Did you know if you are benefit-capped and able to take a part-time job at minimum wage levels the amount of benefit you receive for being in-work increases dramatically?
That is an undeniable, irrefutable fact and one not mentioned in the Panorama hour long special on the overall benefit cap (OBC) broadcast last night. The fact was never put to the gormless Caroline Nokes the Tory minister for work at all and every question that was was responded to parrot-faced with the Tories work will set you free type of ideological claptrap.
Yet the Tories claim the OBC will save money and that is a key rationale of the policy … and a blatant known lie. Each one of the 5 families that Panorama followed – of 4 social tenants and 1 private tenant which is not representative and each had 4 children when the OBC affects some families with 2 children and all with 3 – would get massive increases in benefits if they worked part-time at national minimum wage to escape the inept and fiscally bankrupt overall benefit cap.
Yesterday I gave two illustrations to counter the BBC propagandist pie chart they included on their website in trailing the Panorama broadcast and demonstrated that (a) the London tenant renting privately would get £218.63 per week MORE in benefits which is £11,368.72 per year more; and (b) the regional household in social rented accommodation would get £54.18 more per week in benefits in work which is £2,82.92 per year MORE. Those charts I reproduce again below.
Figure 1 – More benefit IN-WORK than out of work (the benefit cap myth)
The regional pie chart on the left above is the £22,824.92 in benefits which is above the £20,000 per year regional cap. On the right shows the London £34,368.72 figure which is £11,368.72 more than the London £23,000 pa cap.
What these demonstrable facts reveal is that the reality is very different indeed from the political myths the Tory government issue ad nauseam to sell the overall benefit cap policy. You get more in benefits if you work than if you don’t is not only a fact, it shows the OBC policy cannot even work in theory.
In both cases of the regional tenant in low cost social housing to the London tenant in high cost private rented the households would pay nothing in Income Tax and just £7.07 per week in national insurance contributions, yet the government / tax payer / public purse pay out FAR MORE in benefits … which was something that the chinless buffoon from the Tax Payers Alliance on Panorama never though to check before he spouted the usual incompetent bullshit over the policy.
What Panorama did however state was that the vast majority of benefit-capped households are not on Job Seekers Allowance that is dole and only 13.29% of them receive JSA. It’s a good job for the UK finances that the vast majority of benefit-capped households are unable to take up work else the benefit bill would rise by well over £1 billion per year.
The case of Bruce a single dad with 4 children exposed that he could NOT take up employment and even despite being on JSA because there is no child care provision that enables him to do so (and by the way my figures in the charts above exclude child care costs which are also paid out in benefits, or at least 70% of them which would see the benefits bill rise so much more!)
Bruce was not seeking the ever increasing zero hours contract type of employment that no form of child care provision can accommodate due to employers demanding employees drop everything and come in at a moments notice; this was a job at Barclays Bank and no child care provision was available of a Saturday or, very tellingly, for him to do what he called the late finish of 5.30pm as by the time he commuted back from Birmingham the child care provision would be closed.
Child care provision for ZHC’s and other such unstable employment is far worse than a job at Barclays Bank and quite simply does not exist. This practical or stating the bloody obvious constraint appears nowhere in the government thinking and the policy is systemically unfair to the lone parent such as Bruce, who make up 60% of all benefit-capped households.
The case of Colleen a grandmother in her 60’s who took on her four grandchildren because the Mother was unable to do so saves the country a fortune in care costs for her grandchildren which Panorama said was £100k per year for the 4 children, though it could easily be £100k per child and £400k per year and which Colleen gets £29,000 per year from social services as a kinship carer. That is ridiculous and truly offensive … yet also a distortion as the overwhelming majority of kinship carers go unpaid and there is estimated to be at least 170,000 of them in the UK.
How can someone receiving Carers Allowance Now belatedly be exempt from the overall benefit cap yet a kinship carer, paid or unpaid, is not? That question was asked to Caroline Nokes the government minister who did not answer it at all and then spouted nonsense about discretionary housing payments and the outright lie that personalised support is available to job seekers which it is not (see here)
The same question was put by Colleen to her squirming Tory MP and he too had no answer to it yet still defended the overall policy when he and his Tory colleagues clearly did not have a clue on what they voted for … plus ca change … yet as I have said any times the reduction to the overall benefit cap level was also in the Labour Party’s 2015 general election manifesto, which not only shows their ignorance of the policy and its impacts, but now prevents them from opposing the policy publicly because it was in their manifesto!
The 2010 – 2015 coalition of Tory and Lib Dems saw Labour shit-scared to oppose any so-called ‘welfare’ policy in case they were labelled the party OF welfare and culminated in the truly offensive publicly stated policy of Rachel Reeves while the Shadow DWP Minister of Labour is the party of those in work not out of it!
