The Benefit Cap. The proverbial hitting the fan … even before it begins!

I am getting calls, texts, emails by the hour of families who are saying they have received letters and even phone calls (!!!) from the councils in Merseyside to say they will no longer get a penny in housing benefit.

Yes you read that right zero, nil, zip, nada, zilch in housing benefit and they will be evicted post haste from their private AND social rented properties.

ringofsteel

A “ring of steel” around a bedroom tax eviction from 2013 in Knowsley in Merseyside

Take the case of Mr A who is a single parent in a housing association property with 4 children, 2 of school age and 2 of pre-school age who has received a letter to say he will get a nominal £0.50p per week in housing benefit: The nominal 50p per week award is allegedly so he can claim a Discretionary Housing Payment from his local council yet his local council do not have the money in their DHP pot to pay this

The case of Mr B who is a single parent in a privately rented property with 5 children, 3 of school age and two of pre-school age who received a telephone call from Liverpool City Council to say he will get nothing in housing benefit.

Both such cases are single parent men in which the children’s mother is no longer on the scene (for various reasons) and the issue in both cases is NOT the level of rent.  The issue is the £384.62 per week overall benefit cap, the £20,000 per year maximum, that in both cases is a cap level that is breached before any rent level kicks in.

I state these are male single parents out of the irony that society venerates them for their parental responsibility yet if they were female society vilifies them.

Housing Benefit data reveals that just over 5% of single parents are male and therefore almost 95% are female.  Extrapolated this means that of the 159,000 or so households to be hit by the reducing overall benefit cap from just over 4 weeks time 5100 or so will be male single parents with pre-school age children.

In speaking with Mr A and Mr B the question I was asked was what the f*ck can I do and the only immediate and practical answer to that is they find work of 16 hours per week at any minimum wage job and so qualify for working tax credit.

And how the hell am I supposed to do that with kids at school and kids under three was their response to paraphrase!  Quite!!

I’ve had calls from a number of female single parents too, obviously, and many of them have 3 children and of pre-school age – mostly from welfare rights, grassroots campaigning organisations and others who report a surge in such cases walking through their doors.  How the hell are female single parents with kids at school and of pre-school age supposed to do that to?!

I’ve even had friends who say Joe you know my daughter, the one who had to get rid (ie flee domestic abuse) of that shit of a partner 18 months ago, well she’s received a letter to say her and the 3 kids will lose half of their housing benefit, a £62 per week cut and what can she do?

That case of Mrs C was advised too that the £62 per week housing benefit cut may* fall to £34 per week when her £29 per week ESA premium is removed from next April – yet by that time she will be well evicted and of course she will still have the incapacities and disabilities as to why she got this extra £29 per week in the first place!

I’ve even had social tenants tell me they have already had harassing calls from their housing associations to say how are you going to make up their rent shortfall when this policy begins.

Frankly, I’ve lost count of the number who have said, Joe you have been banging on about this for ages but it all seemed too much to believe, or incredulous. Yet ALL of this and more is coming to every city, town, village or hamlet near you and is already happening in every city, town, village and hamlet.

A number of the above families I have spoken with have some form of incapacity and / or disability yet the parent(s) is not on an exempt disability benefit and so agencies are running round like headless chickens seeking to get them on such social security benefits but that takes time.

A number also care for their Mum (no Dads as yet though that will happen) and cannot work the 16 hours per week even if they could find such a job and yes they are also part of the 28% of people entitled to Carers Allowance – that would exempt them  – yet either did not know or do not receive it.  This also takes times to arrange and claim and I refer you back to my posts that well over £24 billion per year is due in welfare yet not claimed!

The above selected examples and all of them have been this week represent those I correctly label as unable to work and/or not expected to work rather than the deliberately offensive government label of ‘workless‘ that is cited for ideological purposes by the Conservatives and with little opposition or challenge from the Labour Party.

