Overall Benefit Cap policy is a systemic UK homeless catastrophe

The inevitable impact of the overall benefit cap’s swingeing 23% cut is not just an increase in homelessness; it is not just a systemic homelessness mere crisis; it is an inevitable direct systemic catastrophe for UK homelessness.

500,000 children made homeless as a direct result of the overall benefit cap is not hyperbole, it is probably an understatement of the impact.

It does mean as I have always said and been castigated for that social landlords will refuse to house the benefit tenant and today sees Inside Housing saying the very same thing and more of the points I said would happen here and all with confirmation of these refusals straight from social landlords who all said too that I was scaremongering blah, blah, blah as per usual.

Yet this is not a case of I told you so. It is a thousand times more important than who was right or wrong as this overall benefit cap policy systemically and inevitable creates mass homelessness on an unprecedented scale.

The Inside Housing article today begins:

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If those benefit capped cant the lowest social rent level which they can’t as a matter of undeniable fact then we will decline their application for a social housing property says the last emphasised quote

Cut through the euphemisms, jargon and management-speak of the phrase above it and the word ‘unviable’ means inevitable homelessness.

To explain – Imagine the TV Simpsons family (2 parents 3 children) on benefit seeking one of the 385,000 new social tenancies there are each year in England alone.

  • We know as a matter of irrefutable fact they will get no more than £50 per week in housing benefit.
  • We also know as yet more fact (and upon which all my projections are based) that the Simpsons need and qualify for a 3 bed property, and
  • We also know as fact has an average weekly social housing rent level of £100 per week in the regions outside of London.

Hence any 2 parent 3 child ‘benefit household’ will be £50 short per week in their housing benefit and will need to find this other £50 per week of the £100 per week rent from their subsistence level benefit.  They have not got a hope in hells chance of finding it and social landlords WILL refuse – end of!

It is therefore no surprise to anyone and absolutely inevitable that any and every social landlord has NO CHOICE but to refuse this housing application on the grounds that the prospective tenant cannot afford the rent and all due to the overall benefit cap reduction.

This means that the Simpsons when and not if refused have no other option but to (a) present to the local councils homeless department, which (b) adds to the homeless count as (c) the council cannot escape its homeless duties to rehouse in (d) unsuitable and inordinately expensive temporary homeless provision such as a B&B or hotel.

This is the systemic and inevitable ‘pathway’ that is also the only pathway and only option available to the Simpsons in such cases.

The critical emphasis I have posited concerns not the existing social housing tenant but the prospective one and all the equivalent Simpsons families seeking the 385,000 new social tenancies created each year in England alone and with more additional to this in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

ALL of the focus was and has been on existing tenants only and there is also no mention whatsoever of the prospective social tenant issue (or prospective private tenant issue either) in central governments impact assessment issued in September 2016.

Quite simply, everyone whether central or local government, landlord social or private, political parties and all of the relevant national lobbies such as Shelter, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, CPAG, Gingerbread and so on simple MISSED this critical impact on the prospective tenant in social (and private) housing.

I can understand how some would say or assume that how can this mere ‘blogger’ see this when not one of the ‘credible experts’ has not flagged it up and therefore I must be scaremongering.  Therefore pay no attention.  Yet as I continually say facts are pesky and all of these projections on my part were fully substantiated with fact as evidence.

Facts such as 385,000 new social housing tenancies per year, facts such as the Simpsons would get as a maximum £50 per week in housing benefit and it could be just £21 per week if they are on ESA and not JSA and as I have pointed out the pre-existing benefit capped families before the latest cuts to the cap level reveal more families capped on ESA than those on JSA.

While every projection as to consequence and impact must in part be speculative all of these correctly sourced and official facts are not speculation, they are substantial evidence of fact that can only reduce the speculative nature of any projections as to how the overall benefit cap would impact.

They are mostly inevitable facts too as everyone accepts that a private landlord will not accommodate due to affordability so why take the view that a social landlord will allocate a property to a tenant household knowing that they cannot afford to pay the rent?

