DPAC Report into abuse of statistics by the Department for Work and Pensions and UK Government Ministers

At the end of June, the Department for Work and Pensions will be releasing their Annual Report.

Iain Duncan Smith and his hench-ministers will no doubt be touring the TV studios to deliver more propaganda about worklessness and disability.

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) have released their own report of the DWP.

The report outlines 35 cases where Ministerial claims using statistics on the subject of Work and Benefits have fallen short of the standards expected of Government Ministers. DPAC believe that this demonstrates a consistent pattern of abuse of official statistics by Ministers of the present Government to paint a false picture of benefit claimants in the UK in support of policies which are aimed at cost cutting to the detriment of jobless, sick and disabled people.Within the document, each case is presented, and fully referenced to source material throughout.

When you next see Iain Duncan Smith on the TV News, ask yourself – is he lying? or is he simply making it up out of thin air again?

We’ve decided that he’s lying.

dpacDPAC is a grass roots campaign body. It was formed by a group of disabled people after the first mass protest against the austerity cuts and their impact on disabled people held on the 3rd October in Birmingham 2010, England. It was led by disabled people under the name of The Disabled Peoples’ Protest. DPAC has over 15,000 members and supporters and works with many anti-cuts groups, Universities, Disabled Peoples’ Organizations, and Unions

Chancellor’s spending plans are toxic

Another Spending Review, yet more bad news for public services, the people who work in them and benefit claimants. TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: ‘This is a toxic mix of bad economics, nasty politics and dishonest presentation.

‘The last thing our struggling economy needs is further cuts to spending to try to close a deficit made worse by the Chancellor’s earlier cuts. When the medicine is not working and side effects are choking the patient you need a change in treatment not more of the same.

‘Many services will be hard hit. Worst of all is a new attack on some of the most vulnerable in our society through the seven day wait and other conditions for social security payments. The Chancellor may think attacks on welfare go down well with voters, but these will lead to parents not having enough cash to feed their children.

‘And for all the talk of new investment, the truth is that the overall capital spend in 2015 will be exactly the same as the Chancellor forecast in his Budget earlier this year.’

Public service pay and jobs squeeze goes on

The Chancellor announced ‘further reductions in the number of people working in the public sector’ – a cut of 144,000 jobs. Looking at the small print of the OBR’s March 2013 report (p79), this appears to be a confirmation of the OBR projection made back at the time of the Budget. So, as they predicted, an average of 36,000 public service jobs a quarter (395 a day) will still be being cut in 2015-16 as a result of government policies, on track with their estimate of a total of 1 million job cuts from the beginning of 2011 to the start of 2018.

He also confirmed another Budget announcement, that there would be a further year’s 1 per cent cap on pay increases in the public sector, following the two or three year 1 per cent cap and two or three year freeze (depending on where you work). What this means in practice, of course, is living standards falling further and further as real terms pay cuts bite. TUC research published earlier this week showed the impact this had had on households, pushing 180,000 children with a parent in the public sector into poverty.

Seven days wait for family and housing benefits for unemployed claimants

Full information on what the new ‘seven day waiting period’ for unemployed claimants will mean is not yet available. But from what’s available so far it doesn’t look good for people who lose their jobs, or their families. The CSR policy costings document specifies that the policy will:

Introduce seven waiting days in Universal Credit for new claimants that have not had a Universal Credit claim in the past six months, where at least one person in the household is subject to conditionality. This costing assumes a 2015-16 start date for the measure.

The measure is forecast to save around £250 million a year, and is calculated on the basis that:

From April 2015 new awards of Universal Credit in each month for claimants who would be subject to conditionality are reduced by the average amount of Universal Credit claimed per claimant per week.

UC claimants ‘who will be subject to conditionality’ includes a very large group of claimants currently on Jobseeker’s Allowance and could even be taken to mean that those on Income Support (a benefit claimed primarily by lone parents with very young children), or those subject to the benefit cap, are included. Today’s announcement that lone parents will have to start preparing for work once their children are three underlines this point. People in these groups face conditions, just not to actively apply for jobs. More details on which conditionality regime this new policy will apply to is needed before we can rule certain groups out of this new process. We do know that at least those claiming Employment and Support Allowance and contributory JSA will not be affected.

chanc

It is also not just unemployed claimants who are affected, those ‘not earning as much as the government expects them to’ will also see their income fall. This means people earning less than the NMW at 35 hours a week (or whatever their specific rule is – requirements will be less for those who are only required to seek part-time work). Households who are working, but see their income fall, will now have to wait a week to claim UC even if they remain in work with reduced hours during this period.

