Benefit cuts: Reality beyond the rhetoric

Behind the rhetoric of “imaginative reforms to bring down the bloated welfare budget” the reality of what cuts mean in the lives of some of the poorest and most vulnerable in society is starting to emerge.

Three stories show the tragic reality of cuts, as they start to play out in the lives of those already struggling to make ends meet.  I warn you, these are not easy stories to read…

The Daily Mail described George Osborne’s latest plans to slash a further £10 billion from the incomes of the poorest in the UK as “a series of imaginative reforms to bring down the bloated welfare budget.”  According to the Daily Telegraph  people living in benefit-dependent households have been urged by the Prime Minister to “go out and work” rather than complain about the loss of welfare payments.

But beyond the world of soundbites and ‘imaginative reforms’, what is it actually like to be at the sharp end of benefit cuts?

“The cap on benefits will leave my family £80 a week worse off”

Last month, one mother from the South East of England has shared with us a letter which illustrates the shattering impact the impending ‘benefits cap’ is already having on families.

“I am a full-time parent with a child just three years old, and I am claiming certain benefits as a result of being the victim of a marriage breakdown, and I also have other children in full-time education, all of them I will hasten to add were born during my marriage.

The cap on benefits will leave my family an astonishing £80 a week worse off. This huge sum of money would have a negative effect on our family if it was just once a month, but alarmingly it is every week.

I have considered at length and in great detail since this devastating news, as to what household cuts I could possibly make to try to find this money, and all avenues are completely exhausted.  The only possible cut I could make would mean having less than £10 per day to feed and clothe a family of six including myself: this is without the addition of essential household items as well.

Taken as a whole this would not only have a damaging effect on my children’s education, but my future employment, as I would not be able to afford clothing for job interviews and work.”

“I face the prospect of losing the only place that I have ever been able to call home”

On Saturday, Katy shared her story with a packed ‘Poverty in Calderdale’ conference in Halifax.  Katy, in her mid twenties, spoke powerfully about the impact of the new ‘single room rent’ requirement within Housing Benefit.  After suffering abuse, a failed relationship, and poor mental health as a result, she is now – for the first time in her life – living in a two bedroom flat.  In her own words, it is the first time she has ever felt that it is a place she can call ‘home’.

Tragically, this is now under threat:  As a result of benefit cuts, as a single person under 35, from 2013, Katy will only be eligible for Housing Benefit for bed-sit accommodation or one room in shared accommodation.  She is petrified of what will happen. Will she be forced to give up her home come next year?  None of the local councillors present could shed any light.

But what was made clear by the local authority housing officer present was that even if she felt able to downsize, there were few, if any options available locally.  Halifax has a shortage of one bed flats – and the ones which have been built in recent years, mainly loft apartments in old mills, are out of her price range..

Families on benefits in Manchester forced out of rich areas following welfare cuts

According to yesterday’s Manchester Evening News, families on benefits are being forced out of affluent areas of Manchester due to welfare cuts which threaten to ‘rip apart the social fabric’ of the city, campaigners have warned.

A cap on housing benefit has put entire districts of the city beyond the budget of claimants seeking to rent from private landlords.  A snapshot survey of the housing market by the Citizens Advice Bureau found there was not a single affordable home in Chorlton or the city centre for those on housing benefit.

The CAB found that across Manchester, only one in 20 homes advertised for rent in July could be afforded on housing benefit. The cap was introduced earlier this year for those renting from private landlords – equivalent to £64 a week for a room in a shared house, and £126 a week for a three-bed house.

Talk of slashing the bloated benefits bills is easy: Facing up to the reality of what this means for thousands of hard pressed families is something else.  Would that politicians and pundits did more of the latter – and less of the former.

