Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Poverty and Housing Crisis

Conservative and LibDem coalition Government plans for the revision of Housing Benefit will leave many people in dire financial straits and will inevitably lead to an increase in homelessness.

Shelter tell us that 54,000 children will be in households left with less than £100 a week after housing costs to cover all other expenses including utility bills, transport, food and clothing. Shockingly, a further 33,000 children will be in families forced to survive on less than £50 a week.

Crisis figures show that 12620 households in Liverpool alone will be adversely affected by the first lot of changes planned, which hit pre 2013.

What changes are planned?

1. Housing benefit in the private rented sector (local housing allowance) is currently calculated at the mid-point of the local market. The Government has proposed that it will now be calculated on the bottom 30th percentile of rents in a given area.

In Kensington, Liverpool where there is a paucity of social housing and many people are forced to live in poor quality but expensive private accomodation at the mercy of landlords, will their rent be in the bottom 30th percentile? I wouldn't be surprised if it was not.

2. The maximum possible rate of LHA will be capped. In reality this change will only affect London.

3. Currently those whose rent is lower than the total possible LHA rate have been able to keep up to £15 of the difference to encourage them to shop around. The Government is carrying forward plans to scrap this policy. This will obviously encourage landlords to increase rents if there is no incentive for tenants to bargain them down.

4. Restriction of the bedroom entitlement to the four bedroom rate - this will adversely affect larger families and families living together as extended families (with three generations perhaps) and it is my guess that this will be particularly damaging to BME families.

These cuts will then be exacerbated by further plans to reduce Housing Benefit by 10%for those in who have been in receipt of Job Seekers Allowance for a year.

There are many people in Liverpool who have already been on JSA for more than a year, and those numbers will only increase as job cuts increase with Government cuts. Liverpool has an unusual dependency on public sector jobs, which are likely to be lost to the tune of 25% - 40% as part of the ConDem coalition planned cuts.

I wonder where all these jobs are, that the Government feels that JSA applicants are somehow failing to take-up, I am not aware of them, are you?

So, we cut the rate of housing benefit to people, they then cannot meet their rent obligations in full and begin to rack up debts with their landlords. Eventually they are made homeless. But we know that places in homeless hostels are limited - particularly for larger families, and so we shall be obliged to house people in B&Bs and hotels, one assumes - we cannot throw children on the streets, there is a statutory responsible to house them somewhere, and so the cost of this will outweigh any savings in Housing Benefit.

I am forced to wonder whether the only answer shall be the building of large public instutitions where people who are no longer able to claim benefits and have fallen on hard times, with nowhere to live, can be found a bed and board. Or perhaps we could convert large empty buildings like the former orphanage on Orphanage Drive, Newsham Park, and put them all in there? And we might want to put the women in one part of the building and the men in another, perhaps dormitories might be the answer?
And we could give them a name that would symbolise the route we wish them to take, to lift themselves out of poverty - something that perhaps relates to our desire that they should get a job! I wonder, perhaps could they be called Workhouses? How does that sound? Just a thought!


Marshajane Thompson said...

I have been raising this also in my day job and amongst political friends. Your post is very similar to a speech I wrote last week except one difference - I also touched on the effect that the reduction in mortgage interst paymetns fromt he dwp will have they are reducing that from 6.08% to 3% which will also make tens of thousands of families homeless and evicted for mortgage arrears!

How housing departments will cope with this increase in demand when they have had their budgets slashed and initiatives to help homelessness cancelled is anyones guess!

Great post!


scouseboy said...

Marshajane, this is the first I have heard of the mortgage interest payments from the DWP being reduced. The Con -Dems (F##K the city solicitor!!) have buried this news very deeply amongst their bad news, and their daily attacks on ordinary people.
It is a very worrying state of affairs. Nick Clegg and the Fib Dems should hang their heads in shame.

Steve Flatt said...

The problem doesn't really lie in the politics of our society it is even more fundamental. The problem lies with our priorities - money is our priority, saving it, nurturing it, etc. Money is a concept not a product and has no value. Unlike people who all have value. If we want to "fix" our society then focusing on saving money isn't going to help. Focusing on the value and talent of people will. We need to decide what kind of society we want, what it would look like, how it would be working and what would drive it? Politicians work far too short term to ever consider these long term goals, that is why the squeeze is getting tighter and will go on doing so. We do not value people; in the NHS, patients or staff, we do not value people in the benefits system, we do not value people in the justice sytem (except lawyers). We have to stop looking at problems and start considering solutions and what it would look like if we have found it. There is no vision among our political elite, their goals are too self interested, power and influence in the short term, re-election at best. We are not going to improve our situation by applying the same old tools to the same old problems. As a society we need to think about what a successful, effective and inclusive society would look like and take small steps toward it. Without that vision little can change!
Steve Flatt