Labour manifesto abandons the flawed WCA … YES!!!

Some seriously welcome immediate pledges in the Labour manifesto launched in the last hour

The IMMEDIATE scrapping of the bedroom tax we already knew and the scrapping of the work capability assessments is fantastic news coming the day after it was revealed that the mandatory reconsideration system is a rigged sham with a predetermined target of 80% not being changed and only 20% actually ‘reconsidered’ in a system that shows the courts overturn over 60%

Pages 56 and 57 above are where you need to look.

I will be posting a far more in-depth series looking at many other aspects but the IMMEDIATE changes above, especially the scrapping of the fundamentally flawed assessment process is extremely welcome and needs commending

The errant and misleading Tory benefit cap figures

According to the latest figures from the DWP 66,135 families are affected by the reduced overall benefit cap.  The figure in October 2016 the last month before the swingeing reduction was 19,095 thus (a) 47,040 families containing 143,000 children have been newly capped and (b) this is an overall 246% increase.

However: –

The 66,135 figure that the DWP issued does not contain any increased figures for some large areas such as Manchester, Sheffield or Southwark and these three areas alone could easily see an additional 7,000 families and a further 20,000 children

The DWP figure does NOT include those who are benefit-capped and in receipt of Universal Credit and so many more thousands and possibly tens of thousands

These are just two obvious and immediate reasons of many more as to why this 66,135 figure is a knowing and significant understatement of the real figure and needs to be viewed with extreme caution.

That said these knowingly understated figures place a further 150,000 children into poverty an issue that is abhorrent and an outrage yet largely met with the Not My Problem Thank You (NMPTY) response.  The scrounger narrative of the Tories has done its job very well given the lack of outrage among the general public to the overall benefit cap policy aided by some highly skewed (I am being overly kind!) TV documentaries by Dispatches and Panorama recently.

It’s a national issue affecting everywhere …

In October 2016, the last month before the overall benefit cap cut London had 43% of all capped families and now it has just 23% revealing that the policy now affects every village, hamlet, town and city across Great Britain (No figures for Northern Ireland where the OBC is fully mitigated.)  London has seen an 85% increase in families affected whereas the rest of GB sees an increase of between 313% in Yorkshire & Humber to 430% increase in capped families in the East Midlands.

Some areas have seen increases of over 1000% including RoyalTunbridge Wells – that well known hotbed of benefit scrounging anyone? – to emphasise the point that the overall benefit cap’s swingeing cut of 23% in social security benefit hits everyone.

It is not all about families however …

London pre OBC had 1005 single persons and now has 6505 affected – a 6-fold increase while the regions see much higher increases with the North East going from 0 to 60; the North West 23 to 210; the South East 16 to 436; and Scotland from 103 to 1689 with the biggest increase being in the West Midlands going from just 8 persons to 338 – an increase of more than 37 times of single people hit by the overall benefit cap’s swingeing 23% cut.

The latest figures say 91% of benefit-capped households get Child Tax Credit which suggests that 9% of all who are capped are childless when the October 2016 or pre OBC cut position had just under 6% so a 50% increase in the proportion of those capped are single.

That says a lot about rent levels and how unaffordable they have become yet single people are very much a NMPTY case of lack of any public sympathy compared to families with children yet this 50%+ increase cause huge knock on effects to the provision of housing and the actions of landlords in terms of allocation.  It strongly suggests the private landlord will be evicting more existing single tenants and taking much fewer new single tenants and creating a much bigger single person housing demand on social landlords just as the banning of under 22s and the shared accommodation rate policies kick in – so expect a huge upsurge in single homelessness!

It is most definitely not about numbers either…!

That leads nicely into one of the more complex arguments over the validity of the DWP figures in that many private landlords will have evicted single persons (and families) ahead of and by consequence of the reduced overall benefit cap level.  Yet these will not be recorded as victims of the benefit cap policy by local authority homeless teams, merely just as the (non-detailed) end of an assured shorthold tenancy.

It IS all about homelessness…

The homeless figures become much less detailed as to their meaningfulness unless much more detailed end of AST figures are recorded by every local councils homeless departments, which they will not be, and this also means that the reports that come out of Shelter, Crisis, JRF, Homeless Link and others will by definition be more generic and less meaningful when they simply say the ending of an AST is the main homeless driver!

Local councils will also not record homeless presentations as benefit cap when both private AND social landlords refuse to allocate a new property to a single person or family which is a huge issue given that social landlords have 385,000 new tenancies each year and statistically 36% of them would be families not hit by the pre OBC cut yet are affected now due to the £115 per week reduction in the OBC outside of London.

