April will see the start of London’s #socialcleansing – we need to expose these changes


1:50 pm - March 22nd 2013

by Darren Johnson AM    


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On the 1st April the Government will introduce a raft of changes to our welfare system, arguably the largest since the 1940s. Despite all the press coverage of the bedroom tax, and endless stories about scroungers on the make or families stuck in B&Bs, the public are still in the dark about the full range of changes coming in and the impacts they will have.

The housing benefit caps are already making parts of inner London a no-go zone for people on low incomes, a point the New Policy Institute backed up my warning on. The 1st of April changes, combined with extension of the right to buy discounts, will accelerate this process.

Councils are struggling to understand how so many overlapping changes will work, and people who receive help with childcare or housing costs are struggling to understand how they will be affected.

These changes have been brought in on the back of a distorted public debate. Other politicians and most of the media have paid a lot of attention to the cost of welfare, extreme cases of fraud or laziness, and what they believe to be a ‘culture’ of milking the system.

People have been led to believe that the welfare system has supported four million people who have never bothered to work, but most of those four million are students, people unable to work due to disability or people looking after their family.

Last year a study found that a significant number of people think more than half of benefit claims are fraudulent, when the actual rate is only 1%.

So I am going to spend ten days leading up to the 1st April trying to shine some light on the state of the welfare system in London and how these changes will affect our city.

As a London Assembly Member, I will be focussing on the impacts in London, and the role the Mayor of London has played in supporting the welfare cuts.

I’ll expose how little we actually know about the impacts of the changes, the role of the Mayor of London has played since his famous ‘Kosovo-style ethnic cleansing’ remark, the myths the Government and Mayor have both put about to justify the changes, and finally a different approach to welfare that the Mayor could push for.

I’ll also be tweeting about this every day. I hope that others will join me, using the hashtag #socialcleansing on social networks to shine a light on similar stories from around London and the rest of the country.

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About the author
This is a guest post. Darren Johnson is chair of the London Assembly and deputy chair of the Business Management and Administration Committee. He represents the Green Party.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Local Government ,London Mayor

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Reader comments


“The housing benefit caps”

At 26k per year, which is above the UK median income (pre-tax). Terrible hardship.

Tyler: housing benefit is paid to landlords not to the claimant

3. douglas clark

What is your view on the Bedroom Tax? It seems that the Labour Party abstains when this is raised an an issue.

They have to move the poor out of London so they can make space for more foreign banking crooks and dodgy Russian oil billionaires. Oh, and more tory scum.

They will be rounding people up and putting them in box cars and taking them to the private camps soon. No doubt Osborne is giving his favourite building companies huge sheds of tax payers money to build the re education camps. Because this is the age of socialism for the rich baby. But for you little people free markets suckers.

5. So Much for Subtlety

2. Jo

housing benefit is paid to landlords not to the claimant

No it isn’t. The landlord will get the rent anyway. If not to the claimant, then some Russian billionaire. What will happen is that the claimant won’t get a mansion to live in. That is, the claimant is getting the benefit – a good house to live in.

But not for much longer.

6. michael Osler

A mate of mine volunteers for the local foodbank and he reckons they will see a big increase in demand after April 1st. Speaks volumes if he’s right.

7. Dick the Prick

@4 – yeah, right on sister! Heaven forfend that people have to move to Croydon, Nottingham or Hull because they don’t earn enough to live in the expensive shit hole that is central London. The horror. What seems to have escaped all the wailing socialists is that the kids will be better off living near a bit of countryside but….back to whinging again, eh?

“housing benefit is paid to landlords not to the claimant”

Exactly. Private landlords (which are mostly tory scum) are the real welfare scroungers. The idle, lazy rich living off govt handouts. Socialism for the rich baby. It’s the tory toffs way.

Tyler:
(A) The £26k is total income, not housing benefit income
(B) The £26k is for a household, regardless of size – that median income figure is for an individual
(C) Rents in ALL PARTS OF London and ALL OF the London commuter belt are insane. £26k just isn’t going to pay for rent and living expenses for a family with three kids, unless they’re going to take a tiny one bed flat. You’ll find a similar if slightly less bad situation in many other high demand cities like Bristol.

Dick:
You can’t just randomly go to another city and demand assistance with housing there instead in order to save the taxpayer money. You’d be considered ‘intentionally homeless’. You have to be sent there by the Council.

No, what’s going to happen in London is illegal slums and desperate people turning to crime to pay the rent.

