Imagine getting a call from a council official telling you that you will be moved to another town – possibly on the other side of the country- in one months time, possibly even that evening, and if you say no to being moved, then you will be homeless.
You have never been to this town and it’s miles from anywhere or anyone you know.
Imagine packing up all your possessions, telling your children that they won’t be going back to their school, that you don’t know what new school they will be going to until you move, telling them to say goodbye to their friends (if there is time) and explaining to them that they are leaving the area that they have spent their lives in for somewhere new that they have never been before.
You have to move to this new place because your local authority have told you to. There is no choice.
Would that be okay with you? Would you happily accept that you had to move and go to the new town or city that you didn’t know without complaint, knowing that once you had left your home town with all your memories, connections and support networks that you would probably never be able to move back?
It wouldn’t be nice, would it? To have lost all control over your own destiny, to be told that you will be leaving your home town an there is no choice in the matter.
It’s an awful situation but it is reality for families in London affected by the benefits cap.
Do you remember when the benefits cap was first spoken about? There was outrage that benefits claimants in London got more money than some who worked full time.
“How terrible that a feckless layabout got more cash than a hardworking, honest person!” sneered the Daily Mail and everyone nodded along and agreed like good little citizens, with no thought for the people it would actually affect.
People who don’t have a choice in life, people who are in dire circumstances mostly through no fault of their own. Families who have lost the breadwinner, families who’s father has walked out without warning, people who have lost their jobs and are struggling to find more work, people who can only find zero hour contact jobs and women who have had to seek refuge from domestic violence.
In other words, the dregs of society. The poor and worthless who don’t deserve a choice, who should be grateful for the crumbs they are thrown and go anywhere they are sent by their local authority and kiss their feet for sending them to a B&B in Wolverhampton where they know no one.
They can just up their dose of prozac and get on with their new lives.
There is no thought for the problem behind the benefits cap, the real cause of the problem, being that rental prices in London are sky high and the local authority allowance (housing benefit) falls woefully short of market rental prices, and even shorter now the benefits cap is in place. For those who are in private rental rather than social housing, the gap is even wider.
Would you like some figures? Here is an example for you, how about we look at a single mother with three children. Oh, I know, daft bitch! Why have children that you can’t afford? She deserves to be on the shit heap, doesn’t she?
But lets pretend that she lives in the real world and that life changes. Maybe she was married to a man who worked full time, but one day, he hit her for the millionth time and she finally told him to leave.
She wasn’t eligible for any help with housing from the local authority, but she was able to claim housing benefit. After hunting for a place to rent through estate agents who would accept a low life like her who claimed benefits, she finally found a three bedroom flat, close enough to her children’s school so that they wouldn’t have the upheaval of having to leave their friends at the same time as their family fell apart.
She is entitled to housing benefit, income support, child tax credit and child benefit.
They all add up to £37 more than her rent is a month because under the benefits cap, she cannot receive more than £430 a week, which in London, doesn’t go very far considering that even a studio flat will cost you £1000 per month.
That is £37 to pay all her bills and feed her self and her children for a month. Doesn’t add up, does it?
Finding a job isn’t easy either when you have young children. Most unskilled work is zero hour contract – imagine trying to work out and pay for childcare when you don’t know if or when you will be working from week to week?
“Leave London then!” You all say, “move to Newcastle, you can rent a mansion for that!”
How infuriating and frustrating it is to you that this woman is moaning about her government handouts not being enough. You couldn’t afford to live in London, and you work, so why should she be able to stay?
If she goes, if everyone like her leaves London then who is left?
What about the council workers, nurses, paramedics and teaching assistants who also claim housing benefit to be able to stay in London who are now struggling due to the benefits cap, should they all move out too?
Who does that leave in London?
Only the rich, the lucky, the well educated and the people who are renting illegal, unsafe, overcrowded houses let by unscrupulous landlords. The homeless. The very top and the very bottom.
What would London look like if everyone go their wish and those who were being squeezed out by the benefits cap up and moved? Good luck finding a cleaner or childcare then.
Don’t forget that this could be any of us at any time. No matter how safe you feel, life can change in an instant and one day it could be you who is being jeered at and being told to leave London and stop complaining. How would you feel then?