With huge irony many of the calls and emails I have had have come from Labour Party members who had fallen out with me for my saying that (a) the overall benefit cap reduction was Labour Party policy too; and (b) for saying that Labour do not oppose an have not opposed any welfare reforms (as they misname them!) Sorry Joe we thought you were scaremongering! And some of the calls have been from died-in-the-wool Tories I have as acquaintances who say this can’t be right, yet it is and reality beckons!

Another male single parent whose case I am familiar with has 4 children ranging from 2 to 12 and his Mother is a Tory councillor who (on the 1 or 2 occasions we meet each year) is rightly proud of her son as a single parent and regales in telling me he saves the local council hundreds of thousands per year as that would be the cost if the kids were put in care.

The benefit system has never held any morality and never will.  The benefit cap is a classic case of that as it will evict and make homeless the male single parent society venerates as well as the female single parent it vilifies.

Two final points for now

1. Mr B, the single parent with 5 children will also lose a further £42 per week when he is moved onto Universal Credit on top of zero in housing benefit (housing payment) which is a well known issue amongst the welfare benefit fraternity but not by the general public or indeed MPs and councillors.

2.  Mr B – although I can only take his word for this and unable to verify – received a telephone call from Liverpool City Council’s HB department over this. 1% of me can see the forewarned forearmed approach in this yet the other 99% says what the f*ck are you doing!  Since when have housing benefit decisions been communicated by telephone calls out of the blue rather than the issue of formal Housing Benefit Decision Notices in writing!!!

________________________________

PS – The proverbial is the smelliest of smelliest sort and the fan is the biggest you could possibly imagine.  The picture above is of a “ring of steel” around a bedroom tax eviction case and as the overall benefit cap actively targets children with the more you have the greater the chance of eviction you would be right to expect many more such rings of steel taking place.

YET in my home city of LOW RENT Liverpool I am projecting at least 5 if not 7 benefit cap evictions PER DAY and every working day of the year directly due to the benefit cap reduction.  That is how this policy will impact with at least 1200 yearly evictions and probably closer to 1700 per year just in Liverpool alone.

Divide those figures by 252 working days (52 x 5 less 8 bank holidays) and that is 5 – 7 rings of steel needed every working day of the year!  This is LOW RENT Liverpool so those who still see the overall benefit cap as a high rent or even a rent problem at all …!

Those figures I maintain are cautiously low ones too so when Liverpool City Council say just 840 families will be affected and some of them may be evicted the council is living in La-La-Land!  LCC who say they have to make £30 million per year of further cuts to services has not considered the minimum £15 million more it will cost them in temporary homeless costs over and above their projections … and yes they are both on top of all the existing cuts they have implemented!

How big is that fan?!

______________________________

UPDATES

May(*) – see comments below

Labour policy too? See the 2015 manifesto page 47 below (click on to enlarge)

labmanif-obckeepandlower

Do you realise the lone parent with 3 children on ESA will likely be evicted in social housing in low rent Liverpool (gets max £63pw HB)  but not in social housing in London (gets £120pw in HB). Just mentioned that so the London, London, Bloody London brigade say we have had this since 2013 and exposing a regional dimension that hits social tenants in low rent areas more than it hits them in London

My figures suggest 3.34 children per household in Benefit Cap cases (DWP estimates and scan says higher at 3.56) – so 7 families per day in Liverpool is a classroom full of children evicted every day if that helps focus your minds – and someone put that in front of the Education Secretary please!  [Note: may also affect grammar school children too!!]

Have all the councils and housing associations realised fully yet that their 3 bed stock (36% of all on average) is now financially toxic for the ‘benefit tenant’ as tenants cant afford an landlords can’t afford the tenant?

All the well meaning ‘traditionalists’ in social housing who want more councils to build please ensure they don’t just build 3 bed properties for this reason (and same message to Jeremy Corbyn and to all HAs developing affordable (sic) rent only products!)  Yes we all know its cheaper to build 3 beds than 2 beds on the same footprint and more viable (superficially) yet in reality die to benefit cap its not is it? Yes housing peeps that does mean the ‘housing crisis’ going to get even worse even if you do build the unattainable 250,000 new properties per year!