Specifically it is about non-existing cases and homelessness …

Well over 100,000 families will be refused social housing each year due to the reduced OBC and they go straight to the homeless queue yet will not be recorded as benefit cap victims which they will be.  As I have maintained the real key issue with the swingeing reductions to the benefit cap is NOT existing tenants, it is the refusal to accommodate new families who would have received housing if the OBC had NOT had the swingeing 23% cut an which is taken from housing benefit.

The OBC cut impacts hugely on the prospective tenant and the churn in social housing.  If my cautiously low figure of 100,000 families are refused social housing allocation due to the OBC then these 100,000 households will contain over 300,000 children who add to the yearly homeless figure.

That 300,000 yearly increase in children made homeless is just from social housing and will be doubled or more than doubled by private landlords refusing to accommodate – both out of the affordability problems that the OBC cuts directly give.

As I acknowledge there are some very complex and highly nuanced impacts of the overall benefit cap cut yet ones which are obvious and inevitable.  Landlords will be refusing OBC-hit families in their hundreds of thousands per year and they have no choice but to do so.  No landlord will accept a family who only gets £50 or less per week in housing benefit when the rent is £100 per week.  The risk is way too high and that risk applies to all social landlords not just private landlords and all can an will refuse to accommodate on affordability grounds.

No job no house is a crude saying yet it is, regrettably, very accurate.

The media focus in huge error on the numbers affected and not the consequences.  The numbers ONLY relate to existing tenants and not to future tenants and hence miss the real impact that this ill-conceived policy holds.  To focus on the numbers is extremely poor analysis and hides the consequences which are devastating.  Some of the practical problems such as recording WHY people become homeless which they will do in sharply increasing number is also missed and like any issue if you don’t figure out what the problem is then you have no chance whatsoever of solving it.

To summarise the figures are knowingly low and the real issue is not the number and to focus on the numbers is pitifully flawed analysis.  The real numbers that will matter will not be seen until December 2017 when Shelter reveal their annual figures on homelessness that does hit the public glare and when the public at least seem to care over how many children are homeless at Christmas.

If the number of children homeless at Christmas 2017 is not at least double the number at Christmas 2016 (120,000) I will stop ranting about the overall benefit cap policy and find a hat to eat.  I will be surprised it that figure is less than triple that number at 360,000 children homeless at Christmas 2017 and which will be directly the fault of the overall benefit cap.  A homeless child is a child in poverty and by whatever means you use to measure poverty and come the purported season of goodwill everyone in the country will be saying how did we let this happen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disability benefits – Tory lies and the ‘failing’ welfare rights system

The Tories when they introduced Personal Independence Payment (PIP) to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) expected that 600,000 FEWER disabled persons would receive PIP.

The House of Commons Library report from 2015 states:

When fully introduced, it is expected that around 600,000 fewer people will receive PIP than would have got DLA, and expenditure will be £2.5 billion a year lower than it would otherwise have been.

The policy without any ambiguity and with very credible reference says the Tories purpose behind PIP replacing DLA was threefold in:

(a) to cut significant cost of £2.5 billion per year and,

(b) to do that by means of 600,000 FEWER recipients of this benefit and,

(c) the mechanism was more stringent predetermined assessment.

Government ministers and the ubiquitous and always anonymous DWP spokesperson always seek to deflect and dissemble and never state that PIP was introduced to save £2.5 billion per year and to take away disability benefit from 600,000 disabled persons.

 

Media coverage such as the pathetic BBC Victoria Derbyshire programme yesterday (see here) always focus on whether the disability benefit assessment mechanism is fair or not and NEVER mention the express purpose of that assessment process which was – with absolute predetermination – to cut the number of working age disability benefit recipients by almost 20% and to save £2.5 billion per year.

As the trailer for the BBC Victoria Derbyshire says disabled people are forced to go to court to get their rightful disability benefits.  Yet the programme failed to mention the purpose behind the fundamentally flawed and overtly contrived assessment process was, is, and always has been to take £2.5 billion per year away from disabled people.

Just another example of how ‘human interest stories’ enable the media to hide the basic facts and promote fake news with calculated errors of omission and politically biased commission.

“Our top story today is that 300 disabled people A DAY are appealing against cuts to their benefits and its costing you £1 million per week”

Is how Victoria Derbyshire starts the programme.

How awful that the taxpayer is having to bail out these disabled scroungers is the basis of this outrageous programme!

