Housing Benefit – how badly are we being misled?

According to David Cameron, in the Guardian, social unrest would have been likely if Housing Benefit payments had not been slashed, he said, yesterday, after claims that his cuts would lead to an influx of poor families from inner cities to hard-pressed suburbs.

It turns out he wasn’t fearing social unrest from all those forced to move (and how do those on benefits pay for that – how do they even travel to look for a new home?**), because of the cuts in housing benefit, but from those in the £20,000 – £30,000 p.a. income bracket, i.e., those who resent people on Housing Benefit which, of course, they wouldn’t have done had not Cameron, Osborne and Clegg been bad-mouthing them all over the media, exactly as they have been doing to the chronically sick and disabled, and the unemployed, too – a process of disinformation and outright lies started by David Freud under Labour, and no doubt continued in his guise of Lord Freud, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, after he defected to the Tories. See this also.

**As I know from personal experience, councils and housing associations give priority, understandably, to local people, not to those wanting, or being forced, to move from another area.

It doesn’t appear to have occurred to the tosser – because he has no empathy whatsoever with anyone outside his own, hyper-privileged, class – that those forced to move from areas where they might well have lived, and worked (not everyone claiming housing benefit is unwaged), all their lives, and disrupt not only their lives and employment prospects, but their children’s education, too, are the people who are likely to feel, well, just a tad resentful!

Cameron claims that amounts of £30,000, £40,000, £50,000 p.a. are being paid out in Housing Benefits in central London. What he doesn’t say –  because like his partners in crime, Clegg, Osborne and IDS, he’s unfamiliar with the idea of truth and transparency** – is how many families are claiming such extravagant amounts, because I’m willing to wager that the average HB claim in central London, which doesn’t get a mention, is a hell of a lot lower than that.

**The financial data recently released is a mere fraction of the total government expenditure – nothing more than the illusion of transparency. (Source: the Guardian.)

Why aren’t journalists using the Freedom of Information Act to obtain information on the numbers of ultra-high HB claims (if they exist), and the amounts, and the details of the average rate of HB, and publishing them? And before someone says why don’t I do it, it would mean contacting every council in London – I just don’t have the physical resources to take on a task of that magnitude. Newspapers do, though (and had it been Gordon Brown making these unsupported claims, they sure as hell would have done so by now!).

There is no doubt that the HB system is being abused – as the Daily Mail just loves to point out, with their occasional exposés of some cynical bugger with several “wives”, 15 kids – and a bad back! – living in a mansion on the income from HB, Child Benefit and, usually, disability benefits, too. Hell, you must have seen them – they usually make the pages of the respectable papers too.

The thing is, though, they are the exception, not the rule, and we really do need to know how common, or otherwise, such HB claims are, and we sure as hell won’t get that from Cameron, because it doesn’t suit his agenda.

And you never hear of the families where the adults are running 3 or more  jobs, just to try and make ends meet, and needing their rent top-up from Housing Benefit just to survive, and to live in an area where there’s work. Why is that, I wonder? Simple, it doesn’t fit Cameron’s, or Clegg’s, Osborne’s or IDS’s, lying depictions of everyone on HB – or any benefits for that matter – as “benefit scroungers”.

So here’s an idea – target the few who are massively abusing the system – but don’t penalise the many thousands who are already struggling to get by.

Not, of course, that it’s going to happen.

But getting back to Cameron’s extravagant HB figures, I don’t believe them. 15 years ago I lived in a one-bedroom privately-rented flat which cost about £180 p.w. (£9,360 p.a.), and my HB came up about 20% short, something which it was impossible to make up from my Incapacity Benefit. So tell me, exactly how are people managing to get HB payments of up to £50,000 a year when I couldn’t even get £9.360?

I think those figures represent the total income from all benefits, HB, Child and, probably, disability too. OK, still high, but a lot better in the proper perspective.

So why, I wonder, is nobody asking Cameron to produce evidence that people are claiming up to £50,000 a year in Housing Benefit? It should be easy enough, and confidentiality is easy enough to ensure, so, hey, let’s see it sometime soon, because so far we only have his word for it, and we all know exactly what that’s worth.

And that turns out to be bugger all – see this post.