This means that there is no political opposition to the overall benefit cap and it has had a free ride to spout its many myths, errors of fact and to demonise anyone who receives ‘benefits’ in the well established scrounger narrative that the electorate has bought hook line and sinker
But let’s get back to the fact I mentioned at the beginning – that the overall benefit cap policy if the benefit-capped households could work would cost the country FAR MORE in benefits. The policy is economically bankrupt and 100% ideological nonsense and the timidity of all opposition parties now to oppose it is compromised.
The policy is here to stay and so will it impacts which beside being truly offensive will also cost the public purse billions more per year in the homelessness costs its creates – another issue the Panorama broadcast missed and largely because of its timing.
Just before the swingeing reductions in the OBC level cam in from November 7 2016 I was approached and met with many TV producers including Panorama who were all keen to make a broadcast taking the household from receipt of benefit cap letter through to the end result of homelessness or employment.
I informed they should delay the programme for two months as then they would see whichever outcome yet they were all rigidly tied to the broadcast date of late March to early April.
I also informed it would be inevitable that local councils would find additional money of their own in Q4 of 2016/17 to supplement whatever they had left of their central government allocated DHP budgets as this would save each local council far more than the alternate cost of homeless provision AND that the real issue with the meagre DHP budgets would really start to hit from May or June 2017.
I also informed that the true numbers of benefit-capped households would not be released until August 2017 when the DWP release the benefit-capped data for May 2017 – a complex issue to explain but figure are 3 months in arrears in release and each sweep of LA data takes place over a 10 week period so that the may 2017 release of the February 2017 data would not even include many of the larger councils benefit cap reduction implementation dates in late January 2017 and a few other reasons too.
I also informed that they would struggle to find families to come forward which all TV and TV production companies did as pride and other factors would kick in and note well that the Channel 4 Dispatches programme of a week or so ago only involved families who were already capped before the swingeing reductions of £250 pcm and £500 pcm took place.
All TV programmes have missed the benefit cap and what it means and all should have delayed their research and broadcast as if Panorama or any other did a follow-up programme on it in summer of 2017 the real horrors of the policy will be there for all to see with rampant child homelessness and even council landlords refusing to accommodate the family liable for the benefit cap which is the death of the housing safety net created in the 1948 Welfare State.
In short the shit is really going to hit the fan very soon yet all the TV channels will miss it and the opposition parties have neutered themselves in opposing it and every MP surgery will see benefit-capped and shortly to be evicted tenants and tenant refused even the cheapest form of rented housing by the score … and the electorate will continue to believe this policy is fair because they have been told nothing but that in mistake after mistake and nobody has the balls to say they were wrong in not challenging this policy previously.
Five years ago and before the OBC began I did any presentations at housing events and began to blog that the OBC was by fare the worst and most dangerous of the misnamed welfare reforms which in reality are mostly cuts to housing benefit entitlement. They mainly focused on its original systemic flaw that the cap figure, then £26,000 per year, remained a constant one while benefit levels and especially inflation-busting rents would see more and more affected. They also included illustrations of when (not if) the OBC level was reduced to £20,000 per year and what that would mean.
Nobody argued with the figures as they could not do so as they were facts and undeniable. Many said I was being Dystopian or scaremongering in saying the cap level would reduce but I was proven right just as I was over the shared accommodation rate being introduced to social housing and many other housing and housing benefit related changes and cuts.
Many in housing still said I was wrong that social landlords would (a) evict existing tenants and (b) refuse allocations to the 385,000 or so new social housing tenancies they create each year to benefit-capped families.
Panorama proved me right on the first point last night as it revealed the Wirral housing association was resolute in going ahead with its possession case (which I have found out is 100% benefit cap generated arrears not pre-existing) until miraculously a benefit cap DHP was found. When in Wirral and every other local authority the DHP budgets run out very quickly in this 2017/18 financial year expect thousands if not tens of thousands more social housing evictions due directly to the benefit cap.
Also expect social landlords to refuse former private sector tenants as the benefit cap takes away the safety net that social landlords USED to provide in this scenario. Also expect the chances of many tens of thousands of existing bedroom tax cases who have been reliant on DHP to no longer get one as it suits every LA to transfer DHP to benefit cap cases to save itself more, which the facts show has been happening in London councils since 2013 and now will happen nationally. This in turn will see far more bedroom tax evictions due to this benefit cap consequence – all of which I have posited any time before and been called a scaremonger for saying.
Panorama went some way to proving what I have been saying all along about child care and about inability to work and other benefit cap aspects, yet there is still a long way to go in seeing the true picture of the benefit cap impacts and however much the Tories and the BBC and others as its propagandist vehicle try to keep from us.
PS – Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of CPAG, brava for your part in the Panorama broadcast.