Tagged: cuts to benefits

Leading Catholics Write To IDS Over Welfare Cuts

More than 70 leading Catholics have written to Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, who is Catholic, to tell him they fear the impact of his welfare reform policies.

In an open letter the group, led by the thinktanks Ekklesia and the Centre for Welfare Reform, calls on Duncan Smith to redraft his policies “in a way that is more compatible with Catholic and Christian values.”

They highlight benefit sanctions, work capability assessments, the benefits cap and the scheme to incorporate all benefits in a single system of universal credit as policies that are worsening the situation of poor families up and down the country.

We understand that your Catholic faith is important to you, and your approach is driven by a desire to improve the quality of individual lives,” the letter says.

However, we believe that [your policies] are in fact doing the reverse. We would urge you to rethink and to abandon further cuts which are likely to cause more damage.”

Duncan Smith was the first Catholic leader of the Conservative party between 2001 and 2003. In 2010 he was named one of Britain’s most influential Catholics. Since his appointment at the head of the Department for Work and Pensions that year, he has led a radical reorganisation of Britain’s benefits system to ensure “work always pays more”.

But he has faced criticism from campaigners who say that cuts to benefits have led to suicides, an increase in poverty and the social cleansing of wealthier areas, particularly in London and the south-east.

Full story :  http://northstar.boards.net/thread/170/leading-catholics-write-over-welfare

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Tenant evictions reach six-year high amid rising rents and benefit cuts

The number of tenants evicted from their homes is at a six-year high, according to new figures, as rising rents and cuts to benefits make tenancies increasingly unaffordable.

County court bailiffs in England and Wales evicted more than 11,000 families in the first three months of 2015, an increase of 8% on the same period last year and 51% higher than five years ago.

The increase in the number of tenants losing their homes means 2015 is on course to break last year’s record levels. Nearly 42,000 families were evicted from rental accommodation in 2014, the highest number since records began in 2000.

Rental prices have soared in many UK cities but wages failing to keep pace with rising costs and caps to benefits have left many poorer tenants unable to make payments.

Separate figures also published on Thursday showed almost 59,000 households have had their benefits capped in the past two years. Nearly half of those families were in London, where the the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom home is £2,216.

Housing charities said the figures were a glaring reminder that many tenants were struggling to maintain a roof over their heads, and they called on the new government to do more to tackle a housing crisis in the UK.

The latest repossession statistics, published by the Ministry of Justice, reveal the highest number of evictions in a single quarter since 2009, when comparable records began, with nearly 126 families forced out every day.

Between January and March, 11,307 tenants and their families were evicted by bailiffs, compared with a figure of 10,380 between October and December last year, and 10,482 in the first quarter of 2014.

The record figure comes as the number of landlord repossession claims – the first step of the legal process leading to an eviction – also rose. Claims were up 10% on the last quarter, but at 42,226 they remained below a six-year high of 47,208 in the first quarter of 2014.

Claims by both private and social landlords were up, the figures showed, although most of the rise was explained by claims by the latter. Social landlords were behind nearly five times as many attempts to recover properties than private landlords, the figures showed. These landlords are typically housing associations providing homes at lower rents than the market rate, often to tenants who receive housing benefit.

In the first three months of the year, 64% of possession claims were made by social landlords. These 27,204 court actions came alongside 5,551 made by private landlords and 9,741 accelerated claims, which could have been by either social or private landlords.

In May 2014, when the threat of evictions reached its highest level for a decade, the National Housing Federation, which represents housing associations across England, told the Guardian the bedroom tax was causing problems for social landlords. The policy cuts the amount of housing benefit paid to social housing tenants whose homes are deemed too large for their requirements. Benefit sanctions were also thought to be causing problems.

But many housing associations, particularly in London and the south-east, have turned out tenants as they have sought to redevelop generations-old estates to take advantage of the big rise in property values. This has in turn led to an increase in the number of grassroots campaigns to oppose evictions, such as the Focus E15 mothers.

In one case of eviction resistance last week, activists from Housing Action Southwarkand Lambeth in London answered a call from a 14-year-old girl to successfully resist her family’s eviction from a flat in an estate that Southwark council had marked for demolition. Elsewhere in the capital, shorthold tenants in Brixton’s Loughborough Park estate, owned by the Guinness Partnership housing association, have defied eviction orders by occupying their flats.

The MoJ figures came on the same day as the Department for Work and Pensions revealed that 58,690 households across the UK had their benefits capped to a maximum of £26,000 a year since April 2013. Londoners were the worst affected, with 26,636 families facing a cut in benefits over the period to February 2015, followed by 5,953 in the rest of the south-east.

DWP proposals to meet the Conservatives’ pledge to cut £12bn from the welfare budget, in documents leaked to the Guardian last week, included barring under-25s from claiming housing benefit, increasing the bedroom tax on certain categories of tenants, limiting welfare payments by family size and freezing welfare benefits at current levels.

Responding to the eviction statistics, Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said:

“Today’s figures are a glaring reminder that sky-high housing costs and welfare cuts are leaving thousands of people battling to keep a roof over their heads.

“Every day at Shelter we see the devastating impact of a housing market at boiling point, with the cost of renting so high that many families are living in fear that just one thing like losing their job or becoming ill could leave them with the bailiffs knocking at the door.

“The new government must make sure people aren’t left to fall through the cracks and hurtling towards homelessness by preserving, if not strengthening, the frayed housing safety net to protect ordinary families desperately struggling to make ends meet.”

