Wednesday, 04 March 2015

Further welfare cuts risk ‘serious unrest’

Social housing tenants and the communities where they live could be ‘pushed over the edge’ by further welfare cuts, according to analysis of tenants’ incomes.

A Human City Institute study being published tomorrow says tenants have lost 10 per cent of their purchasing power since the start of the credit crunch, totalling £3 billion since 2008.

Current welfare reforms are set to cut a further £2 billion from the incomes of social tenants by 2015, and the think tank warns of ‘serious unrest’ if chancellor George Osborne pushes ahead with a further £10 billion of welfare cuts when he announces his autumn statement tomorrow.

Kevin Gulliver, director of HCI and author of the report, said: ‘Already poor tenants are getting poorer and struggling to cope before the majority of welfare reforms have even come into effect.

‘That the chancellor is rumoured to be seeking a further £10 billion cut in the welfare budget brings into question the viability of social housing communities, will have negative effects on the health and well-being of tenants and the life chances of their children.’

The report presents the findings of a research project that analysed data and research, and conducted nine focus groups with tenants. It found the median income of social tenants increased 9.3 per cent between 2005/06 and 2011/12, to £8,996, but inflation increased between 18.2 and 20.8 per cent – depending on which measure is used – resulting in a net loss in income of between 8.9 and 11.5 per cent.

It found a combination of universal credit, penalties for under-occupation of social housing, and localisation of council tax benefit will add to this by removing ‘at least £2 billion from tenants’ pockets’ by 2015.

The report highlights the work social landlords are doing to support tenants affected by welfare cuts, providing advice on benefits and budgeting, addressing fuel poverty, and running employment schemes.

Grainia Long, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, wrote the foreword to the report.

She said: ‘The Chartered Institute of Housing is very concerned that the combined effects of austerity and welfare reform run counter to the government’s fairness principle, and this report demonstrates clearly that tenants are among those who are disproportionately taking the strain of deficit reduction.’

Readers' comments (25)

  • It tends to be the case that you get social unrest when people have nothing to lose.
    It may not be the case that there will be social unrest as despite being in poverty, people are facing so many sanctions that they will be frightened of even losing the little money they have whilst sentencing is becoming more and more draconian.

    this is why people don't riot in the states despite tens of millions living on food vouchers.

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  • In 5 years, so called 'social rents' up 26%+
    Minimum wage up just 8%.

    Increasingly workers forced onto housing benefit. what with transport costs, many might as well be on the dole. Social housing ha become anti-social. Above inflation rent rises are punishing the poorest.

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  • Eric Blair

    'Unrest' can take many different forms, and tenants are quite well organised in some respects. Or at least, this is true for some of them. The trouble is, if you marginalise people (those least able to pick up the tab for the fiscal crisis) sooner or later they will hit back. Even in the passive / non-violent sense.

    We will rapidly find ourselves with a new social underclass, characterised by low spending power, poor health - politically and economically disenfranchised. This costs us both financially and socially. It is entirely counterproductive and gives the lie to notions of economic recovery.

    And my point is? Perhaps 'engaged tenants' will organise themselves to lobby government decision-makers. After all, what have they got to lose? There are plenty of pressure groups out there trying to push back at 'austerity measures', and at some point most of these will form a more homogeneous group to chip away at centralised power in Whitehall.

    We might even see the emergence of a new (more representative) political party, to replace the failed agendas of the Labour and Liberal Parties. Both have drifted so far to the right they are little more than watered-down conservatives with a pink wash.

    Disparate groups like the Occupy Movement, student protesters, Disabled People Against Cuts are pushing towards broadly similar goals. Rioting (assuming this is implied by 'unrest') plays right into the coalition's hands, because it leads to a false dialogue about who to blame for putting the brakes on economic recovery. 'Disaffected youth!' 'Urban scum!' That's a huge distraction.

    Suppose we all abstained from (excessive) shopping for a while and adopted deliberately frugal lifestyles? That would hit the government where it hurts the most. In its wallet. Because really, the words 'economic recovery' are shorthand for 'boosting the wealth of exploitative capitalists.'

    Contrary to our government's current campaign of disinformation, these people are not wealth creators. If they were they would not be intent on punishing the poor for a crisis they did not create. We are the wealth creators. And we should organise for social change.

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  • "We might even see the emergence of a new (more representative) political party"

    I'm quite certain this won't happen due to the nature of the political process as there is no requirement to discuss fact/evidence.

    I'm encouraging people to get involved in the likes of 38 degrees. Not only are they an effective campaigning group - more importantly, they have an enormous membership group whcih means they can truly be classed as a group that represents a vast amount of the population that believe in some form of social justice and fairness.

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  • Daedalus

    Social Housing tenants have lost 10% of their purchasing power since 2008.

    Whilst it would be nice for everybody to be wealthy, I think that you will find that many millions of non-Social Housing tenants have lost more than 10% of their purchasing power since 2008.

    We are in a recession which leads to eroded purchasing power, it isn't rocket science.

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  • Chris

    Unrest or no unrest, the further impoverishment of the poor can only harm the majority in the wallet. The lower spending on the high street will rob even more jobs, and lower the pay of others. This will also decrease the income via taxation, increasing debt and pressure to cut even more. This 'mass supported' game of beggar thy neighbour beggars ourselves. The only gainers, as always, are the elite, the speculators, and capital gamblers who are creaming off the newly created excess as we speak, deepening the deficit whilst deepening their pockets at our expense.

    It will not be the starvation of the poor that will case unrest, but the knock on effects to the many who current clamour for the poor to be kicked ever harder - it will be they who will form the unrest when they wake up to their error and how seriously duped they have been.

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  • Daedalus

    Eric Blair | 04/12/2012 11:47 am

    "Contrary to our government's current campaign of disinformation, these people are not wealth creators. If they were they would not be intent on punishing the poor for a crisis they did not create."

    A bit of a ridiculous non-sequitur in an otherwise reasonable post.

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  • Eric Blair

    @Daedalus - you're trying to damn me with faint praise. It's hardly a non-sequitur to point out that this government (assisted by the mainstream media) constantly harps on about 'wealth creators', framing these as practically superhuman individuals. When in fact they are merely plunderers of other peoples' time and creativity. To me this is entirely logical and no sequiturs were harmed during the creation of my post.

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  • The con dems have already rushed through severe leglislation
    to impose £18 Billion of welfare cuts onto the poorest people
    in the uk , and these are not one off cuts but annual reductions,
    to take away the vital and legal incomes of these people , and to
    create massive difficulty in these people meeting the ever increasing
    costs of living.
    The con dems are also then bringing in the Universal credit to
    further interfere with benefit entitlements and procedures , and
    will also further reduce benefit incomes, ontop of the £18 Billion
    of cuts being taken away each year.
    The con dems are also planning to cut a massive £60 Billion p.a
    off the welfare budget by pushing the retirement age up to 67 !

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  • Melvin Bone

    Most of the people involved with the last riots were not rising up to protest at the reduction of their Jobseekers or because they were failing to cope with fuel poverty..

    They were just after a bigger TV for free.

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