  • Not once in this programme does it mention the £2.5 billion per year intended cut.
  • Not once does it mention that the latest official government figures reveal that 63% of those that do appeal their PIP decisions see them changed in their favour.
  • Not once does the programme mention that this must surely mean the assessment process is fundamentally flawed!

The programme follows the case of Debbie (and please BBC can you edit the film as it shows her full name when you zoom in on her medication!!!!) who was failed by the assessment process then had to wait a full year to get into the tribunal, a year full of stress anxiety and poverty … to have the tribunal reverse the decision and award her disability benefits for TEN YEARS!

The programme does have the hapless Tory MP Richard Graham member of the DWP committee admitting that disabled people need a welfare rights organisation to help the appeal these discredited assessments and subsequent DWP decisions that are made by a non medically qualified person, a civil servant and it is only the tribunal comprising of a judge, medically qualified person and a disability expert that CAN give a true decision – and this also explains why only 5% of disabled persons do appeal as the system works wholly against them doing this.

The programme also assumes that there is welfare benefit support to enable such appeals yet that is NOT the case at all.  In Liverpool there are 8 CABx offices yet I am informed just 1 of them takes such appeals.  That is not a slight on the CAB or the Liverpool branches I hasten to add, it much more reflects that the costs of appealing are too much for ALL welfare rights organisations an especially with their conditional funding they receive.

The case of Debbie in the programme saw a full year between negative decision and the correct one being put in place.  That is not unusual in terms of time and not just stress-ridden for the disabled person, it is incredibly costly to meet and each such appeal needs a good 30 hours of support to formulate and deliver a successful appeal.

Strange then that the BBC Victoria Derbyshire programme which opened with the taxpayer cost of tribunals wholly failed to mention the cost that it takes for a disabled person to get a legally correct decision under the Tories fundamentally flawed system.

300 appeals a day every day each with 30+ hours of support and advice necessary and let’s say a low unit cost of £25 per hour for any welfare rights organisation is a cost of appealing of £225,000 per day and £1.25 million per week … and far higher than the £1 million per week stated tribunal cost.

Those figures explain precisely WHY the CABx and other welfare rights organisations cannot afford to help disabled persons appeal and get what they are entitled to which has been taken away from them in a premeditated ideological policy with PIP.

Finally, after outlining the reasonable if not low level of costs of appealing, ask yourself why just 5% of disabled persons actually appeal their failed PIP decisions and especially when they know that the official government figures reveal 63% or almost 2 in every 3 appeals overturn the original PIP decision?

The answer to that is the lack of capacity and funding to take appeals.  That is loud and clear what the figures reveal.  It is not an attack or slight on CABx or other welfare rights organisations in any way; it is, regrettably, the cold hard facts of disability and other social security benefit appeals.

The Tories have stacked the system against social security benefit appeals with for example the large scale removal of legal aid that used to see every high street solicitors have a welfare rights officer doing this free for the claimant.

The Tories also introduced a further blocking stage called Mandatory Reconsideration before a claimant can appeal to a tribunal (which surprise, surprise upholds 82% of the original assessment based decisions!)

The Tories have massively reduced funding to local government who invariably are the main funders of advice services and so funding has reduced dramatically since 2010 and across the nation.

Most important of all is the Tories rely on the general public ignorance of the capacity of CABx and other welfare rights organisations and the public believe, like and want to believe that the capacity to challenge benefit decisions is freely available.

As my outline figures above reveal the capacity is simply not there in the advice sector and the Tories clear, deliberate and premeditated ideological message to disabled persons is we are taking away your quality of life and if you don’t like it tough because only 1 in 20 of you is able to challenge our knowingly flawed system of decision making.

__________________

A quick update for housing  people and social landlords who have in-house welfare teams or co-fund external advice agencies and claim to do ridiculous notions and terms such as ‘welfare benefit maximisation’ and the like.

The figures above on cost of appeals and that government seeking to take 600,000 working age disabled persons off DLA is just another alarm bell for your bottom lines and drilling down for benefit cap cases too.

The fact that most disabled persons live in general needs social housing (eg 63% of bedroom tax households contain a disability in DWP figures) and they cannot get the advice and support needed to get their lawfully entitled to disability benefits due to a lack of capacity in the advice sector is a major issue.

