Shelter and the Guardian / Observer do not have a clue when it comes to homelessness as yet another article today reveals. Here is the headline and the picture that adorns it:
It IS an outrage that in England we have 124,000 children in 74,630 families living in temporary homeless accommodation (and this means 1.66 children per homeless family to which I will return) yet it is fundamentally misleading to say that benefit cuts have made private rents unaffordable as they have made social rents unaffordable too!
That is THE really big issue that Shelter and the Guardian just do not get!
The overall benefit cap means that social renting – even in the cheapest council housing – is unaffordable because for example it sees a couple with three children receive a maximum of £50 per week towards their rent and those with four children just £0.50 pence per week in housing benefit.
Around 64,000 existing social renting households in the UK are at acute risk of homelessness due to this but a further 150,000 families will be REFUSED social housing this year because of the overall benefit cap (OBC) and means that homelessness is systemic because of it!
The average number of children in the existing social tenant households and those that will be refused its allocation will be 3.34 per family. 64,000 existing social renting households containing 214,000 children will be at acute risk of arrears, eviction and homelessness
However, 150,000 prospective social renting households containing 501,000 children will be refused each year and go directly to the homeless count as WHEN they cannot afford the cheapest council flat there is only one place they can be housed which is temporary B&B homeless accommodation.
The private landlord has refused to accommodate the benefit household in increasing numbers for years, and prior to the overall benefit cap these families were accommodated in social housing. As such social housing WAS the safety net for those refused by the private rented sector yet that safety net has now gone because of the overall benefit cap.
Almost four years ago social landlords started to refuse to accommodate the bedroom tax household – families who would under occupy and thus present a risk of arrears. Common practice across social landlords yet relatively small numbers and a small percentage of the 385,000 new social tenancies each year.
The average bedroom tax HB cut nationally is £15 per week yet that was enough of a financial risk for council and housing associations landlord to refuse allocation. Yet the overall benefit cap sees DWP saying the average cut is £44 per week and others £76 per week, with much greater credulity than the DWP figures.
As social landlords already believe a £15 per week HB cut is too high a risk then whether the overall benefit cap average cut is 3 times that or 5 times that figure is irrelevant. It means, must mean, and can only mean that council and housing association landlords will refuse to accommodate these households .
I can make allowances for the many Guardian and other journalists who do not perhaps realise that a council landlord can and in this case will refuse to house a family due to them not being able to afford the rent. Many wrongly believe a council landlord has a legal duty to house. They do not.
The councils housing department will refuse the benefit capped tenant who will then have to go to the councils homeless department to be housed. When the councils homeless department asks the council housing department if they will house the answer will again be no an so the family goes into temporary homeless accommodation and at huge cost.
I cannot make any such excuse for Shelter missing the systemic impact the OBC has as they should know this and also should have seen the impact on existing and especially prospective social tenants as the reductions to the overall benefit cap were announced in the Autumn Statement of 2015. They were also trailed heavily before that and were in the Tory and Labour Party general election manifestos in May 2015 – more than 18 months ago.
Yet the silence from Shelter has been deafening and yet not a peep about how the policy will see at least 150,000 families per year refused SOCIAL HOUSING and go directly to homelessness!!
Shelter today rightly makes a huge fuss and rightly condemn 124,000 children being in temporary homeless accommodation in England alone and rightly condemn this as a 14% increase on the year before. It is an outrage.
YET the systemic impact of the overall benefit cap will put at least 500,000 children in temporary homeless accommodation each and every year as I explain above and that is QUADRUPLE the figure that Shelter now heralds as outrageous and the silence from Shelter over this is deafening!
PS – To reduce the overall benefit cap was on page 47 of the Labour Party 2015 General Election manifesto – and the policy has yet to be changed!