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April will be a very cruel month……if you are on welfare benefits!

From Louise Whittle:

April 2013 is going to be a critical time if you are on welfare benefits. It will also be a very mean, nasty and cruel time.

Changes to the welfare benefits will be enforced. The “bedroom tax” is an ideological attack on working class people, it’s about forcing people out of their homes, it is social cleansing and it will create untold misery and homelessness. The sheer brutality exposes the ConDems hatred of the working class, blue in tooth and claw!

From April, social housing tenants deemed to be under-occupying their properties will be charged an under-occupation penalty, which will be deducted from their housing benefit entitlements.

Riverside Housing, which manages 50,000 properties nationwide, says 24 per cent of its tenants who will be affected are searching for alternative accommodation, while 63 per cent intend to stay in their homes and pay the penalty.

Furthermore:

The penalty will be applied to working age social housing tenants who are judged to be under-occupying their homes. Couples and children of the same sex are expected to share a room, as are any two children under 10 regardless of gender. Tenants with disabilities will also be subject to the penalty, unless a bedroom is used by a non-resident carer who stays overnight.

The grim vile stench of the Dickensian is growing by day - cap in hand charity, overcrowded slums and the workhouse. Modern Victorian Britain. These changes are unnecessary and barbaric. Ordinary people will be forced to choose how they pay for their extra room(s) whether it is going without a necessity, out of the food budget, or just building up arrears…or just becoming homeless. Coupled with the fact many councils will be expecting people on benefits to contribute a lot more to their Council Tax…. the new Poll Tax.

According to National Housing Federation, which sets out the results of a survey of 232 housing associations including that - of all the reforms, the introduction of direct payments to tenants is expected to have the biggest impact on housing associations. More than 80 per cent of housing associations say it will affect their organisations a great deal, or a fair amount.

The ‘bedroom tax’ is anticipated to have a significant impact for more than 60 per cent of associations - 84 per cent of associations believe that rent arrears will increase as a direct result of welfare changes – the average increase expected is 51 per cent. More than nine in ten housing associations have begun to look at the risks and opportunities and are planning to spend an average of around £50,000 each in 2013 to prepare for the impact.

National Housing Federation chief executive David Orr said -

"Within a few short months, hundreds of thousands of low-income families will see their housing benefit cut as a result of the Welfare Reform Act. Many could fall behind on their rents, putting at risk the roof over their heads. Housing associations are doing their best in tough circumstances to cushion the blow for their residents. But there is still a lot of uncertainty, including in government, as to the full impact of its reforms. We need more time to understand and prepare for the impact of these massive changes to the welfare system."

ConDems are punishing working class for having the audacity for having extra rooms and having a decent standard of living. How dare they? Freud once said that the problem with social housing was under occupation. That’s absolutely rubbish. The real problem with social housing is the lack of it!!

The attacks on the benefits system is unrelenting and now the ConDems are gunning for the appeals system. At the moment, when you appeal - for example, ESA - you get the basic rate of ESA. It complies with article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

But the change they want is shocking….The DWP is introducing a new rule to require claimants to ask for a revision before they can appeal. This means that you will have to wait without money while they take their time considering it. And there’s NO TIME LIMITS... you could be waiting potentially for months for a decision!

So a claimant will have to sit it out without money or try and comply with JSA conditionality … and if you are sick or disabled how the hell are you expected to do that? The reality of this draconian change is that people will drop out of the benefits system, destitution, poverty will worsen and end up in a situation similar to countries that have no social security system.

The ‘mandatory revisions before appeals’ rule will be introduced for universal credit and personal independence payment in April 2013. For all other DWP-administered benefits it will be introduced in October 2013. A major problem with the new rule is that the DWP has not yet decided whether ESA claimants will receive basic rate ESA during the mandatory revision stage – as they do while they are appealing. But the indication is that the ConDems are against claimants receiving the basic ESA rate during this process.

The reason they are doing is that they are sore losers. Instead of hauling over the present system and kicking Atos out (Atos really should ask only one question: “Are you alive”?)… they are blaming claimants for the having the cheek to appeal and therefore punishing claimants for doing so.

Currently, ESA appeals are up by 69% on the same quarter last year

Since the test’s introduction in October 2008, more than 400,000 people with serious illnesses and profound disabilities have appealed against the decision to strip them of state support, and 40% have been successful; a great many disabled and sick people have died after being found “fit to work” and a survey has found that 6% of GPs have come across a patient who has attempted to take or taken their own life as a result of undergoing, or “fear of undergoing” the test.

All this and the benefits will be uprated by only 1%…this is one vicious deep cut. For people on benefits these are multipronged attacks.. The cumulative effect will be people with disabilities. As for the “bedroom tax” nobody knows where people will go, nobody has identified where these “suitable” smaller properties exist. What we do know… these attacks will destabilise and immiserate. People are already holding on by their finger tips and these attacks will increase desperation, anxiety and increased suicides.

Another impact is on social cohesion. People won’t be able to participate in society such as recreational, leisure, hobbies and so forth. These help regards to social integration. If you have very little or no money then there’s no way you can afford to send your kids to the football, the local library is shut or has been cut and there’s no way you can afford a book which you need/want, visiting the cinema is too expensive or local exhibition charges, you are too poor to go swimming. The breakdown of social engagement will be immense, people will be expected to just exist and sod everything else. The expectation is … well, that you have no expectations or enjoyment in life. The cost of austerity to working class people will be deep and ongoing, the future is definitely not bright.

Osborne talks about the need to “weaponise” policy. it’s about what’s electorally successful but also about divide and rule (workers and the shirkers). The language is also revealing it’s about crushing powerless people. It’s about smashing the working class, welfare state, public sector and the NHS.

Finally, from April 2013, the DWP will be passing on the Social Fund to local government. The money is not ring-fenced so councils can spend that money on whatever they want. Community Care grants and Crisis loans will be abolished. In Bristol, the process will be contracted out (a more detailed post will be written on this). But what needs to be flagged up about the changes to the Social Fund is that the individual cannot appeal if they are turned down instead they are expected to re-apply

The Administrative Justice and Tribunals council (AJTC) have argued the following:

The abolition of the office of the Social Fund Commissioner potentially poses risks for those currently eligible for Social Fund grants or loans. This is especially so given that there will not necessarily be any effective alternative means of challenging decisions under new local authority schemes.

In addition, local authorities implementing reform face financial and resource-based impediments to preparing for their new responsibilities, and that there is a risk of public ignorance both of the reforms themselves and of their potential consequences.

This isn’t the end by any stretch of the imagination. Osborne and his sidekick Danny Alexander want to make deeper cuts in welfare.

But as we have seen in the past couple of days, austerity is leading to stagnation and calls upon Osborne for a “Plan B”….

Instead…says OsborneWe can either run away from those problems or we can confront them and I am determined to confront them so that we can go on creating jobs for the people of this country. I am absolutely clear that we have got the right plan but of course it is not a plan that was ever going to deliver results overnight. We said from the start it was a long road, it was a hard road, but it was the only road.

It won’t be the Tories core voters who will experience the sheer brutality of these cuts as they always reward their loyal voters. It will be working class people who will suffer the punishment for generations.

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