3.4 million households across the UK are living on a “financial cliff-edge”, where a small drop in income could cost them their homes, new figures reveal today.
Analysis of government data by the University of St Andrews, on behalf of the homeless charity Shelter, reveals that one in eight low-income families are living with unaffordable housing costs.
Average rental costs in the UK currently stands at £694 a month but rents in London have soared to £1,412 a month – more than twice the national average.
Rent has also become less affordable in the South-west and South-east of England, where average income is 2.55 times and 2.93 times the median national average respectively.
Mum of two Lou, 42, works full-time but still struggles to cover housing costs.
“Even though I work every day and live in a small flat, the rent eats up so much money that it’s almost impossible to make do with what’s left over each month, and I can’t move because there’s nowhere else remotely near to work I could dream of affording”, she told Shelter.
“I’ve had to borrow money off my friends and family to cover my rent, and I’m always making tough decisions on what I can and can’t afford for my youngest. Things have got so bad that I’ve even missed paying bills because I had to put food on the table, and that’s when the debts start to mount up.
“It’s such an uphill battle. I’ve faced losing my home before and I live in dread of having to go through that again. The idea of losing my job just doesn’t bear thinking about.”
The Housing Benefit bill for working families is set to soar by more than £1 billion by 2018. Years of lower than inflation wage rises, and the lowest ever levels of house building, have resulted in a rising number of households who are struggling to cover housing costs.
Campbell Robb, Shelter’s chief executive, said:
“Every day at Shelter we hear from people who, through no fault of their own, are finding it impossible to keep up with sky-high housing costs. It’s terrifying to think that many of us are resorting to avoiding bills or selling possessions in a desperate bid to make ends meet.
“The government must make sure families who are already battling to keep their heads above water don’t slip through the growing holes in our safety net, and into a downward spiral which could result in the loss of their home.”
Source – Welfare News Service, 09 Sept 2014
> A whistleblower’s account of what really goes on…though I doubt it’ll come as a suprise to anyone who’s done time on the WP.
I took on a full-time job as a student in the summer holidays. The interview was fairly standard and the company advertised the role as a customer management assistant that helped people get back into work.
However, as I started my new job, I began to notice that it wasn’t the caring compassionate company that it had advertised itself as. My position involved taking calls from “clients”, these were both Job Centre advisors from over London and the South West as well as Job Centre customers who called us directly.
The calls were to make appointments to put the customers onto their first meeting with their work program advisors. Other calls from direct customers were either for this same reason, as they had been instructed to, or to cancel an upcoming appointment.
What I discovered however, as my time there ticked along, was that our company was paid directly from the government for every individual they successfully “engaged” onto the Work Programme (WP) – a rough estimate of £1000. For every six weeks that person was in employment the company would be paid another £300 to £400; in fact the centre had a completely separate section called In Work Support, solely to make sure that the customers employment was maintained.
At the end of twenty-six weeks in paid employment the company would then be paid another lump sum of at least £1000. This meant that for every individual successfully engaged into employment through the WP the company would be paid approximately £3000 to £4000.
Now, let’s just deal with that for a second.
This is one company of many. With roughly 100 staff over all departments. The question that I pondered constantly was how is it cheaper to fund these centres and its staff with its financial incentives, how is that effective and where could that money be dispersed for the greater good?
A second but more important point is the effect that the pressure of this had on people. I was called on one occasion by a man who had his JSA stopped. This man was homeless and currently living in a shelter, yet he had been contacted on his mobile by his job centre that were insistent that he make an appointment to see an employment consultant, before his money would be reinstated. Money that he picked up from the post office. I spent a relatively long time just speaking to him, getting to know his situation and trying to help him as best I could. A lot of the available appointments that we had on our books clashed with meetings at his job centre. He took what he was being made to do in his stride but I found it a pointless exercise. He was homeless yet this wasn’t a priority. Without a fixed abode he would not be able to start a bank account and without a bank account he would not be able to find legitimate employment.
Another gentleman called me, enquiring about his(ESA) claim. He had been sent a letter stating that he needed to attend this particular appointment or his money would be stopped, however he very calmly and politely told me that he couldn’t get to this specific date and time as he had to undergo dialysis three times a week. Dialysis! Yet he was being forced onto the WP with threats to stop his money [if he failed to do so].
I worked mainly with(JSA) customers, however on other occasions I did also deal with ESA claims. I had people call [me] in tears, telling me they didn’t know what to do or where to turn. These people were being blackmailed into the WP so that our company could receive it’s pound of flesh, it’s profit, it’s blood money.
We received weekly emails from the CEO who visited the centre on two occasions, encouraging us to engage the customers, giving us statistics on our success rate and constantly telling us “engage, engage, engage”, even with promises of bonuses. It was also discussed in these emails the bad press and statistics of those who had been forced on the WP and had committed suicide, it does happen and it is being ignored. Now, I wish I had saved some of those emails.