The fact the FRS survey revealed a huge increase in disabled persons (of 15% and 22%) just in the last two years as well and these numbers were not included in the Supported Housing Review as part of the LHA maxima cap policy that also includes no detail of how capacity increases will be met (and neither does the SHA alternative you like so much!) … and the fact that just 13% of benefit-capped households have tenants ready and able to work means that you seriously need to rethink whether your much (self) vaunted EET programmes are targeting the wrong and huge minority of your customers with such programmes

 

‘Inappropriate’ death of supported housing

The LHA (maxima) cap is inappropriate says a joint report of the all party working groups DCLG and DWP.

  • Inappropriate to close sheltered housing
  • Inappropriate to close homeless hostels
  • Inappropriate to close domestic violence refuges
  • Inappropriate to close down specialist services for mental health, learning disability, physical and sensory disability and every other form of supported housing.

It is a thousand times worse than inabloodypropriate!  

It is madness and the LHA (maxima) cap policy this joint report concerns will have unbelievably adverse consequences that will affect everyone and the report sneaked out today on a bank holiday here is contained in the wettest of wet paper bags but will never punch its way out.

The policy will mean more deaths from domestic violence, more death on the streets due to rough sleeping, more of our parents having to be put into a home as there will be less and less sheltered housing provision and more deaths among those with all forms of mental health, other disablement and any vulnerability with this policy.

The policy will place much greater costs on the social care system, much greater costs on the NHS and much greater costs on the police and criminal justice system.

None of the above is hyperbole, it is inevitability:  It is not scaremongering, it is reality. A cold harsh reality when viewed from the vulnerable person’s perspective as it means the hugely important preventative agenda that support gives in preventing higher cost and much more disempowering care is decimated.

Prevention is always better than cure and supported housing in the provision of support prevents greater care need and cost, greater social care cost and greater medical care cost.  That basic and incredibly powerful message is virtually absent from this report.

The joint report, itself unusual as it straddles the housing (DCLG) and housing benefit (DWP) departments, is pitiful in many areas and in political weight terms reminds of being savaged by a dead sheep.  It is extremely politically lightweight despite the all party groups having a very high level of input from supported housing providers.

It is and was doomed from the start with the acceptance of the Support Housing Review as its basis which for one critical example says 716,000 persons received support / supported housing in the UK in 2015.

I looked back at the old Supporting People regime and its numbers and in 2003 there were 848,813 receiving support, which is almost 19% higher than this 716,000 figure and in 2016 we have 6 million more people in the UK than there was in 2003. That suggests even more people will be supported.

Then last month the Family Resources Survey was released which said that the number of disabled persons in the UK had increased by 22% in the last two years – numbers which will not be included in the Supported Housing Review baseline report for this policy.  This increase will add to support service demand and to the numbers needing support and care and the costs of support is around 25% of the cost of care to the public purse.

The report’s timing is unfortunate as we are in a phase of nothing except Brexit is debated or even recognised let alone considered, yet the report would still be a wet blanket despite that context.

The major problem with this policy, consultation and report is that it is based on the notion that the costs of supported housing, specifically the costs of housing those who require support is neither cost-effective nor has scrutiny or oversight. That premise is fundamentally false.  It is, in lay terms, total bollocks as all such costs have in-depth and often line-by-line scrutiny of claimed costs on a reasonable, realistic and justifiable basis.

It is a very complex yet extremely well scrutinised cost basis and individual to each scheme or person as it needs to be under the arcane and often moot Housing Benefit regulations that apply to supported housing.

This same policy, the original LHA maxima cap policy, was raised in 2011 and promoted by government as a way of simplifying the complex funding regime for supported housing services in the HB regulations.  It was roundly rejected and the Tory-led coalition hastily dropped the policy like a hot potato.

This time around they promoted it not on simplification, but on the dual false bases of allegedly lax cost-effectiveness and lax scrutiny.  The sector and the MPs bought into these false premises when they should have attacked the claimed and bogus rationale.

That rationale should have been attacked and cut off at the knee instead of arguments made on the post code lottery arguments over LHA rates.  The government rationale may well have been we think that the planet Mars is populated by little green men so how do we find a way to prove it or not.  It was and is a wholly spurious premise to presume that supported housing costs are lax in their scrutiny yet the policy, consultation and this report try to tell us how we find or not the little green men on Mars!

Instead of collectively blowing the government premise out of the water we saw different types of support provider fight between themselves – the sheltered housing lobby versus the supported housing lobby versus the supporting living lobby … and within each of these three broad classifications further infighting with for example low level sheltered housing providers seeking to score more points than extra care sheltered housing providers.

