“Joe, can you let me know any capped families as we want to talk with them.”
Over the past two weeks I have been inundated with requests from all forms of the media from TV channels generally, specific TV programme producers, TV production companies, local and national radio journalists and local and national newspapers … and just about anyone else you can think of.
Hardly surprising when the swingeing cuts will put over half a million children at acute risk of eviction and made homeless for the alleged sins of their parent(s).
Outrageous that the media (and landlords and especially politicians) waited until a week before this policy to begin discussing it given that 523,000 or so CHILDREN are acutely affected.
Outrageous that the only practical way to escape the policy is to work when just 14% of those capped are unemployed and able to work. The other 86% have preschool age children or they are receiving what we used to call Incapacity Benefit (now ESA wrag) and cannot take up work immediately as the policy dictates they must.
These 86% will suffer the average £330 per month cuts to their housing benefit while half a million more childcare places magically appear out of the ether and / or the ‘incapacities’ will magically heal themselves – allowing these 6 in every 7 capped households to be able to take up employment.
It is WHO the overall benefit cap is going to hit and severely hit that for e has always been the issue.
Over 85% of them according to the government’s own figure are not able to work and escape the savage cuts. They are correctly the unable to work cohort of those who are incapacitated (16%) and those who are not expected to work (65%) with preschool age children and, currently, even those who are specially not allowed to work (8%) who claim Carers Allowance the receipt of which forbids work.
From today those who get Carers Allowance become exempt yet they have been capped ever since the policy began fully in October 2013.
It is outrageous almost eugenic to put the roof over the heads of children at acute risk as their parents are unable to work. Yet these extremely vulnerable and marginalised people are the ones this heinous policy deliberately targets.
I wouldn’t dream of telling activists how to campaign against this policy yet the nature of the numbers of children and the nature of the vulnerability of those adults who are affected has to be first and foremost for me – and to add insult to injury they are being hounded by the media to sell copy or to increase audience numbers.
What we may perceive as the usual opposition to such a policy is almost non-existent and this is going to make any campaign difficult as the basic facts such as 85% of capped households are unable to start work are not out there. Further the usual suspects who would one suspects oppose this are noticeably silent and/or don’t have a clue as to the reality.
The Labour Party had the reduced OBC in their 2015 manifesto and even with Corbyn we see Labour shying away from the policy.
Debbie Abrahams the Shadow DWP Minister failed to mention the benefit cap at all in her conference speech. She is also a member of the all party scrutiny committee on Work & Pensions yet there is no mention in any of its reports that just 14% of those capped are in receipt of JSA and thus able to work immediately while over 85% of those capped are not.
The chair of that all party committee is Frank Field who last week said all local councils should give capped households jobs so they can escape the ravages of the policy. Of course that must mean he too does not have a clue that over 85% are NOT able to take up employment immediately!
There is no opposition either to the policy and no mention of any of the above critical facts from the Lib Dems or the SNP or Plaid Cymru or the Green Party or any of the political parties in Northern Ireland.
There is NO political opposition to a policy that puts over 500,000 children at acute risk of eviction and homelessness.
The usual suspects in the homelessness field such as Shelter and Crisis and Homeless Link and those who work in the equally lucrative field of poverty such as JRF and CPAG and all others have been virtually silent on the issue – and again NONE of them have pointed out that over 85% of capped households cannot take up employment immediately and thus cannot escape this sinister policy.
The Chartered Institute of Housing did to their credit put out a report, albeit a week before the policy began yet only included figures for families with between 1 and 4 children and excluded the number of single persons affected (currently 6% and also excluded those families with 5 or more children of which 6,725 such families with at least 33,625 children are currently capped.
The National Housing Federation who represent 63% of all social landlords in housing associations has said bugger all about the policy and clearly take the view of pay your rent or get evicted. The prefix ‘social’ before landlord is a huge misnomer for NHF members and they have not seen how the policy makes housing associations financially toxic as their consideration of the policies impacts has been hugely negligent.
In short the Tory spin machine has had a total lack of challenge to their benefit scrounger narrative when it comes to the overall benefit cap policy.
The general public love the policy according to the opinion polls
Note well that 63% of Labour voters support the policy and 76% of Lib Dems too so this is not just a policy loved the right wing Tories at 90% and UKIP at 78% and 45% of Labour voters support the swingeing 23% cuts to the overall benefit cap that will see today’s 20,000 capped households increase to around 160,000 families – and over 85% of them around 136,000 households with circa 454,000 children will be unable to take up employment to escape the policy.