It is illogical and perverse to hold that view and this lack of logic manifests in pithy assertions from the social housing sector such as we will always house those most in need or this is our social purpose or ethos or any similar vague assertion that holds no logic or common sense.

The overall benefit cap IS the end of the social housing model as ALL social landlords including council landlords are free to and will refuse those most in housing need and will and are allocating scarce social housing properties based on ability to pay and affordability.

Yet the real impact is a societal nightmare of unimaginable and unforeseen proportion in the staggering homeless numbers of families and especially children the overall benefit cap directly creates.

Yet another official fact is 36% of all social housing properties in England are the 3 bedroom and larger properties that are now financially toxic to both the benefit tenant and landlord and in every corner of the United Kingdom.  Extrapolated this means around 140,000 new 3 bed or larger properties are allocated just in England every year by social landlords and the figures increase when incorporating Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

If 1 benefit household such as the Simpsons is refused per newly allocated property that is an additional 140,000 families containing 468,000 children added to the homeless count.  If 2 benefit families per new social housing property allocated then there are 280,000 families added to the homeless count containing 936,000 children.

For comparison the Shelter figures for Christmas 2016 revealed 120,000 homeless children an so the increase in scale and numbers is frightening in its magnitude. It is without any hyperbole whatsoever a homeless catastrophe not a mere crisis.

Note these figures are only for social housing and do not include the many more prospective tenants that private landlords will refuse and do not include social housing in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.  These areas will all add to the homeless figures in addition to my points just about social housing and just in England

The cost to local councils will also be eye-watering and means that every local council will have no choice but to find the costs of temporary homeless provision that in many cities will run into an additional tens of millions of pounds per year that mean tens of millions of pounds of cuts in other council services that of course affect everyone in every council.

The Simpsons analogy means that this maximum £50 per week in housing benefit applies in the cheapest areas of the UK and the overall benefit cap can no longer be considered as a London or high rent area policy.  It affects everywhere in the UK and means that everywhere in the UK every social landlord will be refusing to allocate to the benefit capped Simpsons families and homeless bed and breakfast registers will contain hundreds of thousand of Simpsons.

The 140,000 prospective figure and just for social housing compares to an absolute maximum of 65,000 existing social tenants who will be affected by the overall benefit cap.  As such for every 1 existing social tenant affected there will be at least 2 prospective families affected.  Again as I often say numbers don’t lie only politicians

Finally, the obvious question of What can we do?

Unlike the bedroom tax there is no appeal mechanism either through the tribunal route or likely through the Judicial Review route.  Its a case of get a job as the only practical way to escape.  Yet the overwhelming majority are unable to work (the ESA cohort) or the not expected to work (those with preschool age children) who in any case would need new scarce child care places to increase by at least 400,000 to somehow be magicked up out of the ether to enable such employment.

The only way of avoiding this homeless catastrophe is a political solution through parliamentary means and political campaigning on a scale that makes the recent Trump petition numbers seem inconsequential by comparison.

Or we can all sit idly by and watch children be evicted from their homes and indeed from their schools as having to change schools will also be inevitable as Bart, Liza and Maggie’s new temporary home will be wherever their council can find somewhere for them to live and with the numbers affected this could be tens or even hundreds of miles away.

_________________________________________

One final point and deliberately positioned here as a footnote is that my last post entitled RIP Social Housing Monday 23 January 2017 attracted much more than the usual refutation and labelling as scaremongering by those who work in social housing.

I covered this in response to these vacuous protestations of social housing chief executives and housing policy analysts here in a post called No DSS signs for social housing deluded and ignorant housing people that saw those who practice opening their mouths before putting their brains into gear say there is no way this will happen which even led to smarmy tweets from them saying you know you’ve made it when @SpeyeJoe calls you deluded – and retweeted by the usual sycophants who work in social housing.

I suspect no apologies will be forthcoming reader and if they did rest assured those apologies would see me telling them to shove them where the sun doesn’t shine.  As I said in this response by all means counter my argument yet when you simply seek to attack the messenger this messenger will give back both barrels and today when these deluded and ignorant housing people will have read the IH article then will only realise that it is their credibility and reputation that is shot to pieces and them not me who will be seen as being as thick as porcine faeces.

