Benefits, caps, and lies.

by sharongooner

When you’re a hard-working, tax paying, law-abiding citizen, you understandably feel it is quite unfair that people not working ‘appear’ to receive more in benefits than you do. And the government want you to believe that this is precisely what is happening, and people are getting all agitated over this £26,000 figure of maximum benefits that Mr Cameron keeps repeating, and repeating and repeating.

So, the maths. It is a compound figure made up from many factors. Not many average sized families receive anywhere near it. You either have to live in a shoe and have so many children you don’t know what to do, or have a landlord charging extortionate rent. It’s usually the latter.

A bit of research tells me the local housing benefit cap for my area in the south-east is £400 a week. That’s a total of £20,800 a year. A family of four would be left with £5200 if we are going by the £26,000 cap on their benefits (if the parents are out of work and they are receiving income support/child benefits/council tax benefit) That’s £100 a week to pay gas, electric, water, clothing, insurances, and food. And that is if they DO reach the cap. You won’t get much change out of that. You would only in fact reach that high figure if you are pushed there by high rent, and that is not the tenants fault. It is not the families fault. And it is most certainly not the children’s fault.

I spent years working alongside landlords within the repossession production line, and got to know a fair few personally. Corruption was rife. One told me, who had a string of houses, that most of his guaranteed income came from benefit claiming tenants. He never had to pay to have those evicted, because the housing benefit covering 100% of his rent was a cert every month. almost money for nothing. He also proudly told me that when he rented to private, professional couples with families he would reduce the rents by £200 because he knew they couldn’t afford to pay what he could convince local housing authorities to pay.

He wasn’t alone, private landlords can basically monopolise this figure simply by all charging the same high monthly price. If they are all doing it then local rent officers who make decisions on housing benefit rates have no choice other than to accept this as the local rental average price.

The only good that can come of all this, is that hopefully they will be forced to reduce their extortionate rents to something resembling reasonable, and families will not lose the roof over their heads. I’d much rather see fewer rich landlords after knowing how they have managed to make such profits, than homeless children.

When you see reports saying “Families earn £26,000” on the dole, firstly it isn’t ‘earned’, and secondly, they don’t see anywhere near half that figure.

Yes: people do cheat

Yes: the system is unfair

Yes: it needs reforming

Yes: it needs capping.

Cap private rents.

I have seen a few reports and comments that make me very uncomfortable these past few days. “Dole scum” “Don’t have kids you can’t afford” “Only pay those who have paid in”. It’s like people are so clever that they know the ins and outs of everybody elses lives. How enlightened these privileged folk are! I don’t like being seen as “dolescum” and I especially don’t like reading it during the day on twitter. Written by people in their offices, hard at work. Earning a wage. On twitter. During work. Being paid. I could say something about maybe letting one of the “dolescum” do your job and give your employer better value for their time and money, but that’s not my style, and I’ve never been a fan of whistle blowing. But please, if you choose to be angry be angry at the right people and STOP generalising and START researching figures before you assume. The information is out there, talk to friends on benefits, I’m sure they will tell you the same as me. It is no fun whatsoever.

You never know when your life will change.


Just watch those glass houses people.

(Amendment: figures updated on 26.01.11 reflecting weekly totals (over 52) for accuracy.)