454,000 children and 178,000 adults making 632,000 men, women and children in total will be hit by the benefit cap and unable to escape the average £330 per month cuts to their housing benefit and so become inevitable for the arrears eviction and homeless path.
454,000 children – whose parents through having the temerity to have an incapacity or disability or have a preschool age child they want to parent – or 15,000 classrooms full of children will have their schooling interrupted and probably have to change schools to one near to the temporary homeless accommodation they will have to accept even though it is miles away from their existing school and familial and other support networks.
The loss of existing friends both at school and locally as they have been bussed-out to another area and if they are lucky in the same local authority as many will be moved out-of-area dependent on what temporary homeless accommodation their council can muster.
Re-read the above and ask yourself reader why has there been no opposition to these realities and the irreparable damage to the life chances of CHILDREN.
Many years ago I used to manage what were called homeless families units that almost all councils had yet now do not. They – even with the best will in the world – were horrible places for children to live. Often nowhere to play, often cold, no privacy as the families were in one large room and arguments were inevitable in the family unit by being on top of one another. What is available today and where hundreds of thousands of children will end up are far worse than that I describe above.
The potential for abuse is staggering and was back in homeless families units when they all had 24/7 staff in place – something that does not happen where the benefit capped children will end up. Abuse of every kind and in fact there are sold arguments that such provision is itself abusive if not abuse.
Even if parents then find employment they will need immediate permanent accommodation in order to take up that employment … which is not going to happen as the benefit capped families become financially toxic to any form of landlord whether council, HA or private.
The above is not dystopian. It is not scaremongering. It is not laying it on with a trowel reader. It is reality.
I do not have the articulation to describe this. It is more than outrageous, far more than fucking outrageous, far more than abusive. It is far more than scandal and it is a series of realities that the politicians and the public know absolutely bugger all about. If they did know a tiny smidgeon of what these realities will be for hundreds of thousands of children then the policy would be no more.
Get used to seeing children being evicted by bailiffs in your town and city and even your street. That is what will inevitably happen. Get used to those neighbours, those good neighbours being evicted and for reasons of pride or just having their heads up their arses they did not tell you about.
Even if you think the above is too incredulous to be true or you simply think that anyone on ‘benefit’ is a scrounger, then get used to your bin collections going fro weekly to fortnightly and your libraries closing as the cost of the homeless impact on your local council will be horrific.
My home city of Liverpool is saying prior to the benefit cap and thus not including it that they will need to make £30 million of cuts over the next 3 years, or £10 million per year due to reductions in their funding from central government. Yet the homeless impact of the benefit cap cuts could easily cost Liverpool £5 million more per year or much higher and the cuts they will have to make will be 50% higher than they now think.
The costs of the OBC to every local council will be huge and is simply explained in this by Peter Barker:
Take that simple explanation of how much more each case will cost your local council by the numbers of capped households at acute risk of eviction and homelessness – and the transfer of homeless cost to local government runs into billions per year.
It will also mean huge cost in every local council not just London ones as Peter suggests and note well the highest number of benefit capped households will be Birmingham and not the capital – and Leeds and Glasgow and Cardiff and Manchester and Sheffield will be the highest affected areas too – so the policy is not the London, London, Bloody London issue that many assume it to be.
While London now has 44% of all UK benefit capped households the DWP say it will fall to 22%, the CIH say it will fall to 16% and I say it will be 17% (see below)
In terms of numbers the capped households in London will triple yet they will increase by up to 18 times in some regions as that is what the numbers say.
I may have underestimated the London numbers too as early reports from six London Boroughs I have say that the actual numbers of affected households is over 22% more than the DWP has estimated. I also have some reports from non-London councils who have over 130% more actual cases than the DWP has said and when I have enough FOI and other confirmed and actual data to give a good extrapolation of the national picture rest assured I will then let you know.
Should you believe my projected figures of 158,000 households hit by the cap with 523,000 or so children? Why would you the DWP say it will only be 88,000 families!
That is the same DWP who said that the cock-up they called the bedroom tax ‘loophole’ would only affect 4,000 families and this scaremonger said it would be 40,000 or ten times that figure which made front page news in the Guardian and I was interviewed on Sky News that evening … proving as many friends had told me that I have a great face for radio!
Of course I was labelled as scaremonger for such a prediction and across the board with Inside Housing saying so and asking others within housing for their predictions which topped out at 17,500 and saw this attempted professional character assassination of me in Inside Housing …
Yet Chris Bryant the then Labour Shadow DWP minister did FOI requests to all councils and found 16,000+ affected in just 140 councils and reported in the Independent
The FOI requests, submitted by Labour, were sent to all 346 local authorities and 140 replied. The 16,460 people identified include 2,100 in Birmingham alone; 913 in Glasgow; 648 in the London borough of Lambeth and 452 in Warrington.
