sector.  If he did live in the private rented sector in the same area he would have a £89 per week cut in his housing benefit (LHA) and he and his children would be evicted and made homeless sooner.

£89 per week cut for a single dad and his two children in social housing and not in London!  The current widely held perception that the Benefit Cap only hits large families in London and in the high rent private rented sector is now a myth of the past.

The Benefit Cap is going to evict tens of thousands of families in which the lone parent is either unable to work or not expected to work.  There is no escape other than work outside of being entitled to but not claiming an exempt welfare benefit such as DLA and note here that the DWP admits that over £24 billion per year is entitled to yet not claimed in benefit and tax credits. Yes that does correctly say billion not million and equates to £66 million PER DAY entitle to yet goes unclaimed.

The Benefit Cap is going to evict and make hundreds of thousands of children homeless in families that are unable to or not expected to work.  The DWP says this will be 244,000 affected which will add to the already scandalous position of 100,000 children living in temporary homeless accommodation, that no doubt you will hear about pretty shortly from Shelter as their chuggers rattle their tins and rattle your front door knob or just accost you in the High Street asking you to set up a direct debit in the fast approaching season of goodwill that even extends to the homeless.

You are right to interpret that as a direct criticism as Shelter, Crisis all other homeless lobbies, as well as religious groups, landlords and Gingerbread and other usual suspects have been deathly quiet on the Benefit Cap and what it means – the eviction of children in their hundreds of thousands and irreparably damaging their life chances.

The DWP are never right and never have been with either estimates or actual scans of those who will be affected and the number could easily be another 400,000 children made homeless and living in temporary accommodation or even 600,000.  But leave that argument aside despite it having huge validity as surely 244,000 children evicted and made homeless is suffice to get angry about?!

So what will these homeless children face?  From managing and advising homeless hostels and homeless families units the reality is not pretty at all and it is worse in homeless B&B’s with no support and shared toilets, bathrooms and kitchens and often all in one single ‘family’ room with no privacy and nowhere to do homework from your new school as you have been moved too far away from your old one.  No friends to play with as you have moved too.

Perhaps Mum can add to those who become twice a year prostitutes which was remarkably common at Christmas and school uniform time, and yes the kids will need a new school uniform too as it will differ from their old one.  Imagine the ironing if indeed there is an iron and ironing board or is there a launderette within 5 miles of the dingy B&B hotel so you can wash the clothes, the new clothes you can’t afford and have nowhere to store in the dingy B&B grot hole.  Imagine sharing a kitchen with ten other families and the daily chore of putting food into your children’s bellies becomes horrendous.

Imagine trying to get out of that dingy B&B ‘hotel’ with its exorbitant cost which just adds one more insurmountable barrier to finding employment and escaping the hell hole you are forced to live in due to the ideologically superficial Benefit Cap policy.

Imagine if, as I expect will happen, that when you are evicted due to Benefit Cap derived arrears, the local council’s homeless department says it will find a temporary unaffordable unsuitable hell hole for you and two of your children to live but your 18 year son has to fend for himself and will not be accommodated with you?

Imagine that because it will be the reality and despite the fact your 18 year old son or daughter has nowhere else to go other than a single homeless hostel, which in some cases do conform to the stereotype of being very dangerous places to live.  And yes that does mean that while the Benefit Cap targets families and increases family homelessness, it will also substantially increase single homelessness too – Just one of many horrific manifestations this ideological policy will have.

You think the above is hyperbole and scaremongering? It is not!

As I have said many times previously the Mum who gives birth in the morning needs to go out to work in the afternoon else her new born will not have a roof over its head and will experience the horrors I outline above, horrors which barely scratch the surface too as there are many more that I describe.

There is even the reality of whether any landlord, private or social, will rehouse you to escape the B&B hell hole even if you do get a job.  The risks of any such job being lost at any time in the future mean you are a risk too far for ALL types of landlords including so–called social landlords who – as I have also said many times before – will have a radically different target tenant for their 385,000 new lettings each year, the working tenant and one with a low risk of losing a job as employment histories become a key aspect of social landlord allocation policies.