But the most worrying point is that Universal Credit will bring together all cash benefits into a single payment – so a delay in UC can also mean a delay in benefits currently classified as child and working tax credits, housing benefit, council tax benefits and many more. This policy sounds as if it will do far more than simply affect access to £71.70 of JSA for unemployed claimants (hard as that would be by itself) – it looks as if it is also their rent, their bills and their children’s food costs which won’t be met.

The Macroeconomics of the CSR

James Plunkett, director of policy and development at the Resolution Foundation, stated the £11.5bn of cuts for 2015/16 have been pencilled in for sometime and today was more about getting the detail than the direction of travel. James also noted:

The Chancellor needs a further £13bn in both 2016-17 and 2017-18 on top of today’s cuts in order to meet his deficit targets.

In other words, under the current fiscal framework, there is a lot more pain to come.

So the bigger questions today should be about that fiscal framework. It has utterly failed. The triple A rating has been lost, austerity has been extended from 4 years to at least 8, debt/GDP will still be rising at the end of this Parliament and the fiscal rules have either been broken (falling debt/GDP) or proved meaningless (the rolling structural deficit target).

Sources:

Public service pay and jobs squeeze goes onAlice HoodTouchstone Blog Copyright © 2013 Trades Union Congress

Seven days wait for family and housing benefits for unemployed claimantsNicola SmithTouchstone Blog Copyright © 2013 Trades Union Congress

The Macroeconomics of the CSR
Duncan WeldonTouchstone Blog Copyright © 2013 Trades Union Congress

Bournemouth Council response to open email about Bedroom Tax

BPACC recently sent an open email to Bournemouth Borough Council about the Bedroom Tax following an article in the council’s Spring edition of Home News that stated some people were ‘protected’ and we asked for clarification.

We also expressed our concerns that Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) were not a viable long term solution as they fail to give people with disabilities the assurance that their housing needs are secure and asked the council several questions.

Shown below are BPACC’s questions and the council’s response received this week:

1) Question: Is Bournemouth Borough Council exempting all people stipulated in the Home News article from the ‘Bedroom Tax’?
Council response: No. Unfortunately, the article gave the impression that disabled people are not affected whereas, in fact, they are not exempt from the under-occupation rules.

2) Question: Where it is determined that people are entitled to DHP, will funds be made available for all cases irrespective of whether the money allocated by central government is exhausted?
Council response: The DHP fund is being carefully managed so that funds are available for all cases where it is determined that help should be given. The Council has the option to top up the fund to a “prescribed limit” if the central government funding should become exhausted but cannot go beyond that limit.

3) Question: Will DLA income be taken into account when assessing a family’s income?
Council response: Not for assessing entitlement to Housing Benefit but would be taken into account when deciding whether to award DHP.

4) Question: Where parents or guardians of children receiving DLA no longer live together, will both households will receive DHPs?
Council response: DHP can only be awarded if someone is receiving HB. So if no parent received HB no DHP would be considered. If only one parent received HB, DHP could only be considered for the parent who received HB. However, if both parents received HB each DHP application is judged on its own merits so there might be circumstances where both parents could get a DHP.
The child will normally be taken into consideration in the household where child benefit is payable and that is the household where the DHP would be normally be considered for if a disabled child was the reason for the application.

Following these responses we have asked follow up questions, below are the council’s replies:

1) What steps are Bournemouth Borough Council planning to take to make this clear to residents?
Council response: The under-occupation rules only affect those in local authority properties and housing associations. All affected residents have been written to at least twice by Housing Benefit staff. The Council’s Housing Management Team has been proactive by contacting their tenants to discuss the options open to them. It is understood that housing associations have done the same.

2) What are the criteria for making an application for DHP and determining whether help should be given; and what is the level of the “prescribed limit”?
Council response: Please see the relevant page on the Council’s website. The prescribed limit is 2.5 times the Government contribution which for Bournemouth equates to a limit of £1,256, 630

The Bedroom Tax is a cynical attack on the poorest in our society. Questions have been submitted to both Bournemouth and Poole Councils asking for assurances that no residents will be evicted due to rent arrears accrued through the Bedroom Tax. These assurances were not given click here for Bournemouth’s response and click here for Poole’s response.