As 16,460 was the total in 40.46% of councils in all this becomes 40,679 in all of them and is just one example of many where my projections based on 24 years of working in housing and especially how housing benefit affects housing are so much better than the abject DWP projections to any change in housing benefit policy and entitlement.
The same DWP whose estimates said 22% more would be affected by the bedroom tax than the actual figures and who said 56,000 would be affected by the first incarnation of the overall benefit cap and which has only once reached half of that figure (28,000) thus being just 100% out as opposed to 1000% out as they were with the pre 1996 bedroom tax loophole.
It is not just the fact that the government choose to conceal that over 85% of benefit capped households cannot take up immediate employment and thus are sitting vulnerable ducks for this heinous policy.
The Tory government know that the overall benefit cap INCREASES the cost of housing benefit and they also know it directly leads to huge increases in homelessness and have known this for over 5 years!!
The above is a letter leaked to the Guardian in July 2011 in which the Tories admit at the highest level they knew then this policy would not save a penny and increase the HB bill and increase homelessness.
In short the Tories knew 5 years ago and know NOW that this policy will cost more and will evict and make children homeless yet they tell us it is fair as the current DWP minister Damian Greene says today and reported on the BBC website:
“I’m not saying that lone parents have to go and find a full-time job. If they want to avoid the benefit cap they only have to be working 16 hours a week and we will be providing free childcare to enable them to do that,” he said.
Clearly the minister believes that 500,000 additional child care places will spring up out of the ether so that benefit-capped households can take up employment.
What is more the same BBC website article gets it wrong and says:
“Households where someone works more than 16 hours a week are exempt.“
That is the case for single parents yet a couple have to work 30 hours per week to become exempt from this heinous cap and so we still see that the ‘august’ BBC still doesn’t have a clue how the policy works and who it affects!
The BBC is happy to quote IFS figures of 88,000 households to be affected by the policy yet has never published what the same IFS said about the benefit cap, the bedroom tax and all the other Housing Benefit reforms back in January 2015
Yes you read that correctly – the benefit cap, the LHA and SAR caps and the bedroom tax policies – the principal HB cuts that we mistakenly call welfare reforms – have all seen IN REAL TERMS the overall housing benefit bill INCREASE by over £1 billion per year!
These policies do NOT save money and they increase the overall ‘welfare’ bill! And now the Tories are expanding the overall benefit cap in full knowledge that it will lead to hundreds and hundreds of thousands of CHILDREN being evicted and made homeless due to the alleged sins of their parents!
That would be the 85%+ of benefit-capped parents who cannot take up employment in the immediate future and who will see £330 per month average cuts to their housing benefit thus making them inevitably homeless and very quickly so!
I notice the BBC now has an updated story of one single parent with the £76 per week or £330 per month average cut here yet note well she lives in low rent Coventry and in social housing. If she lived in private housing her weekly cut will be far higher and if she lived in a higher rent area it would be higher still – and below are the actual figures the DWP gave to Leeds City Council
Note well the number of children per household affected which averages 3.69
The average losses in Leeds for council tenants and cheapest rent level are £73.14 pw which is £317.81 per calendar month:
The losses for private tenants in Leeds are £126.81 per week and £551.02 per month:
Remember these are the actual figures given to Leeds City Council by the DWP and not figures I have ‘concocted’ out of any scaremongering.
Anyone any idea which companies are providing the additional 5120 child care places in Leeds that the Tory DWP Minister is so certain will magic up out of the ether? No me neither!
By the way Leeds like all towns and cities will have far more than the above numbers!
Finally, there are many more facts and impacts of this policy over and above the detail here. One such aspect is whenever there is a cut to housing benefit there is a rise in cases of domestic violence and abuse I am told from the 17 refuges that I advise across the country. No hard data exists yet there is an undoubted correlation albeit difficult to prove as ‘money issues’ always lead to an increase in such matters and £33 per month is one hell of a ‘money issue!’
One very final point. IF all of the ‘scroungers’ who only need to work for 16 hours per week if a lone parent and 30 hours per week if a couple found employment as £7.20 per hour you do realise that the overall ‘welfare’ spend would increase by £800 million per year over and above any tax take don’t you!
Yes that means the government incentive in the benefit cap is to INCREASE the welfare bill. The lone parent with one child would get a comparable £108 more per week in benefit as well as the £115 per week from working 16 hours at £7.20 and would receive full housing benefit too.
You think this government knows what it is doing? They haven’t got a clue!