Today the news is carrying a story about Newham Council who, for various reasons, are unable to provide housing for the tennants in their borough.
For anyone that doesn’t know, possibly the journalists reporting on it and their commissioning editors, this is how Housing Benefit works:
- Claimants can claim up to the maximum housing benefit based on the local housing allowance.
- Local housing allowance is supposed to reflect the current market rental rates.
- A claimant’s housing allowance is based on the number of bedrooms they are entitled to, this is based on the number of people that live with them.
- Children under the age of 10 are expected to share bedroom, regardless of sex, only when children reach 10 are they credited with privacy for a sibling of the opposite sex. If they are same sex siblings they are expected to share a bedroom until they are 16.
- Housing Benefit is a means tested benefit, as a claimant’s income increases the amount they are entitled to decreases.
And here is something that the housing minister Grant Shapps might like to consider:
- Families on working tax credit can be eligible for housing benefit.
Here is Mr Shapps as quoted in The Guardian today;
“It can’t be right to have people on housing benefit living on streets which hard-working families cannot afford to live on.”
This quote suggests that Mr Shapps either doesn’t understand how Housing Benefit works and who is eligible to claim it or he is deliberately using divisive language to vilify claimants and reinforce the notion of benefit claimants as an undeserving, potentially fraudulent underclass profiting at the expense of the upstanding workforce of the country.
I’ve written about this before, I doubt I need to point you at the usual suspects in terms of the press coverage that supports and reinforces this notion, but in Grant Shapps we can see an MP actually briefing against the people his department should seek to protect and represent.
Here are some other things Mr Shapps and his cronies in power might like to consider:
- If there was more social housing owned by councils Housing Benefit monies would be paid back into the government coffers rather than into the deep pockets of landlords. Think of it as economic recycling.
- If Housing Benefit is supposed to reflect market rates but market rates increase as government caps Housing Benefit, you are reducing available housing stock. Where are people to live?
- As the government seeks to claw back taxes by reducing benefit payments, yet rents and living costs increase, where is the extra money to come from from the budgets of hard pressed families to come from? For many there is no such thing as “disposable income”.
- When the minimum wage is not a living wage, most “hard-working” families are also in receipt of some kind of “benefit”. Go figure!