Poor are bailing out banksters and landlords ie the very same hedge fund manager scum who not only caused the financial crisis to make more money to buy more property but they are same people who donated to the Tories to accelerate this meltdown strategy, it’s known as Corporatocracy

11. Chaise Guevara

Can I object to some of these changes while also objecting to stupid straw-man phrases like “social cleansing”?

12. Derek Hattons Tailor

“Last year a study found that a significant number of people think more than half of benefit claims are fraudulent, when the actual rate is only 1%”.

I think that’s a fantastically naive statement. 1% are proved to be fraudulent, which is a bit like saying 1% of bankers are proved to be unethical. The DWP, like every other public service is chronically underfunded, especially fraud investigation. If you want to rip the welfare system, unless you really take the piss, you are highly unlikely to get caught.

On the general issue of “ethnic cleansing” of the poor, why does it matter so much that central London, unlike the rest of the country, should have an economically diverse population ? It’s difficult to believe that this is about anything other than protecting the cheap labour supply that waits the tables, serves the lattes and cleans the toilets of the Metropolitan elite.

13. So Much for Subtlety

8. Sally

Exactly. Private landlords (which are mostly tory scum) are the real welfare scroungers. The idle, lazy rich living off govt handouts. Socialism for the rich baby. It’s the tory toffs way.

Wow. For a moment there I thought me and Sally might agree about something. But no. She simply does not know what she is talking about as usual.

But let’s work with this idea a little. The Government should not be giving handouts to the idle, lazy rich. Can we all agree on that? Sally, do you agree with that?

In that case, if you think that rent subsidies go to the landlord, there is absolutely no moral case whatsoever for continuing with them. Down with housing benefit!!! Can we all agree that this subsidy, which you all think is to the Tory scum landlord, needs to be abolished now?

9. jungle

No, what’s going to happen in London is illegal slums and desperate people turning to crime to pay the rent.

So no change whatsoever then? Why the fuss?

“What seems to have escaped all the wailing socialists is that the kids will be better off living near a bit of countryside but….back to whinging again, eh?”
Not a bad point. Depends where they put them.

Derek: “On the general issue of “ethnic cleansing” of the poor, why does it matter so much that central London, unlike the rest of the country, should have an economically diverse population ?”

People keep talking about “Central London” as if it’s just affecting a few leafy places like Kensington and maybe Hampstead, and all the unemployed need do is get a bit realistic and live a little further out.

Sorry, this affects ALL OF London and ALL OF the commuter belt.

Also, why does it matter that London becomes a wealthy ghetto? Well, why does it matter that people unlucky enough to lose their job are forced to leave an area which has long been their home, in most cases being given an effectively compulsory ‘offer’ of housing in a faraway place of the state’s choosing? Do I really need to answer that question?

SMFS: “So no change whatsoever then? Why the fuss?”

Ever been to a third world city? Seen a slum? Felt the fear of car-jacking? Or more relevant to this particular situation, been troubled by penniless people breaking into your garden shed for shelter? London’s pretty civilised really, for now.

SMFS: ” if you think that rent subsidies go to the landlord, there is absolutely no moral case whatsoever for continuing with them.”

Erm, apart from the fact it keeps a roof over the head of hundreds of thousands of people, rather than having them sheltering in bus stations or putting up tents on derelict land, you mean? Without that intervention in the market, private landlords and developers would naturally go where the money was – knock existing flats together, build bigger houses. Overall rents wouldn’t go down much because ultimately benefits don’t make up a big proportion of all money spent on rent in this country. And you know what would happen if ending housing benefit for others was passed on to me in the form of a tax cut? My landlord would surmise I probably have more money now and put up my rent.

So, there would still be the same number of people chasing the same housing stock – there’d just be a much smaller share of that for the unemployed.

Don’t get me wrong, I think there are more efficient ways of providing housing to the unemployed than paying housing benefit to private landlords – but politicians aren’t really prepared to try any of them.

17. white trash

SM4S @5, 13. Like all rent it is wasted money.

The best thing would be for the taxpayer to stop paying any rent to the scumlords at all. Then we all just sit back, keep occupying the buildings waiting till the buy2letters and rachmans have gone bust. Then when the prices have come back to something sensible, buy those properties to replenish the public sector again and start letting them to tenants on fair terms once more. This way rent and benefits re-circulate to the taxpayer funds in a virtuous circle.

