A SINGLE MOTHER WITH SEVEN CHILDREN HIT BY THE £500 OVERALL BENEFIT CAP IN TOTTENHAM

14 June 2013

A SINGLE MOTHER WITH SEVEN CHILDREN HIT BY THE  £500 OVERALL BENEFIT CAP IN TOTTENHAM

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I am working with a group of volunteers in Tottenham who endeavour to
help families hit by the £500 overall benefit cap, for which the
Borough of Haringey is one of the guinea pigs. There is a common
assumption that large families can afford the rent from their
children's benefits. A tenant has reported that a council official has
told a tennant she can pay her rent out of her children's benefits. I
have asked the council to produce their evidence.

One of the cases is a single mother with seven children, the youngest
aged 2. The council sent her a letter saying her housing benefit has
reduced to 50 pence a week with the following information; these are
the council's figures.

£pw

Child benefit                                                   100.70
Tax credit                                                        365.38
Adult IS                                                              71.70

Total AHC                                                        (537.78)

Housing benefit                                              245.00

Total                                                                   782.78
Less 500 cap                                                  -500.00

Remainder                                                        282.78

New housing benefit                                       0.50

She has applied for a Discretionary Housing Payment but that is
temporary; it lasts for 12 weeks and in no way relieves the distress
of a family facing possible eviction. She will also have to pay 20% of
the council tax.

MINIMUM INCOME STANDARDS 

Donald Hirsch, Director of the Centre for Research in Social Policy at
Loughborough University, who leads work on the Minimum Income standard
(MIS) for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, has estimated that the cost,
net of rent and council tax, for a lone parent with three children is
£458 in April 2013. (Unpublished letter to me last weekend)

He then uses MIS to estimate that a lone parent with seven children
requires at least £702 a week after rent and council tax to afford a
minimum acceptable standard of living, of which the cost of food alone
is £211.

When food costs £211 for a single mother with seven children to have a
healthy diet then cutting her income to £277.68 with the cap puts
their health at risk.

The methodology used by Loughborough since 2008, which includes
researching the weekly cost in a supermarket of a nutritious diet
based on scientific evidence, and checking the figures against what
members of the public think is reasonable, has never been challenged
by government.

No British government has based the level of statutory minimum incomes
on the minimum quantities and prices in the market needed by
individuals, families or pensioners for healthy living, unlike some
other developed nations.

Where this family will be housed is just as worrying. There are no
affordable properties for large families so greater overcrowding than
she experiences now in a hotel for bed and breakfast is a likely
outcome. Uncertaionty and insecurity of tenure are known to upset the
education of the children.

The national economy is in trouble but there is enough wealth in the
UK to fix it without retrospective legislation which hits innocent
women and children so viciously..

THE HOUSING CRISIS

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has published a mass of detail
about the housing crisis.

http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2013/06/08/westminster-hit-by-soaring-costs-as-it-struggles-to-cope-with-homeless-epidemic/

I have extracted the figures for HARINGEY from their "Britain’s
housing turmoil in numbers" for the last three financial years. It
seems clear that it would have been cheaper for the taxpayer, and less
damaging for tenants, if the government had left households in their
homes and capped rents.

Haringey has accepted 1833 households from other London boroughs, 1200
from Islington, and moved 1282 out, 1147 to Enfield. A total of 19,057
households have moved between boroughs in London. Temporary
accommodation is projected to cost Haringey £29.6 million this year;
the total projected cost for London this year is £393 million.

The Downing Street cabinet sits high up in the penthouse of its Ivory
tower watching the people on the ground suffering from their orders to
move house this way and that; people look smaller from a great height.

They have not given a thought to the impact on the wellbeing of
tenants. Both education and health suffer from insecurity and the
inevitable debt, at a huge cost to the tax payer. .

Haringey Details

They asked for the following information for the last three financial years.
Households moved out of Haringey 2009/10 - 337, 20010/11 - 466,
2011/12 - 479, 20012/13 - 507.
Properties secured by Haringey outside the borough but in London -
1788 of which 1147 are in Enfield

Total households moved into the Borough of Haringey from other London
boroughs - 1833 of which 1200 come from Islington.

The cost of temporary accommodation in Haringey was £27.8 million in
12/13 and is projected at £29.6 million in 13/14.

The bureaux makes the following comments.

The total cost of temporary accommodation. The Bureau's comments on the Results
The responses indicated that the number of households moved out of
individual London boroughs was greater than the number of properties
they secured outside their borders for TA purposes.

This suggests properties secured by boroughs outside their borders are
used repeatedly to house different households. B&Bs and private sector
properties are block-booked or rented on a fairly long term basis to
house large numbers of individual households.

There is a possibility that some boroughs double-count the households
they move. A small number of households, in other words, are moved out
of a borough, return to the host borough and then are moved out again.

A minority of boroughs included in their disclosure, the number of
rooms in B&Bs they had secured. This was included in our data.

Some more detailed local findings of the bureaux include:

• The London boroughs of Croydon and Redbridge stated that the number
of properties they secured for TA purposes was directly equivalent to
the number of households they have moved out of the borough.
• Havering confirmed it does not move people out of the borough.
• Merton provided data for just 2012/13 for the number of households
it moved outside its borders.
• Barking & Dagenham, Bexley, Hackney and Haringey, responding to the
number of properties they secured for TA, only gave numbers for
households moved, rather than properties secured.
• For Barking & Dagenham, the numbers in response to this question
(72) is different to the overall total of households moved outside
their borders (140). This indicates the same properties are repeatedly
used.
• For Bexley and Haringey, the numbers of properties secured and
households moved precisely match. (165) In Hackney’s case the numbers
nearly match (A: 438 B: 447).
• Tower Hamlets did not disclose where it secured B&B rooms outside
its borough borders. It did disclose where it secured properties for
the purpose of temporary accommodation.


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