The People’s Assembly: Draft statement and proposed action plan

The declaration below represents the beginning of a democratic process leading towards a second People’s Assembly in early 2014. This declaration represents the views of all those who initially called for the People’s Assembly. We hope it will be endorsed by the People’s Assembly on 22nd June. It will then be open to the local People’s Assembly’s, union bodies and campaign groups who support the People’s Assembly to suggest amendments, additions, or deletions. These will then all be discussed and decided upon at the recall People’s Assembly in 2014.

The plans for action are simply the most obvious rallying points for a national anti-cuts movement for the remainder of 2013. They are not intended to supersede local or sectional action by existing campaigns or trade unions. They are intended to be focus national, collective action by the whole anti-austerity movement.

The People’s Assembly, meeting in Westminster Central Hall, declares:

We face a choice that will shape our society for decades to come. It is a choice faced by ordinary people in every part of the globe.

We can defend education, health and welfare provision funded from general taxation and available to all, or we can surrender the gains that have improved the lives of millions of people for over more than 50 years.

We do not accept that government’s austerity programme is necessary. The banks and the major corporations should be taxed at a rate which can provide the necessary resources. Austerity does not work: it is a failure in its own terms resulting in neither deficit reduction nor growth. It is not just: the government takes money from the pockets of those who did not cause the crisis and rewards those who did. It is immoral: our children face a bleaker future if our services and living standards are devastated. It is undemocratic: at the last election a majority voted against the return of a Tory government. The Con-Dem coalition has delivered us into the grip of the Tories’ whose political project is the destruction of a universal welfare state.

We therefore choose to resist. We refuse to be divided against ourselves by stories of those on ‘golden pensions’, or of ‘scroungers’, or the ‘undeserving poor’. We do not blame our neighbours, whatever race or religion they maybe. We are not joining the race to the bottom. We stand with the movement of resistance across Europe.

We are clear in our minds that our stand will require us to defend the people’s right to protest, and so we support the right of unions and campaigns to organise and take such action as their members democratically decide is necessary.

We stand with all those who have made the case against the government so far: in the student movement, in the unions, in the many campaigns to defend services, the NHS, and in the Coalition of Resistance, the People’s Charter, UK Uncut, the environmental movement and the Occupy movement.

We do not seek to replace any organisations fighting cuts. All are necessary. But we do believe that a single united national movement is required to challenge more effectively a nationally led government austerity programme.

We have a plain and simple goal: to make government abandon its austerity programme. If it will not it must be replaced with one that will.

We will concentrate on action not words. We aim to provide the maximum solidarity for unions and other organisations and others taking action. We support every and all effective forms action and aim to build a united national movement of resistance.

Our case is clear. The government’s austerity programme does not work; it is unjust, immoral and undemocratic. Alternatives exist. Debts can be dropped. Privatisation can be reversed and common ownership embraced. A living wage can begin to combat poverty. Strong trade unions can help redistribute profit. The vast wealth held by corporations and the trillions held by the super rich in tax havens can be tapped. Green technology, alternatives to the arms industries, a rebuilt infrastructure including growth in manufacturing are all desperately needed. We are fighting for an alternative future for this generation and for those that come after us.

Proposed actions:

  • The People’s Assembly will support every genuine movement and action taken against any and all of the cuts. We support all current industrial actions by the unions. We encourage and will help to organise the maximum solidarity action with the PCS and teaching union members taking strike action the week after the People’s Assembly, as well as with other action by unions planned for the autumn.
  • Peoples Assemblies against the cuts should be organised in towns and cities across our nations, bringing all those fighting the cuts together into a broad democratic alliance on a local basis.
  • The national and the local Assemblies, in partnership with Trades Unions, Trades Councils, campaigning and community groups, can unite our movement and strengthen our campaigns. Local Assemblies will help us to organise a recalled National Assembly to review our work in the early spring of 2014.
  • We will work together with leading experts and campaigners both here and abroad, and friendly think tanks, to develop rapidly key policies and an alternative programme for a new anti-austerity government. We will continue to welcome support from all who fight the cuts.
  • We will call a national day of civil disobedience and direct action against austerity.
  • We will call a day of co-ordinated local demonstrations in the early autumn.
  • We will work with the trade unions and others to call a national demonstration in November.

tpa1 black

UK 24th out of 33 in global race for economic growth

The UK is experiencing a slower economic recovery than 23 of the 33 advanced economies monitored by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), according to new analysis published by the TUC on 9th May.

