A monthly look at life in social housing land
2013 is the year of the apocalypse. Anyone working in front facing housing services has been dreading this year for quite some time.
The four horsemen of 2013 are
- Bedroom tax
- The overall benefit cap
- Universal credit and
- Direct payments of housing benefit to social housing tenants
And just like the luckless population of ancient Judea, those most affected by this new apocalypse have no idea that it is even coming.
Today I interviewed two of my tenant clients, whose landlords had twigged to the oncoming debacle and are not going to be renewing their tenancy agreements.
Neither of these women want to force their landlord to get a possession order and have been trying to find alternative accommodation but nobody will touch them with a barge-pole.
They are financial lepers.
I explained the 4 horsemen above and one burst into tears as she realised the writing that is most definitely on the wall.
I suggested that she might be better served moving well outside of London and back to Leicester, where she fled domestic violence 2 years ago but she pointed to her mum, who was knocked down by a car last year and is in a care unit in Streatham, with only her daughter left to keep in touch.
What will she do? Move back to Leicester where her safety is under threat? Who then cares for mum? Decisions, decisions.
July for the benefits cap
The overall benefit cap throws it’s withered, ghostly leg over the saddle in July. At the moment a claimant gets their DWP benefits and separate payments from Housing benefit.
Come July it all changes. If your rent is £1,000 per month and you get £800 per month in DWP benefits then all housing benefit will pay is the £200 per month top up to meet the rent.
Stephanie Bottril – The first victim
Bedroom tax has already thrown it’s similarly rotting limb into the stirrups on April 1st and claimed his first victim in the shape of poor Stephanie Bottril, who killed herself last weekend, leaving a suicide note blaming the government for putting her home at risk.
Disabled from a very early age, Stephanie was hit by bedroom tax which put her £80 per month in debt and in danger of losing her family home.
Lord Fraud, the architect of this arrogant madness commented:-
“Clearly it is a desperately sad and tragic event, as you say. I and my colleagues send our condolences to the family. I’m not in a position to make any more comment. The relevant authorities need to investigate exactly what happened.”
Is it me? Or is that a cop out answer? We all know exactly what happened. Stephanie stepped out in front of a truck, leaving behind an articulate note with no ambiguities in it about the reason for her actions. What is it that the authorities need to investigate?
One of my clients this morning was of the opinion that crime will rise as people struggle to make ends meet. I heartily agree.
But it would appear that despite this vicious attack already being enshrined in law, nobody is taking it lying down.
Several cases were in the high court this week, confronting government in ways that challenge the UKIP/Daily Mail/IDS version of life at the bottom of the fish tank
Rebekah Carrier of solicitors Hopkin Murray Beskine who are mounting some of the 10 cases said:
“My clients are disabled children and their families who don’t have a ‘spare’ room.
Two of the families I represent have fled serious domestic violence and have only recently been able to settle down in their new, safe homes.
One family who were able to move to a suitable home after many years in appalling housing conditions have been told that their son would need to go into residential care if they moved to a smaller home.
This would cost the tax payer hundreds of thousands of pounds and would separate a disabled child from his family.”
And people are getting organised around this banner in ways that haven’t been witnessed for some years.
A coalition of campaign groups and trade unions have formed – ‘Benefit Justice’ – and are mounting a mass, national protest on the 1st of June, to coincide with Europe wide protests against austerity governance
Linda Burnip of the group Disabled People Against Cuts said:-
“Ministers are literally killing us with their savage and unjust cuts to housing, disability and other benefits. The war on benefits must stop now – never again.”
Whilst Eileen Short of Defend Council Housing said:-
“We do hold this Government responsible, and will tell every minister so, collectively and individually. The nation-wide day of protest on 1 June will honour Stephanie Bottrill’s memory in the best way we know.”
People are galvanising across the country, rallying to this particular flagpole and this is just the start.
Before you all attack me with accusations of being some pinko socialist agitator, be aware that I am simply reporting what I read and the comments made by my client’s on the front line of housing world.
Much is being made this week about a referendum on staying in Europe but while government’s eyes are distracted elsewhere a bigger storm is brewing.
Not just in the UK either. Anti-austerity campaigns are springing up by the day.
It’s first manifestation in the UK is over Bedroom Tax but we still have to see the introduction of the benefit cap, universal credit and direct payments of HB.
Once those particular horsemen begin to nibble at the cud of the poorest, other campaigns and acts of defiance will start to surface and as is always the case with these things, there is a ready army of organisers waiting in the wings to maximise effects.
As the Chinese curse goes “May you live in interesting times”. We certainly do.