This has seen the domestic violence lobbies be happy that they have been promised an as yet undefined different form of funding regime, yet as DV accounts for just 1% of all supported housing funding this was an easy concession for the government to make as 99% won’t get any special treatment.  This is all the more surprising when the timing is an election in which the older persons vote (i.e. sheltered housing in all its forms) is far more politically sensitive than the domestic violence vote … which shows how poorly the sheltered housing lobbies have performed in dissuading the government from this madness of a policy!

The 2003 Supporting People numbers put this into its true perspective with 565,000 sheltered housing tenants receiving support compared to just 4,800 being supported in domestic violence and abuse services.  Giving concessions however vague and holly lacking in any detail to 4,800 UK households is far easier than to 565,000 households and who are also part of the grey vote!

Social landlords fought this policy on very parochial grounds of self-interest – you can’t do this as it means future new buildings for supported housing is at risk, which ignores vulnerable supported tenants needs and both existing and future. The greater threat to government was not the bricks and bloody mortar and housing associations bottom lines but the facts the policy will see more hostel, refuge and older persons housing close down.

That was and is and always will be the greatest risk to any government, the personal issues and how such a policy will be perceived when the voters have no choice but to put Mum into a care home because there is no semi-independent sheltered housing provision available … and you will have to sell her house to fund that incredibly expensive care home too and that all your parents have worked hard for over the last 40 years is all gone to pay for having her spittle wiped and her incontinence pads changed!

Our Mothers and Fathers will have no dignity because of this policy they will just be a financial burden on the state which they will have to pay for out of all they have ever saved from their decades of work.  That is what this policy means and in reality it is the Mother of All Bombs inside that wet paper bag yet will never fight its way out!

 

 

UT exposes sham decision making process in the bedroom tax

The Upper Tribunal in a 3 judge decision both kicked the decision making process of the Tories bedroom tax policy in the backside exposing it to be a sham as I have always maintained AND and the same Upper Tribunal decision found a legal way to justify the powers of the First-tier Tribunal and the Upper Tribunal.

Both of these are important and correct decisions and both cause major problems for the bedroom tax policy and for ALL social security benefit decisions made by government and not just in Housing Benefit of which the bedroom tax is one part.

The decision is high on legalese and the anti bedroom tax activist, the disability activist and anti Tory activist should not get too carried way as the Carmichael case – when a couple cannot share a bedroom due to medical needs  – only sees 210 cases at this stage tied to it and 210 out of 420,000 means it does not affect 99.5% of bedroom tax cases.

The tabloid reports on this sensationalise the decision and claim it is a huge win for disabled persons which it is not and as much as the disability lobbies want to believe this is a seminal decision for disabled persons it simply isn’t.

The housing press (Inside Housing here) wrongly state this is a disability decision when it is not a disability decision at all and they do so to deflect the complicity of social landlords in the bedroom tax decision making process which is what this decision is ALL about; and bedroom tax being a Housing Benefit decision is between two parties only of claimant (tenant) and decision maker (local council HB department) and landlords are a third-party to all bedroom tax decisions.

The decision is all about process and what powers the tribunal service has and has bugger all to do with disability or landlords.

So what does this decision say? And what does it mean?

Cutting through the legalese and high law of the decision’s 22 pages is not easy but it can be distilled into its opening comments and the seminal paragraph 67, so let’s give it a go.

The decision:

I have underlined two parts in red and the underlining in black of ‘without‘ is the emphasis of the Upper Tribunal.

The UT said the decision arrived at by the original First-tier Tribunal was correct yet they arrived at it by the wrong (legal) route and the UT is permitted to replace that decision and cites the reference for being able to replace the decision as being section 12(2)(a) of the 2007 Act above.

The three numbered points explain that this is ALL about process and procedure and hence my warnings (or should that be alarm bells?) to the anti bedroom tax, anti Tory and disability lobbies not to get carried away with merit or morality.

This is a cold fish emotionless legal judgement about process and what powers the tribunals have and nothing more!

Housing Benefit Regulations (secondary legislation) dictates what process the decision makers (the local council HB department and the First-tier Tribunal) have to follow and this is a linear process.

Firstly, the decision makers have to decide what the maximum eligible rent is or how much of the gross rent charged they are allowed to pay under the HB regs. This was the case before the bedroom tax regulations and will still be the case if the bedroom tax is abolished and there is nothing contentious in this.

Secondly, the bedroom tax regulations then says the decision maker need to make the deduction from this maximum eligible figure of 14% if it appears the claimant has one spare bedroom and of 25% if they have two or more spare bedrooms … YET … No public authority which includes both decision makers is allowed to make a decision that contravenes the human rights of the tenant as the claimant.