The research, which comes as the IMF begins its two week visit to Britain today, says UK income per head – economic growth that takes account of population change – will not return to its pre-crash level until 2017.

By contrast, income per head in Germany and the US will be over 10 per cent higher a decade on from the financial crisis, while South Asian economies are set to have growth of over 20 per cent.

The TUC says the figures, which are based on the IMF’s latest GDP forecasts, reveal that the UK risks enduring a ‘lost decade of growth’, while many of its economic rivals forge ahead.

With the Chancellor identifying an economic ‘global race’ as the defining challenge for the government, the TUC report shows how George Osborne’s own strategy is causing the UK to fall behind its competitors.

The study also reveals how the UK is emerging from recession at a slower rate than at any time in its recent history.

In 1985, UK income per head was six per cent higher than it was before the 1980 crash. In 1995, UK income per head was seven per cent higher than it was before the 1990 recession. UK income per head is today still six per cent below its 2008 level.

The Chancellor cannot blame Europe for the UK’s economic woes, as the vast majority of the Eurozone’s countries are performing better, says the TUC.

George Osborne faces further embarrassment this week when he hosts a meeting of the G7 finance ministers on Friday. Only Italy are experiencing a slower recovery than the UK among G7 countries.

Recent TUC analyses of the ‘global race’ – available at www.touchstoneblog.org.uk/tag/global-race – have found that the UK is lagging behind most of its G7 competitors on exports, wage growth and manufacturing too.

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George Osborne must heed the IMF’s recent call for the UK to ease off austerity and follow the example of the US by investing in jobs and infrastructure, says the TUC.

The TUC wants to see a large jobs and infrastructure stimulus, including a jobs guarantee and an extensive house building programme to get growth and confidence back into the economy.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: ‘We truly are experiencing a lost decade for growth.

‘While other countries are already seeing a rise in economic output, the UK won’t return to its pre-crash level for another four years.

‘The Chancellor’s commitment to self-defeating austerity has prolonged people’s suffering and put the brakes on our economic recovery – so much so that escaping a triple-recession is considered by some to be a cause for celebration.

‘Even George Osborne’s favourite economic institution, the IMF, is calling on him to change course. Without a fresh approach we will continue to trail our economic rivals and bring up the rear in the global economic race.

‘He should start learning from countries like the US whose ambitious programme of investment in jobs is helping to turn its economy around.’

Appealing against the Bedroom Tax

The Bedroom Tax, as part of the Welfare Reform Act came into force in April 2013. It reduces housing benefit by between 14% and 25% for those in social housing (council housing or housing association housing) if they are deemed to be ‘under occupying’. Plain and simple, the bedroom tax is an unjust attack on the poorest members of our communities.

‘Under occupying’ includes:

  • Having one more room for each single person or couple (even if the ‘extra’ room is a box room or for storing disability equipment)
  • Having more than one room for two children under 16 of the same gender
  • Having more than one room for two children under 10 of the same gender
  • Having a room for a foster child

The government claims that this change will encourage more efficient use of social housing. However the reality is not only are many people in need of their ‘extra’ rooms but there are not enough properties for those affected to move into. Across the country there are already 1 million people on council waiting lists for one bedroom properties. The vast majority of those who do ‘downsize’ will switch from social housing to the private rented sector which will inevitably lead to higher rent costs and local authorities paying out more in Housing Benefits. The solution to a lack of social housing is not to punish those who live in social housing but to build more council homes.

It has been estimated that nationwide, 660,000 people will be liable for additional rent costs and of those around 420,000 are disabled or carers. Many of their properties have been modified by social housing landlords to assist people in daily living. It is highly unlikely that people forced to move through financial difficulties, will find private landlords willing to spend out to modify properties.

All those affected should have already received Notices stating the amounts they are liable to pay. Any appeals against these decisions must be made within one month of the notices being sent. So in most cases, the deadline will be May 1st

Whilst it is unknown what proportion of appeals will be successful, it is strongly recommended that those affected exercise their democratic right to appeal, as the alternative is simply to pay up and fall further into poverty.

It is also strongly recommended that you apply for Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) from your local council.