A positive sum game. A win/win for everyone.

(Except the slumlords and other parasites of course, shame eh?)

I wonder what Central London employers will do when they can no longer recruit unskilled minimum wage workers to do the dirty boring jobs that are necessary to keep every organisation ticking over. Previously Housing Benefit kept their low paid workers close to them, but now what will happen? Are they going to start paying more to compensate for their workers’ new commutes when they are forced to move? Or are they going to start paying more so that workers can live in London without needing to claim Housing Benefit?

Or are we going to see thousands of people laid off as companies choose employees who ‘don’t mind’ living in slum-like conditions and force a race to the bottom in living standards? In the capital city of one of the wealthiest countries in the world?

At what point did society agree that welfare benefits were an acceptable career choice? I always thought they were there as a safety net to see you through until you were back on your feet. Most of these arguments seem to be assuming living off benefits all your life is something to be protected rather than finding ways to get those that can work, into work.

On the face of it, the bedroom tax appeared to be a pragmatic idea – encourage those taking properties larger than they required to trade-down to something better fittings their needs and thus freeing up the properties that families struggling for space needed. However, there’s a major flaw in the plan that I really don’t think has been addressed. A typical two-bed council or housing association flat in London Zone 2 goes for about £115 per week. There is a acute shortage of 1 bed properties in social housing, therefore those sole occupants of 2 bed council flats are going to have to look at the private sector. A private landlord serving the DHS market tends to peg rents at the max they can get away with – which is £230 per week. So you force people to move out of their 2 bed flats which was costing the taxpayer £115 per week and instead double the bill to £230 per week.

James, most of the people who will be affected by the benefit cap are in work.

Welfare benefits subsidise employers paying poverty wages. You might want to ask such employers why they see this as their career choice.

Violet, I can’t believe your straw man is true. Are you suggesting all people on minimum wage are being topped up to £26K? I work, but don’t make £26K but claim no benefits – do I need to get myself down the benefits office sharpish?

I wasn’t talking about the benefit cap in my original post, but since you brought it up, I’m all in favour of it. The ones who will be most affected by it are the families who grow beyond their own means. I know of plenty in my area (South London) that have deliberately had kids for the additional benefits and rights to housing stock it brings. In fact it’s almost standard practice for young women to knock out a kid to get a council house. Where’s the responsibility of that? I’m firmly of the opinion we shouldn’t be rewarding people for having kids they can’t afford and indeed having kids for the sole purpose of milking the system.

22. Derek Hattons Tailor

@15 In other words they would have to make exactly the same choices that working people have to make. I’d like to live in Primrose Hill, but I can’t afford it, so I can either get a better job or live somewhere else. If my employer goes out of business I can move to where there is work, or I can get a new job. Why does being on benefits afford people choices that most working people don’t have ?

23. white trash

James, there just isn’t enough work to go around everyone, so some people at least are inevitably going to be unemployed.

Maybe you’d like to let someone else have your job, since you seem to think it’s so great without work?

What with technologies and the productivity increases they bring the future is likely to mean fewer and fewer people have work available to them, so we all ought to be learning how to use our increasing leisure time with as few material resources as possible. better get used to that fact.

I do agree with you that people should be discouraged form having children though. That should be easy however: let everyone have contraceptive implants from puberty. Problem solved.

White Trash – I quite agree there will always be a certain level of unemployment, but if you’re in that boat and able to work, your goal should be to do everything you can to get back to work. The economy is tough, and I appreciate the number of jobs aren’t what they were – but there are jobs out there. My beef is with those who decide they are ‘better off’ on benefits, so make a conscious choice not to go back to work. One of my neighbours is from Denmark. He came to the UK many years ago and worked for the exact minimum amount of time he had to before quitting his job and spending the rest of his life just claiming benefits. He hardly makes any secret about it. Ironically if he went back to Denmark he’d get nothing, as they see unemployment benefit as a temporary measure until you can get another job. Long term unemployment shouldn’t be a career choice.

Technology doesn’t necessarily put people out of work, it just changes the way we work and the type of work we do. If technology was a job-killer, the Industrial Revolution would have meant nobody would have a job today. Technology brings different jobs. 15 years ago nobody would have described themselves as a Web Designer, but they’re everywhere now. There are industries spring up around iPhones – from app developers to people making and selling cases. Technology may put a cotton weaver out of a job – but you can’t moan that there are no cotton weaver jobs anymore, you have to learn a new skill.