Harsh?  Not in the slightest.  When somebody attacks you personally and your professional reputation in such a public manner they deserve far more and I am going lightly on them.

As I was very careful to emphasise in these posts I laid no blame whatsoever at the door of social landlords for refusing to allocate, though I did and quite rightly for their apathy and for doing nothing to challenge the overall benefit cap.

Now in terms of reputation all social landlords who like to trade on such vacuous statements such as social purpose, social ethos and we have always housed those most in need are critically exposed with this self-promoted charitable perception and tenants and the general public will see them for what they really are, and in this case have to be, of businesses who operate like any other with the bottom line as first, second and third priority.

There is no doubt that headlines I have used such as RIP social housing or No DSS signs being the norm for all social landlords are deliberately provocative yet they are not hyperbole and are factual.  Such provocative headlines serve a purpose to get people to read which they do in far greater numbers than any column in Inside Housing or any other housing arena.

The 200,000 in the first 24 hours who read No DSS signs compares to something I read by the rightly highly regarded Colin Wiles who said that his Inside Housing piece of late last year had 10,000 views and was the highest read column that year in Inside Housing.  I reached 20 times that (part) yearly number in one day by comparison. Anyone see why I as a thorn in the side of the blase apathetic housing establishment really pisses them off?  If so you can see my long held argument that social housing has been its own worst enemy for the last 30 years in never selling its undoubted best product at the best price to its customers as it only talks to itself and no one else!

FFS social housing is the best rented product and at the best price yet the deluded housing establishment has never sought to convey that message and huge marketing advantage.  Deluded and ignorant is letting them off very lightly indeed for this critical omission.  I rant about it because it makes the best economic sense and I am passionate over that and what it could and should be.

It’s just the fact it is run and mismanaged by incompetent deluded idiots that angers me.

Another oft-stated phrase of mine is housing only ever talks to housing and not to the tenant or the general public and those viewing figures exemplify what I mean by that.  The bubble or silo that exits in ‘housing’ is so far up its own backside in lay terms.  So that explains my disgust when landlords refer to tenants as customers and no business treats its real customers (which tenants are not in any case) with such distain that the majority of social landlords do.

77% of all social housing tenants receive housing benefit – another official fact – and so when social landlords and their great and good leaders refer to the benefit cap, bedroom tax, shared accommodation rate and so many other cuts in entitlement to housing benefit as ‘welfare reforms’ they do so errantly.  They are nothing more than cuts to housing benefit that seriously threaten the survival of the social housing model upon which social landlords trade.

Just one example of what I refer to as Housing Think which is the lack of any genuine thought or genuine analysis and the reliance on assumptive nonsense such as social purpose or social ethos and we will always house those most in need!

How many times do I have to repeat wake up and smell the coffee FFS!

Then we see a somewhat surprised tone in the IH article today which says the overall benefit cap is no longer a London or high rent area issue.  Just another of the points I have made consistently and which even the incomplete CIH estimates on the numbers affected saw just 15% of the new total affected in London – a point that IH missed of course and a point which housings ‘great and good’ refused to believe because their minds are closed and full of assumptive nonsense such as the OBC only affects high rent areas.

Yet don’t mistake this long footnote for my gloating.  Everything I say here I have said before and all of that has a factual basis that has been ignored and dismissed by the usual cowardly response of attack the messenger and hope nobody reads his message.

Yet my messages are read and exceedingly well read and they are all based on pesky facts.  In terms of the housing sector – an ethereal concept that only exists in the minds of the deluded as we have hundreds of housing markets in the UK not just one that require solutions to problems based on actual problems not just the perverse housing markets and variables that exist in London and which preoccupy the minds of the so-called great and good.

Housing Think, silo mentality, London, London, Bloody London mentality and hugely nonsensical presumption rather than genuine analysis of how housing benefit changes interact with social housing operations and pithy vacuous assertions over social purpose all combine to deny consideration of the issues I raise and raise with substantive fact to support.

A case of you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink.

 

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