Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights - references to housing, homelessness, rent and renters - cut and pasted from the report

25 May 2019

We are showing below some statements about unfairness cut and pasted from Professor Philip Alston's report for the United Nations on extreme poverty and human rights in the UK. The Scottish think tank CommonSpace has highlighted some of the key sections of the report. .

Taxpayers Against Poverty is based in Tottenham where there are some of the most deprived wards in the UK.

All these statements are being lived out in painful detail by 1000s of Tottenham residents and in other UK urban areas.

“As Thomas Hobbes observed long ago, such an approach condemns the least well off to lives that are “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”. Professor  Philip Alston. 

It is time for local authorities to speak out against central government in support of making life fair for their poorest residents. Some councils have policies that worsen the impact of the policies of central government. In London they demolish their council homes and force them into into the unaffordable rents of private landlords.  

 

Renumbered paras - the full report is here . 

“As Thomas Hobbes observed long ago, such an approach condemns the least well off to lives that are “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”. Professor  Philip Alston

REFERENCES TO HOUSING 

  1. There were 1.2 million people on the social housing waiting list in 2017, but less than 6,000 homes were built that year. 

  1. Cuts to preventive services mean that needs go unmet and people in crisis are pushed toward services that cannot turn them away but cost far more, like emergency rooms and expensive temporary housing.   

  2. Housing Benefit has been decimated amidst a real crisis in affordable housing. Housing costs are rising disproportionately for people on low incomes, and the recent uptick in pensioner poverty is driven by increasing poverty among renters.43 While the Government has recognized the challenges, and pledged to invest billions in improving the housing supply,44 targeted support for low-income people has been repeatedly reduced and restricted. Similarly, the Government has refused to walk back the benefit reduction for renters in so-called “underoccupied” social housing, despite consistent feedback that this reduction can pose immense hardship for low-income families and individuals who may not be able to relocate easily.   

  1. The LASPO Act (Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act) made most housing, family and benefits cases ineligible for aid; ratcheted up eligibility criteria; and replaced many face-to-face advice services with telephone lines. Consequently, the number of civil legal aid cases declined by a staggering 82 per cent between 2010–2011 and 2017–2018.45 As a result, many poor people are unable to effectively claim and enforce their rights,  

  1. While asylum seekers receive some basic supports such as housing, they are left to make do with an inadequate, poverty level income of around  £5 a day. They also face major barriers to health care.   

  1. The Housing Benefit has failed to keep up with actual rents, driving a rise in poverty among pensioners who rent.102 

  1. Changes to taxes and benefits since 2010 have been highly regressive, and have taken the highest toll on those least able to bear it. The Government paints a picture of austerity in which everyone has tightened their belt together but, according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, while the bottom 20 per cent of earners will have lost on average 10 per cent of their income by 2021–2022 as a result of these changes, top earners have actually come out ahead. This is compounded by cuts to public spending, including on housing and education, that have hit the lowest-income households the hardest, and in England amount to cuts of 16 per cent or £1,450 per person.81 The cumulative impact of these changes on particular groups, and the stubborn refusal of the Government to heed recommendations, including by the Treasury Committee, that they produce and publish a robust equalities impact assessment suggest that the country’s policies do not conform with the principle of non-discrimination enshrined in international law.  

  1. Between 2011–2012 and 2016–2017, cash-strapped local authorities reduced spending on preventive housing services by £590 million or 46 per cent, but increased crisis spending on housing by £360 million or 58 per cent.

Recommendations.

Reverse particularly regressive measures such as the benefit freeze, the two-child limit, the benefit cap and the reduction of the Housing Benefit, including for underoccupied social rented housing;   

 

REFERENCES TO HOMELESSNESS

  1. And the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, after initially denying any link, acknowledged that the Government’s policies may have played a role in rising homelessness 

  1. There is wide consensus among stakeholders that benefit changes are one of the structural causes behind the increase in poverty, rough sleeping and homelessness in Wales.  

  1. Ethnic minorities are at a higher risk of becoming homeless, have poorer access to health care and experience higher rates of infant mortality. Black people and people from a South Asian background are the most likely to live in poverty and deprivation,105 yet as a result of changes to taxes, benefits and public spending from 2010 to 2020, Black and Asian households in the lowest fifth of incomes will experience the largest average drop in living standards, about 20 per cent.106 In England and Scotland, changes to public spending from 2010–2011 to 2021–2022 will fall the hardest on Black households.

  1. The charity Shelter estimates that 320,000 people in Britain are now homeless,24 and recent research by Crisis suggests that 24,000 people are sleeping rough or on public transportation – more than twice government estimates.

  1. Almost 600 people died homeless in England and Wales in 2017 alone, a 24 per cent increase in the past five years.26   

  1. The number of  emergency admissions to hospitals of homeless people (“of no fixed abode”) increased sevenfold between 2008–2009 and 2017–2018.9   

 

REFERENCES TO RENT AND RENTERS

  1. Housing Benefit has been decimated amidst a real crisis in affordable housing. Housing costs are rising disproportionately for people on low incomes, and the recent uptick in pensioner poverty is driven by increasing poverty among renters.

  1. While the Government has recognized the challenges, and pledged to invest billions in improving the housing supply,44 targeted support for low-income people has been repeatedly reduced and restricted. Similarly, the Government has refused to walk back the benefit reduction for renters in so-called “underoccupied” social housing, despite consistent feedback that this reduction can pose immense hardship for low-income families and individuals who may not be able to relocate easily. 

  1. The UC system is designed with a perverse and catastrophic five-week delay built in between when people file a claim and when they receive benefits. This “waiting period”, which in practice can actually stretch up to 12 weeks, pushes many who may already be in crisis into debt, rent arrears and serious hardship.61 In response to persistent community pressure, the Government points to the availability of “advance payments and claims that ‘no one needs to wait for their money’”. 62 But this is misleading, since the loans, as well as debt to third parties, can be deducted from already meagre UC payments, potentially rendering people destitute.63 The bottom line remains horrendous.    

  1. As a routine matter, 40 per cent of the standard allowance portion of the payment can be deducted (set to change to 30 per cent later in 2019), and additional clawbacks can be made for rent, gas and electricity arrears. In reality, at least a whopping 60 per cent of a person’s UC standard allowance can be deducted to cover debt before the payment is even disbursed, and advance payment clawbacks are exempted from the 40 per cent cap.  

PN 23/05/19

 

 

Taxpayers Against Poverty

A VOICE FOR THE COMPASSIONATE MAJORITY
No citizen without an affordable home and an
adequate income in work or unemployment.
 

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