During the 1980s and 1990s, the then Conservative Government placed unemployed people and families in Guest Houses and Bed & Breakfasts. This fast became the norm with them, despite it costing much more than paying rent.
The shortage of housing, at the time, was in part because falling housing levels (due to Council House sell-offs) were not compensated for with new builds.
This is a problem we could soon see David Cameron’s puerile government repeat.
Many people attribute the Guest House and B&B families as the starting point for what became generational unemployment.
In those days, people (especially young people) were demonized and stigmatized by employers and people if they lived in a B&B or on a particular council estate.
I remember a friend from those times telling me how his job interview had gone really well, up until he was asked where he was from. The prospective employer frowned upon his reply, because the particular area was well-known for crime, drugs and other problems. The tone of the interview then changed completely.
My friend was tarred with the same brush as the criminals that happened to live in the same area. The reputation had become so well-known locally that it could engulf people, if others allowed it. Obviously, not everyone from that area was like that, but, like so many people, the employer was narrow-minded and just did not want to take his application further.
Bigoted ignorance in action – and, sadly, it’s just as prevalent today.
The sick irony about the B&B families is that David Cameron and his Government lecture to people today about a problem that a previous Conservative Administration were instrumental in creating.
During that period, the then Conservative Government created and deserted those B&B families. They did not care, and left those families and children to fester in a cycle of poverty. The children of these families inherited the cycle.
In living a life like that, daily life was about survival. The daily pressures were about the basic necessities of basic day-to-day living. Those pressures were daily and incessant. Building a ‘normal’ life was out of the question; people were trapped in a cycle, and getting employment was very difficult for most and impossible for some.
I am not partisan, but it has to be said that Labour did do a lot of good in lifting so many families out of poverty – families that otherwise would have been locked in a cycle of poverty and unemployment.
Now, this Conservative-lead Government is about to do the same again.
Forcing people and families to move out of and away from their homes and communities to cheaper and already-impoverished areas – where there is often much less work – will inevitably create benefit ghettos, areas of high unemployment, and pockets of extreme poverty.
Once again, innocent people and children will be unduly punished and become stigmatized or demonized.
Once again, the children will suffer the most and pay the price.
These environments are excellent breeding grounds for crime, theft, robbery, gangs, bullying, protection rackets, drug-dealing, drug use, drug-dependency, prostitution and even murder. They take innocent children away from education and the life to which they should be given a chance of having, and push them into a life of crime, unemployment and hopelessness.
They destroy people’s self-confidence, self-worth and self-respect.
We had developed; we had evolved; we had moved forward. We had moved on from those problems of 80s and 90s that let our children down so badly. Do we really want to go back?
One of the best achievements I saw in social mobility since the mid 1990s, was seeing children from poor backgrounds being able to grow up and develop alongside children from better off families.
In that environment, children can feel hope daily. They can see the benefits of working from both a financial and lifestyle perspective. The have real aspirations that are within their grasp, not just pipe dreams. They can form friendships that would otherwise be impossible.
It makes the world of difference. They can concentrate on their education and enjoy being a child or teenager. They can do this without having to worry about their house being broken into again, or the person two doors down trying to force them to buy or sell drugs, or forcing them to give them “protection” money. In my view, that is no way to live.
For people, children and families, a house should be what it was designed to be – a home; somewhere you want to go back to; somewhere you feel ‘safe’; somewhere you can feel happy; somewhere you can live, not just exist.
There has been so much nonsense in the media and from Government about housing, rent prices and Housing Benefit.
David Cameron has lectured people about housing, as if the poor somehow had a hand in setting the rent levels. The landlord decides this, and if they cannot get what they want from Housing Benefit (HB)/LHA, they simply turn to non-Housing Benefit tenants.
The idea that reducing HB will drive rents down is ridiculous; that somehow, landlords will just sit back and take less money, when they can just turn to working people not on HB, is just not realistic.
In fact, the opposite is happening, which is what many people in the property sector predicted. My own area, like many others across the UK, has seen a rise in rents in recent months. In my case, we’ve seen the largest rise in rents for years.
