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 www.blairmcpherson.co.uk