Don’t know why you think I’d want to be without work? I’d hate it. I’m grateful I have a job and would rather work for my money that sit in front of god-damn-awful daytime TV expecting someone else to pay my bills.

25. So Much for Subtlety

15. jungle

Well, why does it matter that people unlucky enough to lose their job are forced to leave an area which has long been their home, in most cases being given an effectively compulsory ‘offer’ of housing in a faraway place of the state’s choosing? Do I really need to answer that question?

I don’t know. Perhaps you might like to answer another one – why does it matter that people unlucky enough to live in areas favoured by immigrants are forced to leave an area which has long been their home? Communities that have stood for centuries have been all but destroyed by the pressure of mass immigration. Is that a problem as far as you’re concerned?

16. jungle

Ever been to a third world city?

Well I used to live in London.

Seen a slum? Felt the fear of car-jacking?

As I said, I used to live in London.

Or more relevant to this particular situation, been troubled by penniless people breaking into your garden shed for shelter?

Didn’t have a garden shed, but as I said, I used to live in London. All these things are normal for London. So what’s your point?

London’s pretty civilised really, for now.

You must live in a different part of London.

Erm, apart from the fact it keeps a roof over the head of hundreds of thousands of people, rather than having them sheltering in bus stations or putting up tents on derelict land, you mean?

So the benefit goes to the people in the damn houses then?

Without that intervention in the market, private landlords and developers would naturally go where the money was – knock existing flats together, build bigger houses.

As I said, they have a valuable property and they will get paid what they are worth no matter what. It isn’t a benefit to the landlords. But if you think it is, then surely it is time to stop it.

17. white trash

The best thing would be for the taxpayer to stop paying any rent to the scumlords at all. Then we all just sit back, keep occupying the buildings waiting till the buy2letters and rachmans have gone bust.

Except Rachmans thrived because of laws like these. He was able to make use of the fact that vulnerable people sat on valuable property. So your scheme would bring forth a million of them.

Then when the prices have come back to something sensible, buy those properties to replenish the public sector again and start letting them to tenants on fair terms once more. This way rent and benefits re-circulate to the taxpayer funds in a virtuous circle.

Funny. That ignores the massive economic crisis that would occur once people’s property was rendered valueless. And giving money to welfare cases is not a virtuous circle. We will just get more crime, more drug use and more fecklessness.

18. Violet

I wonder what Central London employers will do when they can no longer recruit unskilled minimum wage workers to do the dirty boring jobs that are necessary to keep every organisation ticking over.

So you’re saying that housing benefits are a subsidy to employers? Then you will no doubt agree with me that it ought to be cut and employers should pay a real wage?

Or are we going to see thousands of people laid off as companies choose employees who ‘don’t mind’ living in slum-like conditions and force a race to the bottom in living standards? In the capital city of one of the wealthiest countries in the world?

Isn’t this the entire purpose of our immigration policy? Have you been to Southall?

Has everyone lost the plot?
Surely the point here is that we should all care about one another and be experiencing deep concerns about the human rights and welfare of all people, where ever they are from. We are all people, and we all have the same right to our rights as humans! People are people.
If some people need help, we should support that. If some people try to take advantage of the help then maybe we should be asking why? Maybe there is a deep seated problem with society that makes people feel completely apathetic and worthless, to the point of finding no joy or value in working.
I love my job. The pay is shit. But i am lucky that I found a job that fulfils me. I pay my taxes in the hope that they will go towards helping people who have less than me and helping the society and community that I live thrive and grow (I don’t necessarily mean in an economic way).
Reading the comments on here I feel very sad that people seem to care so little about other people.
I have been very lucky all of my life economically, but I know some people who have gotten a raw deal: fallen in love with the wrong person, had a kid and then been left. Raising a kid is expensive. If you want to do it properly and you are a lone parent, without a job to go back to, and or estranged from your family… Why shouldn’t you be supported by the system that was put in place to support the people who need it!?
If you are unable to work, who will support you?
How can we measure a standard of living with money anyway?
People need to wake the fuck up and think about what is really important!
Empathy. Love. Care.
What kind of community do we all want to be living in?
A detached, cold, uncaring one? Or a community based on connections, care and love!?
Reevaluate what’s really important to you!

27. white trash

M – Totally.