This is in part due to demand, as more people (especially younger) are unable to buy and are forced to rent.
Moreover, the demonization David Cameron and his Government have created means that fewer and fewer landlords are taking people on HB – and that includes working people.
Our landlord will no longer take new HB tenants. He believes the system is unfair to both landlords and tenants, as it punishes tenants for high rents that they have no control over. The flip side, for him, is that the much lower Housing Benefit Local Housing Allowance levels are far less than what he can get if he rents to non-HB tenants.
This is going to develop into a major nationwide housing crisis.
We all need rents to come down, irrespective of where we live or whether we are in or out of work, in receipt of HB/LHA or not.
I feel as though this Government treats people as though we were cattle. They use the word “stock” to refer to many things, including houses and disabled people.
I think this gives us all some insight into just how fundamentally out-of-touch the Conservative-lead Coalition Government is.
When they talk of “housing somebody”, they make people feel awful. It’s degrading, condescending and disrespectful. It’s sounds almost like choosing a kennel for a pet dog.
The truth is, we are talking about somebody’s home, which is far more than just bricks and windows. We are also talking about their lives – their friends, relatives, community, schools, GPs, children, work and livelihood.
There is an ignorance in this country that has been encouraged by David Cameron and the Government about welfare, benefits and housing. There are many misconceptions and myths that they have helped to flourish. One of which, is that people on Housing Benefit are all unemployed.
This is simply not true. Figures from 2011 showed that only 1 in 8 claiming Housing Benefit were unemployed. There are now more new HB claimants in work than out of work. This shows that earnings are not enough to make ends meet, and that some regulation or control over rent levels is needed urgently.
Cutting and capping benefits is not (and will not) bring rents down for working people lucky enough not to need Housing Benefit.
There is also a myth that all people on Housing Benefit are somehow untrustworthy or high risk. This is also nonsense. In fact, data shows the opposite is the case.
Whilst there may be some that are bad tenants, the same can be said of people in full-time work who do not receive Housing Benefit. (Though many people still get in-work benefits, such as Tax Credits, as pay alone is often not enough to make ends meet.)
There are many people on Housing Benefit because they HAVE to be. For example, disabled people who are no longer able to work ever again.
They may be thoroughly decent, well-educated people, and their Housing Benefit arguably more assured and secure than, for example, someone’s job.
So, why would they be a high risk? Why on Earth would landlords refuse such people?
Should a disabled person who has worked for decades but is now unable to be denied a suitable home because he has to claim Housing Benefit?
Should a disabled person who has worked for decades but is now unable to be denied a suitable home because his or her disability dictates that they need bulky equipment that requires an extra bedroom?
Should a disabled person who has worked for decades but is now unable to be denied a suitable home because his or her disability dictates that they need a full-time carer?
Should a disabled person, with a disabled child, who has worked for decades but is now unable to be denied a suitable home because their disability or their child’s disability dictates that they need an extra bedroom for equipment, or as the child cannot share?
Should a disabled person who has never had the chance to work (because of disability) be denied a suitable home and independent living?
This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more examples and scenarios affecting working and non-working people. This Government has failed to cater or consider any of these. In fact, they have ignored such data.
The Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) is meager compared to the cuts to-date. It does not come close to making up the shortfall. Many people are finding it impossible to get too. This is putting people into an inescapable debt cycle.
The Government are failing in so many areas at once, and it is about time people woke up and saw what is really happening – not what David Cameron would have people believe.
I am not partisan; the facts speak for themselves, though. The policy on forcing people and families to move away from the homes and lives into deprived areas is no different in ideology than that of “housing” families in B&Bs and Guest Houses in the 1980s and early 1990s. It rings truer than ever: same old Tories.
David Cameron and this Government are failing our children. They are failing the vulnerable. They are failing the elderly. They are failing disabled people. They are failing businesses. They are failing on the economy. They are failing the NHS. They are failing the unemployed, and they are failing hard-working people.
Let there be no mistake, it is THEY who are “all in it together”, not WE.