Friday 3 June 2011

Housing Benefit Cap - the stark reality

Guest blog from Andre Rostant:

Cameron’s Big Solution

Myself, my wife and our eight young children have been told that, before January 2012, we must move to "the fringes" of London or further afield,... as a letter from Westminster Council benefits puts it: "to make sure that people on benefit are not living in accommodation that would be unaffordable to most people in work".

Our rent is £2000 a week for an ex 3 bedroom council house.Mr Cameron and Westminster Councillor Philippa Roe say we need to be “realistic”. To any reader who already has their pen out, let’s make something clear: under the new housing benefit rules,a “normal" married couple with two children, earning £48K a year between them and paying the median £530 a week for a privately rented 2 bed Westminster home will receive as little as £1.7K a year in housing benefit - leaving them to pay over £25K a year rent - that is 80% of their take home wage each week. That is: "the average rent for a two bed home in Westminster is now more than 80% of the combined ne tincome of two normal working people on typical wages" which, apparently, is realistic. 

Rent levels have nothing to do with housing benefit: I have asked landlords, including our own, and been consistently told that the market is “buoyant" and rents will not go down when benefits are cut.Official research also mainly suggestsit is “unlikely rents in inner London will drop significantly”. So, what is going on here? Many campaign groups have alluded to it, Karen Buck hinted at it but was constrained by political sensitivities and even Boris took his mind off avoiding Bob Crow long enough to comment. 

What’s going on is Cameron’s Big Solution: a policy of ethnic and social cleansing which slithered in over the back of the sparkling propaganda coup of holding up to scorn and ridicule a handfull of confused refugees (people fleeing war, persecution etc) - placed by chance in expensive accommodation by Councils, describing these refugees as “asylum seekers”.They also highlighed stories about benefit cheats and “scroungers” who in reality make up a small minority of those on benefits and whose motives and reasons are actually far too diverse and complex to lump into any meaningful category.They only just stopped short of depicting these people as rats.

As Mr Cameron crudely and tritely says: “immigration and welfare reform are two sides of the same coin”. Propaganda is wont to ignore inconvenient truths: UK benefit rates are not fabulously more generous than those of many other European countries, and the bulk of refugees are put in far from salubrious accommodation. Mr Cameron asserts that Immigration has put “real pressures on communities... on schools, housing and healthcare... significant numbers of new people… not able to speak the same language...not really wanting or even willing to integrate…” and, he says of the unemployed and working poor:“if they're out of work, or on a low wage, and living in an expensive home in the centre of a city [that] the decision to go back to work, or take a better paid job could mean having to move to a cheaper home, in a different part of the city, in order to escape benefit dependency.”

How is a poor manual worker going to simply make “the decision” to take a better paid job? The combination of benefit “reforms” will force poor people to move: families like mine, single poor people, including pensioners who have worked all their lives, hard working unskilled people, the disabled and the ill. People will die: not least unsettled pensioners, those whose medical or psychiatric treatment is disrupted, those who break down (Iknow at least one recent local suicide has been directly attributed to benefit cuts).

Already disadvantaged people will be rendered utterly destitute because of the reality that hard work counts for nothing while the money you have - pretty much however you got it - counts for much.Of course, black people and other minorities will be disproportionately afflicted, because we are, in reality, more likely to be poor. So, Mr Cameron will fix “undesireable” immigration, welfare dependency and parasitism by resettling us all, somewhere out of the way of “hard working taxpayers” of the big society: so that better paid work or, indeed, any work sets us free... 

I do work, as it happens, as do more benefit claimants than are unemployed - the OECD predicts that without rent subsidy low paid workers “will be restricted to poorer areas with few jobs” where we will “become locked in a cycle of worklessness” in other words: ghettoes.Where to from there?Well, barring a miracle, thousands of us, including my family and I, are on our way to “the fringes of London” or further afield, for a start.Perhaps the Government might offer to lay on trains for us...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A thoughtful and saddening comment. Whilst I can see that it is unreasonable for the benefit system to continue to hand over vast amounts of money to keep large families in larger houses, the real problem is the unreasonable amount of rent which landlords charge. This is what should be tackled, not forcing people away from whatever roots they have established and creating the kind of poor suburbs that surround Paris.
I wonder whether another subplot of this is the removal of non Tory voters from these areas.