James – I never said you’d want to be without work, I just pointed out that you’re lucky to have any, and that the long-term trend is for work to be phased out. We don’t need much of it any more as machines can increasingly do most things, so don’t be so down on the unemployed, they/we are the face of the future. They don’t do anyone any harm (apart from those who breed too much of course) and live on a pittance. It’s the greedy people who work to consume and waste ever vaster amounts that are the real problem.

SM4S – What “law”? I never proposed any law, just pointed out that since the government wants to cut back on housing benefit – which you agree on, I take it? – they should just cut it altogether and then all the hundreds of thousands of people on benefits, who are the channels through which that money is siphoned off to the private landlords and buy2letters, will be far too many people to evict.

Then, when the landlords don’t get the benefit money from the government, they’ll go bust. it’s the landlords that are dependent, more than anyone.

28. So Much for Subtlety

26. M

Surely the point here is that we should all care about one another and be experiencing deep concerns about the human rights and welfare of all people, where ever they are from.

I am unconvinced of that but let us suppose it is true. Then in our concern for other people, we should want what is best for those other people. Having children out of wedlock is not best for anyone. We should stop them doing it then?

Maybe there is a deep seated problem with society that makes people feel completely apathetic and worthless, to the point of finding no joy or value in working.

I agree. It is called welfare. Time to abolish it and in a few days millions of people would find joy and happiness in working.

I have been very lucky all of my life economically, but I know some people who have gotten a raw deal: fallen in love with the wrong person, had a kid and then been left.

Sorry but no. Anyone who passes over dozens of decent, if boring, guys for some thug who gets her pregnant and then does a runner has not gotten a raw deal. Their children have gotten a raw deal. They have chosen poorly. Someone’s partner is entirely their choice. If they choose someone exciting but unreliable, it is their fault, not mine and I should not have to pay.

Raising a kid is expensive. If you want to do it properly and you are a lone parent, without a job to go back to, and or estranged from your family… Why shouldn’t you be supported by the system that was put in place to support the people who need it!?

Because it encourages other feckless mothers to screw over their children because they could not say no to some low life prison-bait. If raising children is expensive and a single mother cannot do it, put the children’s welfare first and give them up for adoption. Raising a generation of feckless teenage mothers to follow in the footsteps of their feckless teenage mothers is insane and unnecessarily cruel. We should stop it.

If you are unable to work, who will support you?

Then be nice to your children and your siblings. I doubt that many people object to helping those who through no fault of their own are having trouble. But that does not apply to the millions of people claiming sickness benefits when they could and should work.

How can we measure a standard of living with money anyway?

Fine. They don’t need mine to have a decent standard of living then.

What kind of community do we all want to be living in?
A detached, cold, uncaring one? Or a community based on connections, care and love!?

I agree. Welfare has created three generations of feral youth who think that they have every right to prey, literally, on the law abiding and decent people of Britain. We need to return to a community based on connections, care and love. Which means ending welfare and probably immigration as well. Only then can we have a society based on community – is this actually what you want?

27. white trash

I never proposed any law, just pointed out that since the government wants to cut back on housing benefit – which you agree on, I take it? – they should just cut it altogether and then all the hundreds of thousands of people on benefits, who are the channels through which that money is siphoned off to the private landlords and buy2letters, will be far too many people to evict.

Creating an enormous demand for people like Mr Rachman. As I said, you would create a huge industry of getting the feckless out of houses they were not entitled to. Either that is done legally. Or not. Your choice.

Then, when the landlords don’t get the benefit money from the government, they’ll go bust. it’s the landlords that are dependent, more than anyone.

There is no end of demand for housing in London. They won’t go bust. They will rent their home out to some American banker.

Subsidies make things more expensive.
That extra money is indeed going into the pockets of private landlords and/or all property owners via higher house prices.
Remove that source of demand and – surprise – prices will be lower than they would be with the subsidy in place.

30. MarkAustin

@29. cjcjSubsidies make things more expensive.
That extra money is indeed going into the pockets of private landlords and/or all property owners via higher house prices.
Remove that source of demand and – surprise – prices will be lower than they would be with the subsidy in place.

Except that it isn’t happening. We were by the Government assured that the cap on Housing benefit would cause rents to fall. They havn’t. All that is happening is the number of “No DSS” lets has gone up. As long as there is a housing shortage, at least regionally—I am aware that if you count housing over the whole UK there is not a real shortage—there will be a false market. The problem is that no-one is proposing to build the amount of social housing—and build to sell does not help—necessary to solve the problem.


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