I never meant to write as much as this, but my statement below needs this amount of explanation. I suggest that you go to the loo, get a cup or glass of what ever beverage you like and make yourselves comfortable before you start reading. For those who wish deeper reading, please follow the links.
Economic Cleansing – Displacement and poverty UK up to April 2013
This Government is causing the biggest movement of its citizens ever in history, and to what ends?
I am listing and explaining the changes to Benefits since April 2011 – March 2013.
When this story is put together it paints a very bleak picture for those on a low income, those on minimum wages or a fixed income, those who are unemployed and those who bounce between low paid employment and unemployment.
In my view, this government’s policies on austerity will have a profound affect on all of our lives and on every service we expect as citizens of this country.
1. Housing Changes
April 2011 – Caps on the private rented sector were introduced, (Local Housing Allowance- LHA), followed by introducing rules that mean only the bottom 30% of rental property is to be available for LHA claimants. Depending on where you live depends on the cap of LHA.
This means effectively, if you are already receiving the full amount of LHA and your rent goes up above this limit, you will have to find the difference yourself or move. The logic behind this is that Landlords will reduce the rent they charge is Housing Benefit for the Private market is reduced.
The reality has been unfortunately, that landlords have vastly reduced the number of properties it lets out to people eligible for LHA
The above change was hotly pursued by increasing the Shared
Accommodation Rate from 25 year olds to 35 year olds, meaning that you now had to be over 35 to be able to receive Housing Benefit for a one bedroom flat.
April 2012 – Affordable Rents were introduced – do not be fooled, this should be named Unaffordable Rents – look at the details, it actually means that rent in social housing started to go up to 80% of the surrounding private rents. You do not want to live on a small council of Housing Association estate in a well off area! Rents for 3bedroom council houses went up in my area by £9pw
November 2012 – Housing Waiting Registers are closed and people are now only allowed on to the register if they have a “housing need”, which means you now have to be in preferred group e.g. seriously over-crowded, disabled, along with a few other vulnerable groups.
Councils can now, by law, give homeless families an offer of a 12month rental tenancy in the private sector. On acceptance of this offer families will not be able to “bid” on social housing.
2. Benefit changes:
Child Benefit rates frozen for three years
Working Tax Credit, payment to those in low pay was reduced in several different ways and eligible childcare costs payments were reduced by 10%
The scale used to calculate future benefits increases was reduced to a lower measure – meaning benefits were due to rise at a lower rate than previously, but these raises were still linked to inflation.
Couples with children must work at least 24 hours a week between them, with one working at least 16 hours to qualify for WTC – there are a few exceptions – Previously couples with children only needed to work 16 hours before claiming Working Tax Credits
If you had been claimed sickness benefit for one year, your claim is now terminated if your partner is working and earning more than around £140 per week. A sick person after this date is now reliant on their partner to financially provide for them.
Compounding this situation people, The Government is only just half way through moving sick people who have been claiming Incapacity Benefit to the new sickness benefit Employment and Support Allowance . Those found “fit for work” lose between £28 – £32pw – see blog Swim or Sink part 2
Benefit increases capped at 1% for benefits, including Working Tax Credits and people working in The Public Sector. Superseding the changes of April 2011. This new change has the affect of removing benefit increases from inflation, meaning a £3 to £5 loss per week for the lowest paid members of society.
For a full list and explanation of changes 2011-2013 http://www.turn2us.org.uk/information__resources/benefits/benefits_news_and_changes/benefit_changes_timetable/2011_benefit_changes.aspx
Impact pre April 2013
Homelessness and going without the essentials
Private Rental Sector
The upshot of the above changes, plus the rise in the cost of living and stagnation or reduction in wages, is that many people have become homeless in the Private Rental Sector as they are unable to pay their rent as it has increased. There has been an increase in homelessness for this group of 27% over the same period in 2011. although these figures seem to be only accepted homeless applications.
Single people under the age of 35 would not have an application for homelessness accepted as they are not deemed “in priority need”
It is these “accepted applications” that have been making headlines over the last year. It is this group that has been housed outside of their local area, in some cases, hundreds of miles away, as their Local Councils do not have enough suitable accommodation for them. http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/nov/04/london-boroughs-housing-families-outside-capital
To this group we can add struggling homeowners, who are equaling facing difficult choices – There were 35,900 new arrears cases in 2012 Sept (Q3). This was an increase of 4% on last quarter and of 3% on Q3 last year (para 14).
Although the total number of accounts in arrears at the end of the quarter rose in 2012 Sept (Q3), up 2% to 303,200, this was 7% less than the 324,300 accounts in Q3 2011
http://www.fsa.gov.uk/library/other_publications/statistics – This latest edition covers the period from 2011 July 2011 (Q2) to the 2012 Sept (Q3).
Finally, cuts to benefits and housing entitlement, along with the increase cost of living adds those groups who live on a low or fixed income, those unemployed and those who are dependent on benefits to be able to move around or have a better quality of life.
We already have, before new benefit changes in April, a large population of people in this country who are struggling to pay their bills. For the vast majority. it’s not that they don’t want to, it is because they do not earn enough money. So now they cannot afford to stay in the communities that they have known for many years, in some cases all their lives.
Yes. we are always being told that the Housing Benefit bill has gone up since 2009, but so has redundancy, unemployment and part time working.
The Government is breaking up communities that have existed for years by removing people from family support systems, friends and local jobs. It is traumatic enough being made homeless, let alone then being forced to live miles away, all because you are priced out of an area that once use to be affordable.
We are storing up problems for the future as we uproot children from their friends and schooling, as we move people, most of whom do not want to move, to places that they don’t want to go to?
We will be counting the cost for many years.