If you decide to appeal, click here to access a good source of advice compiled by Initiative Factory

Whether people are affected or not, it is important we all campaign to put pressure on our local councils and housing associations to:

  • Publicly oppose the bedroom tax and join the campaign to have it abolished
  • Promise NOT to evict any tenants who fall into arrears as a direct result of these cuts
  • Start building thousands of new social rented homes

And with this mind, BPACC will soon be announcing details of protests at Bournemouth and Poole town halls.

Sources:
Appeal Letter – Initiative Factory
What is the ‘bedroom tax’? – Hands off our Homes

The battle of the bedroom tax: A summary for beginners

Reblogged from CMS Home – Social Housing and Policy

The bedroom tax is big news – you can’t have missed it. You’ve probably already chosen sides. But it’s complicated too. When Cameron muddled the details in Parliament, even Miliband didn’t notice. Read on, if you want to find out what’s really going on.

A massive cut in housing benefit – thinly disguised as an attempt to rationalise the use of scarce resources – is about to have a huge impact on 660,000 of the poorest households in the country.[1] It will also have a lasting effect on their social landlords.

From 1 April 2013, social housing tenants of working age who are ‘under-occupying’ their homes will see their housing benefit cut by:

  • 14% of their full rent for one bedroom ‘too many’, or
  • 25% of their full rent for two or more bedrooms ‘too many’.

For some people this means they will no longer receive housing benefit at all.

Answering the myths

Myth 1:
It’s only fair to cut subsidies for rooms that aren’t being used

The largest group of genuine under-occupiers – especially in the South – are elderly people, who are not affected by this change.[2] In the North, where social housing landlords tend to provide larger properties than in the South, many households are allocated social rented homes with more bedrooms than they need – because it’s all that’s available.

The Government accepts that most people will not be able to move, because there aren’t enough smaller homes to move to. And that’s not just in the social housing sector. Private landlords have always been reluctant to rent their properties to people on benefits, but an increasing number of mortgage lenders are actually prohibiting their buy-to-let landlords from doing so.

So, most people will be forced to stay put and pay more. Social landlords know this is a ticking time bomb. An Ipsos Mori survey for the National Housing Federation reported in January that around 84% of housing associations expect their rent arrears to increase – by an average of 51%. Shockingly, more than half reported that their tenants knew little or nothing about what to expect.

Spokespeople from the Department of Work and Pensions have suggested that people will just need to work an hour or two more to pay the extra – but this is not true, as means testing would claw back most of any extra earned.[3]

Myth 2:
Similar rules already apply to local housing allowance (The name for rent benefits paid to people renting privately)
People renting privately have a cap on how much they can claim, depending on the size of their household and the area they live in. They aren’t specifically penalised because of the number of bedrooms they have. However, since tighter rules were introduced, many privately renting tenants have had to move to smaller homes in cheaper areas. Some have had to uproot their families, leaving behind schools, family support and local connections.

But the bedroom tax targets the number of bedrooms a tenant has, regardless of the actual cost, and it ‘fines’ people who are deemed to have too many. It is up to landlords to define how many bedrooms there are in each property. In practice, social landlords are more likely than a private landlord to call a box room or small second living room a bedroom. One reason is that housing associations have to satisfy their lenders by keeping the value of their assets high and getting the most rent possible.

And there are other, more important, differences. Social housing, by definition, tends to house a high proportion of vulnerable people. Households with disabled members, who make up at least two-thirds of the people affected by the bedroom tax (see below) are twice as likely to be social housing tenants as non-disabled people.

Myth 3:
A bedroom is a bedroom is a bedroom

There are several statutory definitions for the minimum size for a bedroom – and they differ. For the purposes of the bedroom tax, if your social housing tenancy agreement says you have three bedrooms, you pay a three-bedroom rent, whatever the size of the smallest room. The National Housing Federation has explained this more fully here.

Some tenants may find they are expected to put two children into a tiny box room, or even an adult child and their partner. Housing lawyers are expecting some challenges on this point as arrears cases start to come to court.

Myth 4:
Every under-occupier actually has empty rooms

Not true. Under the rules, you are only allowed a bedroom for:

  • a couple
  • a single person aged 16+
  • two same-sex children under 16
  • any two children under 10
  • another child
  • a carer for a disabled person who sometimes stays over.

For the time being, you can keep a room for a student studying away from home – providing they spend at least a week at home each year. (The rule is set to change to six months in the future.)