Thus the Upper Tribunal says at 2 that decision maker must not deduct the bedroom tax 14% or 25% deduction for this reason and to do so is unlawful at paragraph 67. (*)

Once your local council decision maker knows that applying the bedroom tax regulations contravenes the human rights of the tenant claiming Housing Benefit they cannot impose the bedroom tax as it is unlawful for them to do so.

This is where the decision-making process of every local council is exposed as a sham that I have always maintained and first stated back in early 2013, as each local council makes the decision WITHOUT knowing and without even seeking to find out who they are applying the decision to.

Every local council has said we have to do what the Secretary of State Work and Pensions – the SSWP or DWP in short – tells the they have to do under guidance.

This Nuremberg Defence of the local council decision maker is wrong in law says the Upper Tribunal as no decision maker can lawfully make a decision that breaches the human rights of the person the decision concerns as they are public authorities.

Councils say they were compelled to follow the bedroom tax guidance (the highly prescriptive A4 of 2012) yet this is a legal fiction and always has been.  Councils also say that they could not possibly know the details of each claimant and that it would cost too much for them to find out and thus they all merely imposed the bedroom tax out of this cheapest cost method hoping very few would challenge it.

This Nuremberg Defence taken by all local councils is and always has been UNLAWFUL or in lay terms total bollocks as I have always maintained and the Upper Tribunal at paragraph 67 say the same thing:

Councils are correct that it would cost them too much to make a lawful decision and they have been put in this position by the legally incorrect dictats they have received in the HB guidance from the DWP.  Both of these typical local council views are correct and the DWP ‘imposed’ bedroom tax decision making process from the A4/2012 HB circular is a sham … yet councils still imposed the bedroom tax deductions and did so unlawfully.

Whether the wrongs of each individual case were the complex human rights issues of the Carmichael case or the much more simple issue of whether a room is or is not a bedroom, every council chose to impose the bedroom tax deductions because they were the cheapest cost option for the local council and irrespective of what this meant for the tenant as the claimant.

Given in some cases this has reportedly led to suicides and has undoubtedly led to evictions the offensive scale of that imposition by local councils is there for all to see.  The bedroom tax decision-making process has always been a sham.

Again I restate the numerous disability activists and lobbies should take caution and not equate discrimination with a human rights breach as the two are not the same.  The Carmichael case was one of seven ‘discrimination’ cases that went before the Supreme Court yet 5 of those in which discrimination was found were also found not to be a human rights breach.

The simple and stark reality is Carmichael and Rutherford the two Supreme Court successes affect a very tiny percentage of the overall 63% of all bedroom tax households that include a disability.

If the 63% figure for disabled bedroom-taxed households still applies which is highly probable then there are around 265,000 disabled households hit by the bedroom tax and the Carmichael and Rutherford similar cases may amount to less than 1% of all disabled bedroom taxed households (or 2,650) and so 99% of disabled bedroom-taxed households are not helped by either the Supreme Court decision or this Upper Tribunal decision in Carmichael.

Disability lobbies and activists will not like to read that yet that is the reality.

The best chance of appealing the bedroom tax decisions by far is not whether the housing need element of the decision is discriminatory or breaches human rights, but the other key element of the decision in what is or is not a bedroom, or more specifically a Nelson-compliant or post Nelson-compliant bedroom such as size, layout, configuration and so on.

I am still strongly of the view that at least 15% and as high as 20% of all landlord claimed bedrooms are not Nelson-compliant, and that is around 63,000 to 84,000 wrong decisions that are eminently appealable with the majority being on size and layout.

This perhaps explains why Inside Housing is keen to focus on wrongly saying this UT decision is a disability decision as it deflects the complicity of social landlords charging rent on between 63 – 84,000 alleged bedrooms that are in lay terms mere box rooms and in legal terms non Nelson-compliant bedrooms.

IF social tenants with these box rooms were able to appeal, which mostly they are not, and if they did so it would expose that UK social landlords have been charging tenants and/or the HB bill for many years on rooms that were not bedrooms as they claimed – a bit like landlords charging for a Rolls Royce while they offer up a Lada!

The disability lobbies have taken the fight to government over the bedroom tax and they deserve much credit however they have taken over the challenge through what are now legally seen as emotive arguments such as discrimination when they should have focused on size and other non Nelson-compliant challenges as this would take many more disabled households out of the pernicious and ill-conceived bedroom tax.

