10 March 2013


The impact of the benefit cuts and caps on the poorest residents here in Haringey is far worse than that described in that very welcome letter from the 43 Bishops published by the Sunday Telegraph (shown below). There are 26,000 households claiming council tax benefit who currently pay no council tax, of which an estimated 7000 are unemployed single adults.

They will be required to pay 20%, or between £2 and £8, a week of the council tax from April out of £71.60 a week JSA/ESA/IS or Universal Credit. £71.60 is half the governmental poverty line measured by 60% of the median after housing costs and 40% of the Rowntree minimum income standard (MIS). A couple with two children will receive £261.19 a week which is 60% of Rowntree MIS.

Many are already expected to pay rent out of those incomes due to the housing benefit caps and will be hit again by rent due to the bedroom tax and the £500 overall benefit cap from April; Haringey is one of four guinea pig London boroughs for the Universal Credit. London is worst hit by the onslaught on housing benefit.

As the Bishops say the existing poverty of the employed and unemployed will get progressively worse if Parliament agrees to the 1% freeze on the uprating of benefits which are already falling behind the increases in prices of food, fuel and other necessities because to the Coalition moved the up annual rating from the RPI to the slower rising CPI.

The misery from taxing with council tax benefit incomes which are already expected to pay rent, is worsened by councils applying to the magistrates for a liability order to enforce the tax adding around £70 to the arrears and then sending in the bailiffs adding a up to further £400.

The coalition is creating a black hole of unmanageable debt in London and misery for millions of households which can only damage the health of benefit claimants. They are creating additional costs for the health service and frustrating the efforts of teachers endeavouring to get stressed and impoverished children off to a good start in primary schools, and putting at risk the talents of over four million children in poverty.

Rev Paul Nicolson,

Tottenham, Haringey.

The letter from 43 bishops to The Sunday Telegraph:
SIR – Next week, members of the House of Lords will debate the Welfare Benefits Up-rating Bill. The Bill will mean that for each of the next three years, most financial support for families will increase by no more than 1 per cent, regardless of how much prices rise.

This is a change that will have a deeply disproportionate impact on families with children, pushing 200,000 children into poverty. A third of all households will be affected by the Bill, but nearly nine out of 10 families with children will be hit.

These are children and families from all walks of life. The Children’s Society calculates that a single parent with two children, working on an average wage as a nurse would lose £424 a year by 2015. A couple with three children and one earner, on an average wage as a corporal in the British Army, would lose £552 a year by 2015.

However, the change will hit the poorest the hardest. About 60 per cent of the savings from the uprating cap will come from the poorest third of households. Only 3 per cent will come from the wealthiest third.

If prices rise faster than expected, children and families will no longer have any protection against this. This transfers the risk of high inflation rates from the Treasury to children and families, which is unacceptable.

Children and families are already being hit hard by cuts to support, including those to tax credits, maternity benefits, and help with housing costs. They cannot afford this further hardship penalty. We are calling on the House of Lords to take action to protect children from the impact of this Bill.

Rt Rev Tim Stevens, Bishop of Leicester and 42 others.