However, it took until 12 March 2013 for the Government to agree that foster children could be counted (providing the tenant has fostered, or started fostering, within the past year). They conceded this after lots of adverse publicity and a letter from 11 charities, who warned that this could stop some people from fostering. Unfortunately, within 24 hours, it emerged that only one bedroom would be allowed – regardless of the number of children being fostered. This will hit people wanting to foster siblings.

Also on 12 March, the Government finally conceded that someone on a tour of duty with the armed forces could have a room to come back to. Almost immediately, military charities were expressing doubts as to whether this would include someone away on training exercises.

You are still not allowed extra bedrooms because you share childcare with your ex-partner or are a disabled person living in an adapted property – even if it was adapted especially for you. You are not automatically allowed a room for a child who needs to sleep away from siblings, even if that child is disabled (more on this below).

A phone survey carried out for three housing associations found that 72% of ‘under-occupying’ households included a disabled member, with 20% of under-occupiers living in specially adapted homes. Some 9% reported storing essential medical equipment in a spare room. Many had disabled children who needed a room of their own. Speaking in the ‘under-occupation’ parliamentary debate on 27 February 2013, SNP MP Stewart Hosie reported that 80% of those affected in Scotland are disabled.

The housing association phone survey also identified that 15% of couples did not share a bedroom, 13% regularly shared parenting and 4% slept separately as they worked shifts. Half of the families used their ‘spare room’ to give a child their own bedroom.

Myth 5:
Well the rules are fair enough, people will just have to live with them

The Government has been facing a series of human rights challenges on its rules about who should be allowed to have a bedroom and who should be forced to share.

In 2012, the Government lost three relevant cases on appeal, involving the Article 14 human rights of private sector disabled tenants. [4] The Government gave way on the first two cases (which established the need for a bedroom for overnight carers), but it intended to take a third case (around the need for a separate bedroom for some disabled children) all the way to the Supreme Court. The Government finally backed down on 12 March, adding this to the day’s list of concessions. However, in this case, they made the concession discretionary. In future, tenants in this situation – whether renting privately or from a social sector landlord – will be able to apply to their local authority for a discretionary exemption from the bedroom tax. [* Thank you to Sue for clarification on this point – see comments.]

In early March 2013, new legal challenges were launched against the bedroom tax on behalf of a disabled couple and five families with disabled children. The challenges were due to argue that the under-occupation rules break Article 14 of the Human Rights Act and Article 28 of the UN Convention, by ignoring their needs as disabled people. Despite the u-turn on the earlier case (which makes some of the new cases relating to children academic), the adults and some of the children are likely to go ahead with their challenges. The first judicial review case is to be heard in May 2013.

On 21 March, Liberty, the civil rights charity, announced that it was launching a judicial review on the issue of parents sharing custody of children. It will argue that the rights of three parents, who will lose benefit because they are not their children’s primary carers (defined for the bedroom tax as being the person who claims child benefit) are being denied. The appeal will use Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to a private and family life) and Article 14 (which outlaws discrimination) to challenge the legality of these rules.

Myth 6:
Discretionary Housing Payments will sort out the worst anomalies

Local authorities have been given additional funding to help out families caught in the worst circumstances. Adverse press and lobbying led the Government to concede another £25m to this pot for disabled wheelchair users in significantly adapted properties. But this cannot help every disabled person affected, because fewer than one in 10 disabled people uses a wheelchair. [5] Since the u-turn on 12 March, the funding will also have to cover disabled children who cannot share a bedroom.

An additional £5m set aside for foster carers has been taken back since the decision to allow them to have one extra bedroom.

These discretionary payments are designed to avoid the Government having to change the bedroom rules. They offer a concession as a nod to the legal challenges. The Government is hoping that most disabled people and foster carers will simply come up with the extra money.

Myth 7:<
The bedroom tax will save money

Many in the housing sector doubt this. See also the National Housing Federation Report of 28 March 2013 (p3). Tenants who manage to move to privately rented homes will actually cost more in benefits, because rents are higher in the private sector. Also, tenants with children who are evicted for rent arrears by their social housing landlord may end up registered with their council as homeless – with all the associated costs of providing them with temporary housing.

Social landlords are preparing to spend large sums on extra rent collection staff and welfare and debt advice – very probably at the expense of their community work. Housing lawyers are expecting a stream of possession cases against people who have, up until the bedroom tax, been good payers. Unlike poor payers in the past, who could offer to pay their arrears off gradually, these will be people who really cannot pay their rent, let alone a bit extra. This is a new twist and likely to lead to more defences that challenge the application of the rules.

