From Shameless to Shameful


I have a friend who works for a Housing Association in a very deprived part of Manchester. She is angry and upset on behalf of tenants many of whom are unemployed or disabled, all are low income families. The housing stock is ex council and as such is mostly 3 bedroom family homes. The Governments Welfare Benefit changes include a proposal to make tenants pay for their “spare “rooms. Thus freeing up under occupied houses but where will those forced out go? The HA in question doesn’t have 1 and 2 bed room properties to rent. So they will be forced into the private rented sector and at the mercy of the market. It not hard to imagine the knock on effect taking us back to the days of vulnerable young unemployed people sleeping rough on the streets of our Towns and Cities.

The Welfare reforms all so include another “good idea” designed to simplify the benefits system and reduce admin costs. Under this proposal instead of Housing Benefit being paid direct to the HA all the welfare benefits will be paid in one sum to one named person in the household. No doubt this seem very sensible to comfortably off MP’s and those intelligent policy makers the PM recently encouraged us leave to get on with it but when you’re poor, very poor it’s a struggle to manage the family finances. There are competing demands, do we eat to night or do we have the heating on? Which bills do we pay this month? Under the present system the rent always gets paid so they may be cold and hungry but they have a roof over their heads. But if you had a choice would you let the kids cry with hunger or spent the rent money? Or perhaps you would buy time with a pay day loan at a legal but totally immoral 1000% interest! Good parents should not have to make such choices bad parents probably won’t see the rent as a priority until they face eviction. HAs will have no choice but to evict more people as rent arrears threaten their viability. What will happen to those evicted? Will we see more families in bed and breakfast, more families split up and children taken into care because they have no home?

And these changes were to make a simpler fairer system?  

Blair McPherson

Security level: Public

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Andy C 9 Years Ago
The problems you've highlighted are very accurate and disturbing. As a Foster Carer I see children who come from the families you’ve described. Many of the Mothers who have their children taken into care are often the victims of Domestic Violence. So it would be a safe to assume the man would spend any rent money. He’s not going to care or he wouldn’t be hurting his family with violence in the first place (if he’s even on the rent book). I’ve lived amongst good people who have struggled to manage their families (especially around Christmas) on a couple of well-known estates in Leeds. I lived in a place called Gipton and then Seacroft for over a decade. They’re not areas most people would like to live but there are a lot of extremely decent and honourable people living there. Anti Social Behaviour was a problem because the Police, Housing Officers and the ASB departments didn’t deal with it. Trying to get out of an area like that is a nightmare because you’re stigmatised by the reputation your estate has and the people who created the problem are the very people who allowed it to get that bad in the first place (the Police, Council and ASB departments). If you’re not setting boundaries and controlling bad behaviour then you can expect the vacuum to be filled with something and it tends to be anti social. People who will be targeted for under occupancy won’t be able to move with their friends and neighbours to an area of choice. They’ll be displaced, possibly to a hard-to-let area around the city. You’ve only got to look at the available houses to know why some areas have available "hard-to-let" housing (I might sound like I’m turning up my nose but I’m not at all). I was a private hire taxi driver for many years and I know there are areas where crime is a problem for the victims because there is no support. Support was put in place for bad families (who in my case weren’t even from that area. They’d used the priority system to get a house and the community/street was destroyed as ASB steadily took over). A Family who have drug and alcohol problems with Social Services involvement will trump the needs of their neighbours complaints about them. They will be given support and eviction will be very difficult. When they do get evicted the destroyed house will get repaired at great cost to the tax-payer and they will get re-housed in another Council house with a new kitchen, bathroom central heating etc (so long as they agree to move before they're evicted). Their ASB won't go away however. It will become someone elses problem and then someone elses. The worst news any remaining (nice tenants) could get was our neighbours were moving because we knew a troublesome family might be moving in. The priority system favours families with problems and not always people I would consider deserving. At the end we were the only Family working on our bit of street). Now good families are getting a kicking after years of looking after the house and garden while the bad tenants (who could free up housing stock) will get help and support to move and settle. Many struggling families make ends meet by not declaring a partner as living there (especially if the CSA are involved somewhere). Lots of these people are not bad people but circumstances led them to find ways to feed and clothe their families/step families. Some people get sucked down by a few little events (like a washer breaking, illness, debt, Christmas etc) and they end up needing to defraud a system that should be there to support them. Can I add that my daughter’s friends called our street "Shameless Street" because some of the street tenants were always sat on their front step drinking lager until the evening when they started arguing. Music blasted from their parked cars with open windows throughout the day and blasted from windows at night. The ASB department never showed up. If those people were dealt with, there might not be a need to persecute good folk for under occupancy. Social Housing should be a privilege not a right.