This UT Carmichael decision is as I state a cold fish emotionless judgement as they all are at tribunal and tribunals have no place in bedroom tax appeals for emotion and emotive argument has formed the basis of too many bedroom tax appeals.

The UT decision which can be found here and is not an easy read though the disdain it has for DHPs and especially for the DWP argument that the First-tier Tribunal could only direct Jayson Carmichael to another court to claim damages (!!!) and could not overturn the decision which it dismisses with compelling argument and legal authority.

The DWP in seeking this appeal of the First-tier Tribunal decision was and is 99% political and saving political face and explains why the Upper Tribunal (nominally) granted permission.  The UT then in this decision chaired by its President strongly assert in law that tribunals do have the powers to overturn decisions and should do so and whether this jurisdictional point is because of secondary legislation or whether they are allowed to read in ECHR rights of claimants.

Claimants are entitled to benefits and the UT 3 judge decision asserts that the tribunal service is entitled to rule that claimants get what they are entitled to and rule that way rather than fob them off to another court to seek legal remedy, which claimants cannot afford and which destroys any purpose (overriding or otherwise) the social security tribunals could ever have and which the DWP argued here tribunals should not have.

The DWP will seek to appeal this decision as it impacts on all tribunals powers to overturn any social security benefit decision (eg DLA, ESA, PIP, JSA and so on) and provide remedy. First-tier Tribunals for all social security benefits are called Social ENTITLEMENT Chapter tribunals (SEC) as they deal with  er …. ENTITLEMENT and rightly give remedy!

Scurrilous politicking by the Tories – an absolutely bugger all to do with disability or merit or anything else.

________________________

(*) As a necessary aside the Human Rights Act enshrined the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) into law and the ECHR is bugger all to do with the European Union and in fact predates it and the UK signed up to it in 1951 well before the EU was created in the Treaty of Rome.  So this is nothing to do with those bastards in Brussels as the Brexiteers perceive them!

 

 

 

Housing and the poverty of challenge in the general election

The next government will run from June 2017 to June 2022 which means that the known ‘welfare reforms’ scheduled to take place in 2020, 2021, 2022 and until March 2023 need to be discussed as to how they affect housing.

We see the full roll-out of Universal Credit including to pensioners as one example, the full roll out of the LHA Maxima Cap policy which also affects and make housing benefit cuts to pensioners in general needs housing including some who are not under occupying … and then a further five years of the bedroom tax and overall benefit cap too, will all take place in the next parliament. Yet not even the supply of housing, the housing crisis of build build build at all costs is being discussed in the Tories self-styled Brexit-only election.

In two weeks time the latest housing benefit statistics will be released and they will once again reveal that in social housing around 74% of all social tenant households receive housing benefit – around 3.2 million of the 4.3 million social rented sector households; as such there is no doubt that all cuts to housing benefit impact massively upon social tenant rent affordability and no doubt that social housing is where those on benefit and the low paid reside.

What has had little if any attention is the huge rates of child poverty in social housing, poverty which will only get worse with the overall benefit cap which directly targets children and all of the other housing benefit cuts that we now know about and due to begin before March 2023.

Even assuming no more announced or new cuts to housing benefit entitlement (and I predict a further cut in the overall benefit cap level if the Tories are re-elected) the benefit freeze, tax credit cuts and rising inflation will mean that social tenants especially those will children will see child poverty in social housing increase much further.

The benefit cap will also see many of the 385,000 prospective social tenants each year and that’s just England be refused social housing due to affordability and go direct to the homeless queue and homeless provision too and place even more children in poverty.

Child poverty in social housing is far too high already as this chart reveals.

This chart was released last week by the Resolution Foundation and perversely it chose to comment that child poverty was high in the private rented sector.  Yet this Family Resource Survey chart from 2014/15 and note well before the most recent benefit cap cut reveals that the social rented sector has more children in poverty at 1.5 million than the PRS with 1. 4 million and there are more PRS properties than SRS properties which means a much higher proportion of children in poverty live in social housing.

1.5 million of 4.3 million SRS households is a child poverty  rate of 35%

1.4 million of 4.9 million PRS households is a child poverty rate of 28%

There is 20% more child poverty in social housing than in private rented housing and that figure is rising.

What a startling statistic that is and one that has gone very much under the radar of social landlords for years.  It is a huge financial problem for social landlords in terms of rent affordability that their finance directors should sit bolt upright and take notice of especially in light of the overall benefit cap policy and make them rethink what they are doing now which is largely ineffective and ill-considered.

