Grenfell: the moral lesson Health of all tenants demands living unemployment benefit & safe truly affordable housing
A LIVING UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFIT.
Unemployed people are not fit for work when their inadequate £73.10 pw income is bombarded by three powerful government departments enforcing debts simultaneously - DWP, DCLG & MOJ.
The inadequacy of the £64.30 (now £73.10) weekly jobseeker's allowance (£50.95 for the under-25s now £57.90) ), noted by Paul Nicolson (Letters, 11 May) is a modern phenomenon. When unemployment benefit started in 1912 it was 7 shillings a week - about 22% of average male earnings in manufacturing. The percentage fluctuated over the succeeding decades, but by 1979 the benefit rate was still about 21% of average earnings (manual and non-manual, male and female). By 2008, however, as a result of the policy of tying benefits to the price index while real earnings increased, the renamed jobseeker's allowance had fallen to an all-time low of 10.5% of average earnings. And while, in the past, means-tested allowances raised unemployed income to a higher minimum level, the jobseeker's allowance rates are now the same, whether means-tested or not.
Of course, average earnings have grown but so has the relative deprivation of the unemployed. This is not a policy justified by the need to maintain work incentives. It is just a dreadful record of neglect by governments since 1979.
University of York
In the mistaken belief that the unemployed live in a culture of fecklessness and take every opportunity to avoid work the 2010 coalition strengthened the Labour Party's benefit sanctions and froze the benefit increases at 1%. George Osborne stopped increases in 2015. That makes JSA/ESA/IS very low indeed. It creates hunger and debt. The Royal College of Psychiatrists reports that;
One in four adults will have a mental health problem at some point in their life.
One in two adults with debts has a mental health problem.
One in four people with a mental health problem is also in debt.
Debt can cause - and be caused by - mental health problems
In 2010 it was estimated that inequalities in health accounted for productivity losses of £31-£33 billion per year, and £20-£32 billion a year in lost taxes and higher welfare payments. Additional NHS healthcare costs associated with inequality were estimated to be in excess of £5.5 billion a year.
Taking basic needs out of the Joseph Rowntree research for April 2016 an estimated healthy minimum would be £110.36 a week - a weekly shortfall of £37.26 on the current £73.10. That would include weekly budget of £44.72 for a healthy diet, water ££5.67, clothes £7.12, fuel £15.96, transport £26.89 with £10 for contingencies during illness or accidents
That assumes a return to 100% housing and council tax benefit. That £73.10 is currently paying council tax in 259 councils and is normally paying off one or more of rent,council tax, utility or TV licence fines arrears plus court costs and bailiffs fees. Debts pile up while they have no money during a one month or three month sanction and have to be paid off when it ends - please see this case. Unemployed people are not fit for work when their inadequate £73.10 pw income is bombarded by three powerful government departments enforcing debts simultaneously - DWP, DCLG & MOJ,
The final health damaging piece in this sad jigsaw is the chaotic UK housing market - while incomes remain static and the rents increase there is less and less money for tenants to buy food, fuel, clothes, transport and other necessities. The same holds true when rents increase faster than the Living Living Wage. 33% of householders in England, 47% in London and 58% in Haringey rent their homes. Our ten blogs on affordable housing are helpful.
The health of very many people in the UK is at risk from low incomes both in work and out of work; and very seriously at risk out of work.
Stephen Hill MRICS Churchill Fellow, Prof Danny Dorling University of Oxford, Fred Harrison Land Research Trust, Alison Gelder Housing Justice.
Dr Angela Donkin Institute of Health Equity, Profs Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson Equality Trust, Maddy Power University of York, Carl Walker University of Brighton
6-8 PM THURSDAY 20TH JULY PORTCULLIS HOUSE, WESTMINSTER SW1A 2JR.
Chair: Baroness Molly Meacher, Crossbench
David Finch - Resolution Foundation,
Dr Angela Donkin – Institute of Health Equity
Professor Richard Wilkinson – Equality Trust
Professor Kate Pickett –, Equality Trust
Maddy Power – University of York
Carl Walker – University of Brighton
Rev Paul Nicolson – Taxpayers Against Poverty
Please arrive at Portcullis House by 17.45 in order to pass through the airport-style security checks. You may be asked for ID. Information about visiting Parliament can be found here.