You still reading this or has your blood pressure risen?

All of that is directly created by the £115 per week cut to the Benefit Cap level from 9 weeks time as it will give an average weekly cut in Housing Benefit of over £70 per week.

I did some further number-crunching on that yesterday for a social landlord at social rent levels in the low rent area of the North East and the average lowest figure I could get was £49 per week cut in Housing Benefit, which is four times the average bedroom tax cut that tenants cannot afford.

The DWP’s own scan figures gave an average £73 per week housing benefit cut for council tenants in Leeds and a staggering £126 per week average cut for private rented tenants there.

Evictions for Benefit Cap arrears are inevitable and staggering in their number and could exceed the number affected as private landlords evict all their current benefit families even those not affected as the financial risk is too great and changes to become far too risky with a lone parent getting a partner or getting pregnant.

Another perversity in the Benefit Cap is that it incentivises the break-up of families as the couple with 4 children will be evicted everywhere as they will not get a penny in housing benefit in the regions.  Yet if they split up to become two families with each being a lone parent with two children each then they will not be affected by it.

Expect a rush of new housing benefit claims as the former couple with 4 children each become the single parent with two child households and end up living next door to one another or even across the hallway from each other in a house converted into two flats? Yes!

That is contrived and potentially contrivance under HB regulations yet will local authorities turn a blind eye as the alternative is to have to put up the 2 parent 4 child family in a B&B hotel which could easily cost local council budgets in excess of £40,000 per family per year?  The splitting up into two 1 parent 2 child households would cost local council budgets zero by comparison.

Surely that is conspiracy theory? No.

The Benefit Cap at £500 per week that began fully in October 2013 has seen many known contrivances, some very dodgy indeed and bending the rules and others which are downright unlawful and contrivance of HB regulations or in simple language benefit fraud.

Every welfare adviser and every council know of these ‘tricks’ as does central government too, yet as many claim to be self-employed for instance central government can use that as a political statistic to say their policies are working.  If that all reads as conspiracy theory it is not, it is the reality in a growing number of cases and we even have ‘companies’ set up wholly to sell you a wage slip each month so you can claim Working Tax Credit and become exempt from the Benefit Cap.  If you think such ‘companies’ are not going to expand massively when the Benefit Cap level reduces by £58 per week in London and £115 per week in the regions then you are mistaken.

Whenever there are changes to the welfare benefit system new scams always emerge to get around the new rules.  It has always happened in the past and it will always happen in the future.  When ‘companies’ get created to make money out of these changes it will always increase too.

AND …when government policy encourages and incentivises these scams it only exacerbates the problem as the numbers of lone or single parent households and its perpetual rise is largely down to government welfare policies such as the Benefit Cap which perversely encourages more lone parent families.

The benefit system holds no morality and never has and these scam and contrived responses to policy changes are the behavioural nudge theory that government says such policies encourage yet the same government ignores the reality of what those behavioural nudges or incentives create in ever more avoidance responses – and indeed government also ignores landlord responses to them as all landlords even the cheapest rent council landlords will have no option but to evict in ever increasing numbers due to the severity of the average £70+ per week cut in housing benefit.

One example that was well known and discussed prior to the Benefit Cap being introduced explains (and please ignore any inherent sexism in describing it as simply and crudely as I do here.)

Female neighbour offers to do the housework (cleaning, ironing etc) for her male neighbour and charges him £430 per month for this.  The male neighbour in return offers to do all the DIY and the gardening for his female neighbour for the same £430 per month – this figure being the qualifying income figure for Working Tax Credit.  Money can change hands or not yet both meeting the qualifying criteria for WTC which then exempts them from the Benefit Cap.

The above and any variants of it are perfectly legitimate whilst being contrived but not contrivance (ie benefit fraud) and in one view simply monetises a good neighbour scheme for the purpose of being able to keep a roof over each households head.

