Opinion: Benefits aren’t enough to live healthily
- Credit: Archant
There is a community of about 11,000 social security claimants in Haringey.
The shredding of their social security incomes since 2010 has been piled on top of decades of adult benefit negligence.
The evidence came from Prof Jonathan Bradshaw in 2009 in a letter in The Guardian responding to one of mine. Austerity was piled onto an already inadequate cornerstone of the benefit system in April 2011. To it are added disabled people's and children's benefits, housing and council tax benefits.
"When unemployment benefit started in 1912 it was seven shillings a week - about 22 per cent of average male earnings in manufacturing," wrote Prof Bradshaw. "The percentage fluctuated over the succeeding decades, but by 1979 the benefit rate was still about 21pc of average earnings (manual and non-manual, male and female).
"By 2008, however, as a result of the policy of tying benefits to the price index while real earnings increased, the renamed jobseeker's allowance (JSA) had fallen to an all-time low of 10.5pc of average earnings."
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Benefit increases were frozen at 1pc a year in April 2011. £73.10 a week JSA equates to £317 a month Universal Credit.
Using the Joseph Rowntree minimum income standards for single adult benefits after rent and council tax in April 2019, we can see JSA and Universal Credit are nearly £32 a week too low for healthy living. That is before
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- the cuts in council tax and housing benefits;
- the delay in the delivery of Universal Credit for five weeks;
- income is stopped by benefit sanctions, during which rent, council tax and TV licence arrears pile up and add to the impossibility of living on benefits;
- the DWP "budgeting advance", which is a loan that has to be repaid out of £73.10 a week.
Families who have a third child often don't know about the government's two-child policy until they visit the job centre and are refused the child's benefits.
The hopelessly inadequate single adult benefit cannot maintain a healthy adult life let alone pay the rent or council tax, or their enforcement costs. That is a cruel catch-22. If your children's benefits pay the rent they are hungry, naked or cold; if you feed and clothe growing children or keep them warm then the family is evicted and homeless.
The 1980s "big bang" set up the UK housing market to make large UK landowners very rich indeed and to treat small businesses and family homes, who pay rent and own no land, little better than the 15th and 16th century enclosures. Tenants are being pushed off the land with no solutions on the political table to reverse the trend.
In Haringey 3,000 homeless families with 5,208 children have been forced into temporary accommodation - some for up to and over 10 years.