Benefit cap bringing more misery to many

by Sandra Webster

With the media’s attention on the death of Thatcher, it was a good time to bury bad news. This included the latest in a number of benefit reforms which are designed to pave the way to Universal Credit.

A benefit cap of £500 has been introduced as a pilot as in four London boroughs of Bromley, Croydon Enfield and Haringey. From July to September the cap will be rolled out to all of London.
Using their usual “divide and conquer” techniques, the ConDems claim that those not in work should not earn more than those who are. The figures for them mean £350 for a single person and £500 for a family with any amount of children.

Most benefits are included in their calculation including child benefit and carer’s allowance. The only exemption are working tax credits and disability living allowance or the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP). £500 seems a large amount of money especially when backed up with “evidence” from the Daily Mail and its like which describes people living in the lapse of luxury in properties at the taxpayer’s expense in the exclusive neighbourhoods of Belgravia.

Haringey and Croydon seem a million miles away from such areas with their problems of deprivation and poverty. The issue is that spiralling astronomical rents mean a large amount of benefit is made up of housing support and many people in work are also in receipt of housing benefit. Many low paid workers in central and the City of London are forced to live hours away from their employment increasing the costs of transport and child care.

Although carers of children under 16 will not be affected, those who have elderly parents or adult dependants living with them will be unless the lease is in the cared for person’s name.
Alan Graham, the chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, has expressed his concerns that over 200,000 more children will be forced into poverty and homelessness. Some London writers have commented that some neighbourhoods in London will face “social cleansing” with only the rich and privileged being able to afford the housing costs of Inner London.

There are other ways the housing benefit bill could be solved without blaming tenants. In London and in some areas of Scotland to council houses stand next to homes owned by private landlords .
These landlords charge a market rent far above that of a social landlord. However, encouraging the landlords to offer a fairer rent is the stuff we socialists dream of for an Independent Scotland.

Sitting up in “North Britain” it is tempting to such policies do not affect us but there are many areas where homes for rent are out of the price of ordinary working people. When the Universal Credit is rolled out – into a single payment, many more will be affected.

Many councils are saying they won’t evict their tenants due to non payment of the Bedroom Tax. What might happen a year down the line when people’s benefit is cut even more and they cannot pay their rent? These are the bigger questions we should begin to ask ourselves now, so we can be prepared for the future.