[Ben Reeve Lewis is off on his holidays …]
By the time you read this article I shall be safely ensconced in a Galway pub or two with Frazzy and my excellent old mate Kate Brackpool, who lives there with her daughter Molly. I’ve got 4 days away in this excellent city where there is a week of festivities for some sort of yacht race visiting the town.
Here’s a picture of the last time we went. Frazzles hardly drinks. If she bought a bottle of wine it would last 3 months but even she took to the Guinness like a native.
We once ended up in McDonagh’s pub in Oranmore where a visiting top jockey was giving people tips. As we arrived 3 nurses had just won 600 Euros between them and one bloke had won a grand. We asked him for a tip for us and he said he was waiting for a phone call with some insider knowledge and would let us know.
Greed kicked in and we cleared out our pockets and got together 60 Euros and some fluff. The call came through, we got the name and ran next door to the betting shop and slammed it on the nose of the beast of the moment, which promptly fell over halfway around.
Then I remembered why I don’t bet, but if I was a betting man I wouldn’t lay any money on Cameron getting re-elected after his announcement on Monday that he is looking to cut housing benefit to the under 25s in future.
HB cuts for under 25s
It was reported in every paper you could think of, as you would expect. Inside Housing pointed out the bleedin obvious running a story headlined “Further welfare cuts would increase homelessness”. Well it doesn’t take a genius to figure that one out.
Graeme Brown of Shelter Scotland said:-
“At a time when many young people are already facing tough times finding work, these proposals would leave thousands with nowhere to go and also hit vulnerable young people such as care leavers or those who have experienced family breakdown.”
Cameron’s speech was peppered with questionable statistics as usual. I won’t quote any here because Joe Halewood always corrects me and to be honest, I’m rubbish at maths so I don’t understand them anyway.
What does annoy me though is the ongoing demonisation of people on benefits. I’ve written about this before. Its not that there aren’t some work-shy no-soapers out there, surviving on Special Brew and Skunk and they do irritate the hell out of me but what concerns me more is the easy political capital that is being made by simply making the equation ‘benefits = scrounger’.
Now you can pull any government speech apart and you will see they make this point themselves, that some people need benefits but it’s where they place their emphasis that is the cause of concern and you can place emphasis without actually indicating where you are placing it. Let me explain.
Have you noticed that Ian Duncan-Smith persistently uses the phrase “People who do the right thing”? Perhaps 10 times in every speech or announcement. You just KNOW that this is a planned use of the phrase.
Cognitive linguistics and IDS
In Cognitive Linguistics this is called a “Comparative deletion”, which means the phrase deletes the thing being used to compare it, in this case if you can do the right thing, there must, by implication be a wrong thing you can do and it doesn’t say what that is.
The linguistic beauty of these vague and unchallenged assertions is that nobody considers they are doing the wrong thing, so everyone can nod their heads and agree, whilst pointing the finger at those who are really doing the wrong thing and we all get a cosy glow at being with the in-crowd.
Well I have several clients IDS, who work hard, get jobs and constantly Do the Right Thing who are still getting shafted by banks repossessing their homes when they don’t have to, people working really hard and paying their taxes who are being chased by HMRC and threatened with bailiffs for not paying back taxes that were caused by an HMRC mistake in the first place.
After the election …
It didn’t escape my attention that Cameron said if they were to cut housing benefit to the under 25s it wouldn’t be until they were re-elected for a second term.
The chaos it would usher in would, if brought it in before end of term would almost certainly see them flushed down the toilet, but the promise of a bit of scrounger bashing in the future might just be a vote winner, if they can persuade the rest of us to also throw stones at the poor for long enough to make it seem normal and acceptable.
A spoof news story
On this same theme my favourite story of the week was on Newsthump a spoof news magazine that ran the headline “Slaughter of first-borns could save £50 billion in child benefit”.
The article reported Ian Duncan-Smith as saying:-
“As well as saving the country an estimated £50bn over the four years of ‘implementation’, it would mean less chaotic supermarkets, fewer 4x4s on the road, and an eerie silence when absent-mindedly walking into a crèche.”
And my favourite quote:-
“The proposed scheme, which will initially target northern cities with a high proportion of working class people, would bring an abrupt end to the ‘culture of entitlement’ to a child. The elimination of poor northern children under the age of two, if successful, could eventually be extended to less impoverished kids in London and the South East who bath on weekdays and have never used an outside toilet”.
Nice we can still laugh but I’ll bet if I had quoted this article as being a genuine news item many would have believed it, the longer things go on the more normal it starts to sound. Sorry to raise Godwin’s law but remember Weimar Germany people.
Private landlord advantage?
Finally I read with interest an article on Guardian Housing Network by landlord Aki Eliahi on what social landlords can learn from private landlords in dealing with tenants on direct payment of housing benefit when it kicks in for them in 2013.
Aki points out that PRS Landlords have the ability to respond more flexibly and move faster than social landlord organizations and how they have been working with credit unions recently to deal with the problem of LHA payments but also says that social landlords shouldn’t rely so heavily on credit unions as the solution.
So I don’t quite see the point Aki is trying to make about lessons to be learnt from the PRS. I know some landlords have cottoned on to the Credit Union Escrow system but most haven’t, and simply avoided benefit tenants, which social landlords can’t do.
Social landlords do need to drop bureaucracy and get more responsive I admit but that is a proclamation vague enough to be worthy of IDS. Its one thing to say it but what procedures and policies do you change to make it happen?
Aki, if you are reading this I would genuinely like to hear your ideas.
So I’ll bid a “Top of the morning to ya”, and promise not to take any more tips from drunk jockeys in rural pubs. See you next week Begorra.
Ben Reeve Lewis
Ben’s runs Home Saving Expert, where he shares his secrets on defending people’s homes from mortgage repossession Visit his blog and get some help and advice on mortgage difficulties, catch up with him on Twitter and check out his free report “An Encouraging note on Dealing with your Mortgage Lender” and have it sent right to your inbox.
Picture : Lord Mayor of London