9 Days Remaining

Tuesday 8th
posted by Morning Star in Features

by Charlotte Hughes

THE new benefits cap has now come into force. Myself, other activists and politicians had tried desperately to warn the public about this, but it seemed to fall on deaf ears in many cases.

I suppose it’s easier to run away from reality, to try to carry on as normal and ignore the fact that this is happening.
The enormity of the situation has now hit people very hard.

As a community activist, I started to receive emails from worried people in the early hours of yesterday morning and this continued throughout the day.

Questions such as: “How will I manage?” “I’m scared I’m going to lose my home,” “We can’t afford to eat and pay the rent, what shall we do?”

Make no mistake, this is going to be devastating and these are the questions that thousands and thousands of people were asking themselves yesterday, and they will continue to do so.

The government has stated that it has implemented the benefit cap because it wants to make unemployed and sick people think more about the cost of things. It wants them to be more in line with people who are working.

Theresa May was quoted as saying that this will provide “good value for money.”

I say that making the poorest suffer is never good value for money. You quite simply can’t put a price on a person’s life. It’s unconscionable to do so.

How will the new benefit cap affect people? Basically, unemployed and people claiming employment and support allowance who are not in the support group are expected to pay the shortfall in their rent. Deciding between eating, keeping warm or paying the rent is an impossible choice to make.

There’s a massive misunderstanding among the media and society that claimants receive all the money that they are entitled to in their hands. They don’t.

Most of their money goes to pay their landlord their rent. With social housing being in very short supply, more and more people are forced to go to the private rented sector and many are already paying a top-up rent.

Having to pay a now impossible amount will see tenants being evicted, having to rely on homeless shelters which are already full or being housed in B&Bs which are usually in a state of disrepair.

If a tenant falls behind with their rent and gets evicted, local authorities will see them as making themselves intentionally homeless and therefore have no statutory duty to house them. Whether single, a couple, or with children — the situation is dire.

The pressure that will be put on foodbanks will be unprecedented. They find it hard enough to cope already, so how will they be able to cope with more and more people coming to them?

They rely on donations, many probably made by the very same people that are now being hit by the benefit cap now. In effect, the amount of people able to donate will drop as well.

This will also have a direct effect upon the NHS and related services. More and more people will become ill and admitted to hospital with malnutrition-related diseases. And now winter is here, people will suffer from more cold-related illnesses too.

It has been estimated that as many as 88,000 families will be affected, including a quarter of a million children — which is the equivalent of 350 primary schools all being faced with homelessness by the new benefit cap.

It’s horrific. It can never be seen as good value for money. It’s inhumane and we need to start raising our voices more.