You beginning to see what the overall benefit cap now means?  If so tell the public who love the policy!

What, I am being really sardonic you say? Uncalled for I agree its only children being evicted after all and no need for my sanctimonious anger is there!

Damn, I better not mention then that as the reduced benefit cap will hit an ADDITIONAL 468,000 or so children that it will place an additional 468,000 children in poverty as well as at acute and immediate risk of eviction and homelessness for the sins of their parents …

… oh but hang on I am just a dystopian scaremonger so the more than 300,000 additional children that the Conservative government say this will hit and place into poverty and at acute risk of eviction and homelessness is ok then?  Phew I can stop being sanctifuckingmonious now!

Thank God for that.  As now I can tell you that it is mooted (though not confirmed) that the Benefit Cap reduction roll out is to take place over 12 weeks and so in some areas – the ones with the highest projected numbers – will not make the February housing benefit data release and so we won’t get those numbers when the Feb 2017 release is released in mid May 2017; we will have to wait for the May 2017 data that won’t be released until mid August 2017 … by which time we will have become as accustomed to witnessing children being evicted as we now are to having food banks as part of the Welfare State!

Say what you like about this Government being heartless bastards as this and other policies reveal, they are also incredibly clever in a Machiavellian way by keeping the facts away from any scrutiny until way after the impacts they cause have impacted! Who’d have thought just reporting the housing benefit data quarterly instead of monthly in arrears would mean this … oh hang on I seem to recall somebody saying that and being called dystopain and cynically even!

 

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16 thoughts on “The Benefit Cap. The proverbial hitting the fan … even before it begins!

  1. JoeNot debating the figures etc but one example mentions a person losing their esa wrag payment next April. That won’t happen….it’s only new claims that are affected. Not that it’s any consolation from the cap point of view of course because a higher esa means less hb if over cap figure. But some people may be reading this who arent subject to the cap but who do get esa wrag and they may be worried by your mistake. 

    Sent from my Samsung device

  2. The frightening thing is that this is just the start of it. These are likely to be people who are already losing a small amount because of the current cap, who will lose a lot because of the lower cap.
    The timetable in G9 2016 was that these cases would be cut straight away from 7 November, with people newly subject to the cap being cut sometime in the new 12 weeks.

    And where is the opposition? Having another reshuffle FFS….. Some banker just said that the Pound Sterling is now the de facto official opposition to government policies! And the markets aren’t going to give a toss about people hit by benefit cuts

    1. 20,124 are losing a median average of £56 per week. As the cap falls by £57.69 pw in London thats up to £57.69 pw more an in the regions it reduces by £115.38 so go figure!
      Markets will love it as rationale is to ensure a steady stream of people who have to take minimum wage jobs on zero hours contracts to avoid the benefit cap / lose the roof over their children’s heads – the real political rationale here!!

  3. Although the article in this blog is interesting, i think it would have had more impact if the author had proofread it. The lack of proper punctuation makes it confusing and quite hard to read.

    1. Well you see Joe gets upset when he’s thinking about babies and toddlers being thrown on the street. So the odd comma may go astray. But glad you found the post “interesting”.

  4. Joe, my friend who is soon to be homeless through his mother passing away – he has learning difficulties and is illiterate. What chance does he stand to get a 1 bed dwelling? His only love is his dog. He has a daughter of 14 who stays at weekends, could he get a 2,bed? He lives in Stoke-on-Trent. I tried your HP calculator but it didn’t give me a figure.
    Should he work 16hrs will this change anything? Though he can’t get work with his disabilities! Thanks Joe for the hard work you have put into this HP disaster

  5. I see your letter / reference to Labour policy 2015, Look at jeremy corbyn please listen to him. He is the answer to ALL of these problems. That’s why he needs to be next PM. The Conservatives have f**ked this country up soooooo much we need this to change. And this is a perfect example of why.

  6. I will be voting for Labour at the next election now that Jeremy Corbyn has been re-elected to his post. I just that the part stop all this in-fighting and will start to get on with the job of attracting for voters.

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