The official data reveals that just 13% of benefit-capped households are fit and able to work immediately as just these 1 in 7 receive JSA when 6 out of every 7 are unable to work immediately due to an incapacity or they have pre-school age children.

Does this mean the many many millions social landlords spend each year on education, employment and training (EET) activities is wasteful as it can only help 1 in 7 tenants?  

Have social landlords simply adopted the work is the best route out of poverty mantra of IDS and (wrongly) believe this is the best way to help their ‘customers?’

Poverty whether child or adult affects the affordability of rent  – and irrespective of the social purpose debate within social housing – it is in landlords best financial interests to ensure rents are affordable.  Many social landlords only offer EET services and few if any offer welfare benefit advice and support of note a term I will clarify shortly.

Many social landlords do offer self-titled welfare benefit ‘maximisation’ services which are merely very low-level services (of no note or consequence) which helps explains why some £90 million per day, a massive £33 billion per year of welfare (tax credits and social security benefit) the government admit is entitled to yet goes unclaimed. By definition these low-level services cannot be a maximisation service!

The removal of most legal aid for welfare benefits, general austerity, the closures and underfunding of welfare rights organisations and the ones who have survived moving into low level services such as debt advice rather than claiming or appealing social security benefits, there is a hugely increased demand for social tenants getting what they are entitled to in ‘welfare’ and social landlords need to massively up their game in this area and for landlords bottom lines too.

All tenants can ONLY get what they are entitled to and many benefit decision notices are adorned with this is the minimum the law says you need to live on – that by definition means getting anything less and that household is in poverty.  I would argue much further that the benefit freeze, higher inflation and cut upon cut to entitlement means that the minimum amount the law says you need to live on is itself below the poverty line.

All of which means for council and housing association landlords that a great many more social tenants are going to get into arrears and the real crisis of affordability really begins after this election.  It also means social landlords have no choice but to ramp up their benefit maximisation activities significantly as much for their own bottom lines as for tenants.

The admittedly very crude picture is do social landlords ramp up their welfare benefit services at their cost as if they do not they face many more customers with a landlord eviction cost of typically (in the regions)  £3,000 plus the rent arrears level.  The alternative is (a) evict many more households with children and after 2019 pensioner household too, both groups are politically and reputationally sensitive and / or  (b) refuse to take new tenants on benefit.

In short the social purpose debate going on within housing that has been till now largely theoretical will become very practical indeed and these two polarities will very soon have day-to-day operational consequences.

Do social landlords and specifically housing associations support tenants or do they take the position of pay the rent or bugger off?

That is the reality of social housing provision after this election and if it is the latter then the social housing model created in the 1948 Welfare State is dead before the end of the next parliament.

Where will your children live? Your grandchildren?  Apart from being at home till they are at least 22 with one housing benefit cut and then up to 35 years of age and at home due to the shared accommodation rate, just another housing benefit cut …

 

The silence within housing over all the above is deafening

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

41% more immigration under Theresa May

Theresa May as Home Secretary from 2010 to 2016 allowed 41% more net migration into the UK with on average 243,000 per year compared to 172,000 per year under Labour.

Theresa May allowed in more people per year with a high of 650,000 immigrants in 2016 compared to Labour’s highest figure of 596,000 in 2006.

Theresa May allowed in more foreign workers per year averaging 241,000 per year compared to 223,000 under Labour.

2016 saw Theresa May allow in 321,000 foreign workers which is 33% higher than the highest figure of 242,000 under Labour in 2007.

All of the above are the official figures from the ONS and explain why Theresa May does not want to debate in this election.

The figures are HER record as the minister responsible and no longer can the Tories say the last Labour lot opened the floodgates for immigration as her record is much worse.

It was Theresa May who set the Tories target of less than 100,000 per year for net migration and the current figure is 335,000 which is also an all time record high figure.

Theresa May’s record on immigration is one of abject failure and is far worse than under the last Labour government.

Below are two charts which give the official figures.

Fig 1 – Net Migration (How many more came in than left)

 

Fig 2 – Foreign workers allowed into the UK

The number of foreign workers allowed here to work is 100% within the gift of the government and Theresa May consciously let in more and more foreign workers into the UK and in 2016 Theresa May allowed in 84% more foreign workers than she did in the year ending 2012.

Theresa May as Home Secretary broke every record high on immigration as the above facts prove.

If you overhear conversations in the pub or read in the media or if any Tory MP ever says again the truly offensive term that Labour opened the floodgates with immigration you will be able to say back that Theresa May personally and the Tories since 2010 opened much wider gates than Labour did and did so as deliberate policy.