The male neighbour could be a single pensioner, perhaps a recent widower and not affected by this and he benefits from this by keeping his lovely neighbour whose bastard of a husband whom he never liked anyway buggered off and left and her children who are so polite and well-mannered and remind him of his grandchildren who live 20 miles away and now rarely come to visit. He would gladly do her DIY and he’s a keen gardener too and he doesn’t know one end of an iron or a hoover from the other and the washing machine completely bemuses him!  (I did say please excuse the sexism in this explanation reader!)

Is this only Cameron’s Big Society being monetised?  Yes it is!

Some may be outraged at this contrived plan I crudely describe yet if that is the only way that those unable to work or not expected to work can keep a roof over their children’s head and avoid the tiny percentage of horrors I describe about temporary homeless provision, the questions become (a) would you do this in such circumstances; and (b) why is government so stupid to allow this to become the behavioural response of their ill-conceived and ideological policy?

Finally, the horrors of temporary homeless accommodation I describe here are all realities I have seen or known of personally from working in this area for many years, and yes that does include Mum’s being twice a year prostitutes in order to put food on the table and keep a roof over the heads of her children.

I have even known adult male children becoming rent boys in order to do the same for their Mums too and while rare it does happen.  While these may be extreme responses, which thankfully they are, when you have no choice and you are to be evicted and lose the roof over your head this is just another form of that old saw of needs must at play. I neither condone nor condemn it, I merely say it happens and always will especially as prostitution is called the oldest profession in the world.

When you have with this Benefit Cap policy and a manifestation is a Mum gives birth in the morning yet has to work that afternoon else have the roof over that baby at huge threat of being removed, the moral outrage of the contrived good neighbour scheme above has to be seen in that context too.  You cannot have moral outrage at one extreme but not at the other extreme yet many will have because they are force fed a narrative that single parents drop sprogs for benefit purposes and choose to and in many cases want to believe it.

When we have ideologically driven government policy with a central theme of behavioural nudge theory which is the claimed central and guiding rationale of the Benefit Cap policy, and government only chooses to focus on the behavioural change of the claimant and only in a superficially moral way and fails to consider the inevitable behavioural changes of other actors to this such as landlords and charlatan companies selling wage slips, then you begin to see how ill-conceived and ideological and unworkable such policies are.

The Benefit Cap is another of IDS’s I believe it to be so superficial incompetent and dangerous policies that have ended up costing MORE in housing benefit and welfare as the IFS research from January 2015 confirms …yet the electorate and general public does not believes or chooses not to believe despite being fact as surely a cap must reduce welfare costs is the myth upon which IDS and this government sells these policies.

The Benefit Cap policy the opinion polls tell us has a 78% public approval rating and so we can safely say the government narrative is a lie yet the public believe it, they don’t believe it can cost more yet it does and they believe those capped are all scroungers which they are not.

In 9 weeks people until hundreds of thousands of children start to get evicted and have their life chances irreparably damaged all for the ‘sins of their parent(s)’ that masks a truth that many are unable to work or are not expected to work.  Think on that if you have moral indignation at those on ‘welfare’ playing the system or any other such amoral and pathetic response you have to any of the above.


7 thoughts on “No sanity or morality clause in the ideological Benefit Cap

  1. You are so right Joe. And it is so hard to get a new rental on the benefit cap. I just pretended to have two kids not four when I downsized on account of lowering of cap in April which was of course delayed. I said I was self employed but the £28k salary was not enough rental agent wanted £32 no less. But with no guarantor since my family got tired of the mess I got myself in ie divorce then benefit cap, I had no option but paying £10900 rent in advance by cash transfer from credit card. Not everyone has one though do they, and we still had to spend a week in ymca and yha. Now my oldest is off to uni and my youngest gets tax credits via his dad. The lower cap will still get us in high rent bath tho even with two kids.

  2. Isn’t “sanity and morality” mentioned in the same sentence as Tory a contradiction in terms, a paradox that could never be solved?

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