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5 Responses to Benefit cuts: Reality beyond the rhetoric

  1. Ben11 says:

    Hopefully, although I wouldn’t be convinced, this will encourage a reduction in rent prices. Those who have made investments in the good times will still make their money back but the rise in rental costs skyrocketed when things were good. Perhaps private landlords can come back down to earth and charge less – the whole ‘we’re all in it together’ buzzphrase springs to mind. The problem is, those who have made investments probably aren’t in a massive rush to cut prices as they’re the same people who’ve probably got lots of savings. The poorest, who will be hit sharply and suddenly by the benefit cuts need action to reduce rents NOW. When passing legislation, this should have been considered, and maybe something along the lines of a cap on rental prices (based on property value) could be introduced…

  2. agewait says:

    I worked for approximately 35 years prior to my ‘retirement on health grounds’ – not my decision, a medical decision. I have been diagnosed with chronic heart-related problems, under-developed coronary arteries, angina, and chronic muscular-skeletal, hypertension and high blood pressure, arthritis in various joints, most painful in both hands sporadic immobility in both hands. I worked has a community development worker – a vocation I loved/love.
    However, if you listen to the propaganda the constant drip, drip, drip to aid and abet the dismantling of our Welfare state – I am a “benefit scrounger”. I am used to tackling those who label, to dismiss but the shameful use of divide to rule has been the only policy this hireling government has implemented to maximum impact! Labelling, categorising and dismissing over a pro-longed period does have an impact – it is depressing to see the softminded manipulated so easily and with such a mean and nasty impact as to see the hate crimes against the disabled rise so dramatically. It is disgraceful.
    I have always been highly committed to my vocation, and I was more than content to pay my fair share of tax and national insurance. On the full understanding that such contributions are for the benefit of people who for whatever reason were/are claiming benefits – supporting the vulnerable, the disabled, the unemployed person is a mark of a compassionate and just society – Everyone is only one illness or one accident, or one redundancy away from suddenly becoming a person who requires support – social security! The vast, vast majority of people are hardworking contributors to our tax and social security system to aid all in such times. I still pay tax – VAT… I have been shunted from one benefit to another I was on Incapacity, then ATOS intervened and was suddenly cured of all ailments, according to ATOS… but not according to various medical qualified professionals including my own GP and after putting in my Appeal in July 2011, I was placed in the ESA Support groups after winning the appeal, I was informed of this NINE Months later, in March 2012. At the same time I received further ATOS correspondence asking me to attend yet another WCA – Work Capability Assessment… What absolute chaos has been inflicted at such a massive cost to the Taxpayer by introducing a further layer (Private layer) to the process that was until a few years ago an in-house process done by the DWP itself? Now we have a third (Private) party involved at a cost to the taxpayer of £100 million pounds a year – I wonder how much of this DWP budget and rise in Welfare Cost is due to such shortsighted management?

    Last Saturday I received the dreaded ‘Brown-Envelope’ however, this time it was from the Local Authority – who had written to inform me:
    “From April 2013, the government is abolishing council tax benefit as part of its welfare reforms. Instead, all councils must develop a local council tax support scheme. Because the government is reducing our funding, it is likely that most people who are currently receiving council tax benefit (except pensioners) will have to pay something towards their council tax in the future. (20%, could be 30%). The law that will allow council tax benefit to be abolished is currently going through Parliament. It’s possible that there may be some slight changes to the law as it goes through Parliament, but we wanted to consult you now so that you have plenty of time to give us your views.”

    Because I am on a severely restricted income/budget I receive a full discount on my Council Tax Bill. My Council Tax bill would be around £969.80 per year – The Council wrote to tell me I am expected to pay at least 20% of the Bill next year; if the Bill remains the same has this years Bill then I am expected to pay approximately: £180.00.

    I wonder if a ‘legal minded’ person might not consider this demand to pay 20% of a tax with an income/benefit that is supported by the Taxpayer is not seeking to deduct Tax twice from the same monies? A Tax already deducted to support Benefits is then being taxed again? Is this legal?

    Adrian.

    Ps – I have already received comments that “I am lucky to only be paying 20%… and people like you (me) are getting too much already. And, I should get out to work!” So sad… so sad!

  3. I started work on the 10th of September, my Job Seekers was stopped on 9th September, I do not get paid until 15th October because I am working a month in hand. I have been blessed because I have good friends who have been helping me, but what about other people? This is why people are not taking jobs, how can they, espercially if they have bills that must be paid. People need more money, not less (or none) during the first few months at work.

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