One housing association has decided to reclassify the size of 500 of its homes, which will let some of their tenants off the bedroom tax hook, but at a cost to the organisation of £250k in lower rents. A housing consultancy recently blogged advising landlords to reconsider collecting the bedroom tax – they say landlords should do the maths, because they might even lose less this way. To take this step, housing associations would first have to check whether their lenders or covenants allow them this flexibility.

However, as the article points out, there are wider economic implications. Durham County Council has estimated the impact of welfare reform as a whole on its local economy in 2013 as £150m. Lowering rents, especially in the North, could put more money in tenants’ pockets – with a knock-on effect for the whole area.

Of course, the bottom line is that, if the housing benefit bill drops because landlords are charging lower rents, the Government will, in effect, have achieved a saving by passing on the cost of housing support to social housing landlords.

Myth 8:
The bedroom tax will help solve overcrowding

In its report issued on 28 March (see p2), the National Housing Federation points out that in the North under-occupiers in the social and private rented sectors outnumber overcrowded households by 3:1. It arrives at this figure using the Government’s own data.

By contrast, in the South, there are many families living in overcrowded conditions. In theory, the bedroom tax is supposed to encourage under-occupying tenants to move elsewhere, freeing up larger homes. However, in practice, the shortage of smaller homes means this cannot happen on any real scale – unless literally thousands of people are moved between the North and South. The massively reduced amount of state funding for building social housing (it dropped by 63% in 2010) and the harsh climate for social housing landlords seeking loans – makes building out of the crisis a non-starter.

Affinity Sutton has pointed to an unintended possible consequence of the bedroom tax. Older people who really need to move somewhere smaller, and who may genuinely have a larger home to free up, are going to find it harder, because they will have to compete with demand from people needing to downsize because of the bedroom tax.

And in case you assumed all claimants are unemployed…

In fact, 28% of housing benefit claimants are over pension age. Amongst those of working age, 24% are actually in work (a figure that has grown by 10% since the start of the crisis in 2008). [6] The size of the housing benefit bill is not just about unemployment. It is also about low wages and pensions, and the high cost of housing – especially now that as much as a third of former council housing may be owned by private landlords.

[1] See page 10 of the Government’s own Impact Assessment.

[2] However, blogger Joe Halewood points out that the new rules may hit many couples where only one is a pensioner.

[3] Affinity Sutton have calculated that someone working 16 hours at the minimum wage will need to work 32 more hours to pay a £14 a week increase. See here.

[4] Burnip v Birmingham CC, Trengove v Walsall MBC, and Gorry v Wiltshire C [2012] See analysis.

[5] The National Housing Federation has calculated a shortfall of £100m for disabled people. See here.

[6] See the TUC blog.

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Francesca Martinez on cuts and austerity at the People’s Assembly launch

Click here for more information about The People’s Assembly being held on Saturday 22 June 2013, 9:30am – 5pm at Central Hall Westminster, Storey’s Gate, London, Westminster, London SW1H 9NH.

Click here to sign the War on Welfare petition.

Click here to view Francesca’s full article “Hands off our Public Services” at Huffington Post UK.

Turning Anger into Activism

Some thoughts from a local activist, Kim Elkin, Bournemouth Uncut, reproduced with kind permission

So I’ve been protesting for the last three days, and people have wanted to know how they can get involved and fight the cuts. So if you’re sat there quietly coming up to the boil, and want to do something, there are many ways you can help.

Some of them are: Write a blog, maybe you have a useful skill such as media? Maybe you understand twitter, many of us activists just can’t get our heads around it! Tweet and Facebook your discontent.

Maybe your good at writing press releases, or taking photo’s or video’s of local demos? Write to your MP. Write to David Cameron or any of his laccys. Paint a banner for a local action or make a sign if your arty.

Make up a protest song if you’re musical. Hand out some leaflets with some very friendly activists.

Talk to your friends. Join your local anti cuts coalition/group or UK Uncut action. Sign a petition. Come to the Peoples’ Assembly. Anything but keep calm and carry on!

No one likes being shafted by a bunch of parasitic toffs. If you’re feeling the rage too then get involved. Much as we need people on the streets, if that’s really not for you then we also have a multitude of ways you can help… and it’s very therapeutic!