Betsy Dillner, director of the campaign group Generation Rent, said:

“These record eviction figures and signs that they are accelerating are a stark reminder of the housing crisis that the government must urgently start taking seriously now they’re back in power.

“Whether it’s an inability to pay expensive rents or a landlord’s desire to take back their property, the fact that more than 40,000 families were forced out of their homes last year is a symptom of the government’s failure to create a sustainable housing market.”

The housing minister, Brandon Lewis, defended the government’s performance, pointing out that mortgage repossessions had fallen drastically, keeping owner-occupiers in their “hard-earned homes”.

He said:

“Mortgage repossessions continue to fall at 56% lower than this time last year, and the lowest annual figure since the series began in 1987. Meanwhile, numbers of county court mortgage possession claims continue to fall to the lowest quarterly number since records began. This is thanks to our work to tackle the deficit and keep interest rates low, helping more families to stay in their hard earned homes.

“There are strong protections in place to guard families against the threat of homelessness. We increased spending to prevent homelessness, with over £500m made available to help the most vulnerable in society and ensure we don’t return to the bad old days when homelessness in England was nearly double what it is today.”

Source – The Guardian,  14 May 2015

Working age benefits to be cut by almost a quarter if Tories win election

Benefits for working age claimants will be cut by almost a quarter if the Conservatives win the general election, according to the independent think-tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).

The IFS found that in spite of all the cuts to benefits already implemented by the Coalition, the total benefits bill is virtually unchanged at £220 billion. This is because the slashing of the working age benefits bill by £7 billion has been offset by increased costs for pensioners. The IFS did also find, however, that without the cuts the cost of benefits would have been £16.7 billion (7%) higher.

The IFS has forecast that £21 billion of welfare savings will need to be made in the next parliament in order for the Conservatives to meet their spending targets. As pensions are largely protected, this will mean a massive 23% cut in payments to working age people.

As yet, the Conservatives have given little indication of how cuts of such a huge magnitude will be achived.

You can download the full IFS Election Briefing Note here.

Source –  Benefits & Work, 03 Feb 2015

http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/3003-working-age-benefits-to-be-cut-by-almost-a-quarter

Benefit Cuts ‘Exacerbating The High Rate Of Poverty Among New Families’

Government benefit cuts are pushing pregnant women and new parents into worsening poverty, says a damning new report.

The report – Valuing families? – from the charity Maternity Action, who provide free advice to parents about welfare benefits and healthcare, found that government welfare cuts are “exacerbating the high rate of poverty among new families”.

Since coming to office in 2010, the Tory-led coalition government has made a number of cuts to benefits and payments available to pregnant women and children. This includes freezing and means-testing Child Benefit; removing the baby element, and capping the annual up-rating of Statutory Maternity (and Paternity) Pay and Maternity Allowance.

The government has also reduced the income cut-off for the family element of Child Tax Credit, removed Sure Start Maternity Grants for all but a family’s first child and abolished both the Child Trust Fund and Health in Pregnancy Grant.

Maternity Action says cuts to welfare benefits and other payments available to families, including for working parents, are “contributing to the growth in personal debt” at a time when the cost of living has increased significantly.

Financial stress can lead to poor mental health among parents and this is linked to potential behavioural difficulties in children, says Maternity Action. The report says “women affected by poverty are less likely to have good nutrition during pregnancy, which contributes to the high rates of low birth weight in the UK”.

The report draws attention to the 2010 Marmot Review, which recommended early intervention to support families on both low and middle-incomes experiencing poor health, as a result of a squeeze on incomes.

Cuts in maternity benefits are pushing women to return to work after maternity sooner than they would like, while the take-up of paternity leave among fathers is affected by family incomes, reducing the likelihood of shared parenting. Maternity Action say this “entrenches the division of caring responsibilities and halts progress in reducing the gender pay gap”.

The charity says reducing maternity benefits is “at odds with evidence-based strategies to address health inequalities”, adding “poverty and poor health are inextricably linked and children born to parents living in poverty are more likely to present with developmental and social problems later in life”.

The report said as many as 60,000 women are forced to leave their jobs every year, because of pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. The introduction of employment tribunal fees means that some women face a £1,200 barrier to justice.

More than 600 Sure Start services have closed their doors since Prime Minister David Cameron and his government took office in 2010, reducing the number of available sources of advice and support for new parents.

Maternity Action has called on the government to increase maternity benefits and treat Maternity Allowance as ‘earnings from employment’, within the new Universal Credit system.

The charity is also calling on the government to increase the National Minimum Wage and:

  • Assist low to medium income families with the costs of each new baby, by reinstating the Sure Start Maternity Grant for second and subsequent children.
  • Provide support for low-income women during pregnancy to ensure a healthy diet, by increasing Healthy Start payments by 14.5% (the increase in the cost of food and non-alcoholic beverages since the benefit was last up-rated in 2010).
  • Review access to maternity benefits for pregnant women and new mothers who do not have indefinite leave to remain and for EEA nationals, with the aim of reducing poverty amongst migrant families residing in the UK. This should take into account the impact of extending from two years to five years the period of residency in the UK required for migrants with spouse/partner/fiancé(e) visas to apply for indefinite leave to remain, and restrictions on access to benefits by EEA nationals.
  • Take immediate steps to reduce the high rate of pregnancy discrimination to enable pregnant women and new parents to retain their jobs and have the confidence to exercise their maternity and parental rights at work.

Source – Welfare Weekly,  14 Nov 2014

http://www.welfareweekly.com/benefit-cuts-exacerbating-high-rate-poverty-among-new-families/