Eventually, when I saw it for what it really was, I decided I could no longer stay there. A few weeks previous to my leaving, I was taken into the manager’s office as she pointed out all the things I had done wrong; joking with the customers, not engaging them. I knew what I was doing. Soon after I handed in my notice, the job was to save up for my wedding but morally I couldn’t stay there.
I’ve never before seen such a vulgar display of capitalism exploiting the poor, the disabled and the sick.
The money that is poured into these centres I have no doubt could be put to better use. Training centres, volunteering, computer access. Why do these places still exist and yet the government are cutting welfare that will affect EVERYONE?
People are genuinely being pushed into stress, depression and in some cases suicide. This is real, this is happening! The WP needs to be either seriously reassessed or shut down.
I feel it is my civil duty to share my experience and to make you all aware that the work program doesn’t work!
Source – Welfare News Service, 26 January 2014
Right wing “think tank” Policy Exchange (PE) – described by the Daily Telegraph as “the largest, but also the most influential think tank on the right” – wants pay to be cut for public sector workers in the North East (and Merseyside, and the South West), pointing to research claiming that taxpayer-funded jobs in the region pay as much as 3200 pounds more than their equivalents in the private sector.
(As usual I have problems with terms like “as much as 3200”, which probably means a few lucky people do, but the majority get nowhere near. But policies like this will always quote the highest figure earned by the minority, rather than the far lower one that is the lot of the majority. Just something to bear in mind…)
What the PE has in its sights is regional pay policies. Matthew Oakley, head of economics and social policy at PE : “Nationalised pay negotiation is not fit for purpose for the modern public sector. It is bad for the economy and bad for public services. While the unions should still have a strong role in the future, we should move to a system where local public sector employers can decide how to negotiate salaries with employees in order to reflect the realities of their labour market.”
Which I translate as something like – employers tell employees ” lots of unemployment out there – either you accept lower wages or we find someone who will.”
Incidentally, could this be the same Matthew Oakley who was recently described by The Void as ” Britain’s biggest scrounger” ? It certainly could.
Matthew Oakley has previously authored a paper on welfare reform which includes not only a demand for a greater use of sanctions for part workers, but astonishingly even pre-emptive benefit sanctions for people on fixed term contracts. Oakley believes that these workers should be stripped of any entitlement to benefits at all if Jobcentre staff decide that they weren’t doing enough to find work even before they lost their job.
So impressed was Iain Duncan Smith with this swivel-eyed nonsense that he gave Oakley a non-job on the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) – the body whose job it is to scrutinise social security reforms.. This means he is now paid £256.80 a day of tax payer’s cash to provide so-called expert opinions on policies he helped create.
Prior to working at the Policy Exchange, Oakley was in another tax payer funded non-job at the Treasury where he worked on a white paper outlining proposals for Universal Credit. Now Iain Duncan Smith is to shovel yet more of our money into his grubby pockets by asking him to carry out what is laughingly called an ‘independent review’ of benefit sanctions.
Whilst over two million people are desperate for any job, Oakley now has three – and two of them at our expense.
Nice work if you can get it !
But as pointed out by Neil Foster, head of policy at the Northern TUC : “PE still fail to compare like with like since many of the jobs in the public sector simply don’t exist in the private sector and vice versa.
“They lost the argument on regional pay and I’d advise them to move on to other areas of research such as looking at the wealth at the top that has gone up during austerity, rather than arguing North East nurses, midwives, teachers and school cooks are overpaid.”
You might think that what all this proves is that the wages of private sector workers are being kept low by unscruprulous employers, and that rather than reducing the pay of the public sector, we should instead be raising the wages of the private sector.
Alternatively, you might think that if we should have lower regional wages, we should also have lower regional outgoings – lower power bills, food prices, transport, etc. But “pay more, get less” is the unofficial motto of organizations like PE and the neo-liberal forces they serve.
You might also like to bear in mind that a study for the GMB union shows 631,000 public sector jobs have been lost since the Coalition came to power in 2010,
and the union predicts that fresh cuts being eyed by Tory Chancellor George Osborne will take that figure over a million before the next election in May 2015.
GMB national officer Brian Strutton said: “These statistics show the devastating effect of this Government’s austerity cuts on total public sector employment. Some parts of the country that are most dependent on the public sector to support their local economies have been hardest hit.The tragedy is that the worse is yet to come.
“The Office for Budget Responsibility’s forecast for net total public sector job losses during the lifetime of this Parliament means that the prospect for the next two years could be up to a further 400,000 job losses.”
Still, as we’ve often been told, the private sector will take up the slack and replace all those lost public sector jobs, albeit for lower wages.
It doesn’t seem to be happening. Isn’t that strange ?
You don’t think they might have been lying to us, do you ?