What £26k?

I just wanted to state some facts before I write further.

  • My wife is disabled and needs 24/7 care
  • My wife has a progressive condition
  • I am her full-time carer
  • We have  a disabled child who also needs care during the day and night
  • I am disabled too, with a fluctuating condition that is also progressive
  • We have other children too
  • Both my wife and I used to be able to work and did work for many years
  • I used to earn way above an average salary (more than MPs if I am being open)
  • We had to sell our house, car and valuables to support ourselves
  • Over time, we had to exhaust ALL of our savings (and pension) to pay for equipment, adaptations and care help for which we could not get grants
  • We are now dependent upon welfare and disability benefits
  • There was no way to predict earlier in our lives that this would happen to us, or how bad it could get. As my consultant said, it could happen to anyone, anytime.

Before the cuts, I have to admit that we did struggle, and we could not always make ends meet.

However, since 2011, we have had to replace some equipment – which used up the last of our savings – and the recent cuts we have suffered to-date now mean that we simply do not have the money to pay all of our bills.

This isn’t a question of us ‘cutting back’ . We’ve nothing left to cut back on! But the problem is bigger than that – the difference between what we HAVE to pay out and what comes in is simply too big to bridge.

I know that there are many people with disabilities in this position now but the General Public does not seem to be aware of how severe the problem is.

What’s worse is that there are more cuts to come.

I realize that many people who are working THINK that they are earning or have less money than those on benefits. However, the fact is that this is not the case.

Many people who work claim Housing Benefit (HB) and receive other benefits in the form of tax credits, child benefits and others. One problem is that many who do working don’t know about or don’t claim that to which they are entitled.

In the figures I looked at, only 1 in 8 on HB are unemployed – the remainder being working people, carers and people with disabilities who are unable to work.

The real issue is one the Government tries to keep the focus off – and the General Public from realizing – viz., that the cost of living is unaffordable and rising and earnings are too low in comparison.

This is the real problem.

What people have seen in Housing Benefit payment merely reflects the high and rising cost of living. It is a by-product of the real problem.

Implementing cuts will not reduce the cost of living or improve earnings; in fact, severe, deep cuts are putting a stranglehold on the economy.

When the knock-on effects of the cuts and reforms become visible, this will cast doubt into financial and employment markets.

One has to consider that employers know that employees are often unable to make ends meet on the minimum wage or low salaries. They are aware that people also have to claim Housing Benefit – because earning are not enough.

That should start alarm bells ringing.

In work, people have more easier access to overdrafts, credit cards and pay-day loans – but people are using these just to get by every month. The alarm bells should be ringing like crazy now!

All the evidence points to the real problem.

How can financial markets gain confidence over doubt in a country in which the workforce suffers from such basic personal financial problems?

One really has to step back and THINK about these things, rather than just REACTING.

Economic theory is one thing – but experience shows us that it takes more than that.

We must tackle the cost of living vs earnings problem.

I am fed up with this talk of the £26k cap.

I am assuming this relates to people in London or areas where private landlords are charging obscene or high rents.

I assume this because THAT amount of money (£26k) can only come from Housing Benefit – a benefit that goes to the landlord, NOT the tenant.

In my area, despite house prices falling and the cuts in Housing Benefits, rents have gone up by around 11%.

So much for the Government’s idea.

It was never a good idea.

Why?

Because Housing Benefit was only paid on the 50th percentile. People still had to top up their HB to pay their rent in full.

In addition, landlords stated that if they could not get the rents they wanted, they would just rent to non-HB tenants.

After all, as HB was only paid on the 50th percentile, there was plenty of scope above that level. This is especially as family homes (i.e., larger homes) tend to be above that level anyway.

That’s not to say that all landlords are greedy. But if a landlord wants or needs x amount in rent each month and they cannot get that now via HB tenants (because the tenant cannot afford to make up the difference), they are very unlikely to accept or even consider lowering the rent. We’ve already seen landlords deserting their HB tenants.

You see, it doesn’t do much for lowering rents – for people in and out of work.

I repeat: I  am fed up with this talk of the £26k cap.

Our Housing Benefit is less than £440pcm –  and we receive all the benefits that we are entitled to. We also have to top up to pay our rent.

We do not get anything like £26k. Not even half that – and that’s with two disabled adults (one severely), a disabled child and other children.

Yet, we face costs and expenses that most fit and healthy working people never have.

Because we have to use more gas and electricity, our utility bill is very high. It fluctuates, but during discussions with our supplier, they told me that my usage per quarter is between 2 and 4 times as much as a typical bill for a family in a similar property.

Why so much more?

Well, we have significant extra washing for a number of reasons (which uses a lot more than one might think) and equipment for a start. Then there’s extra heating. Then, we are at home when others are at work (and work gives people the luxury of using their employers power for free).

That’s at least 30-35 hours more per week, plus time otherwise spent commuting etc – it’s easily 40 hours per week more. That’s a lot more usage – but we do not get any extra income to pay towards this AND energy bills have been rising and rising.

That is the tip of the iceberg.

The point is, at a time when disabled people actually need more financial help and support, the Welfare Reform Bill fails to recognize this or protect people with disabilities.

As a start, disabled people (not just single) should be exempt from the Housing Benefit Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate cut and exempt from the ‘bedroom ‘tax’.

Many disabled people and disabled children need an extra bedroom when they are simply unable to share – either because there is not the space due to equipment or because it is unsafe.

Extra equipment, such as special beds, wheelchairs, hoists, commodes and other equipment also requires large areas space. These are not items one can just put in a cupboard.

We have already seen how these cuts are pushing people into care homes or the care of the NHS. This costs FAR MORE; specialist care can cost thousands EACH WEEK and a multidisciplinary NHS team much, much more – not to mention using vital beds and staff.

As each week passes, my family is getting into more debt. With have a fixed income with no means to save. We do not have access to overdrafts, loans or credit cards. We have no disposable cash and now MORE than one bill goes unpaid each month.

And the advice of the bank, local CAB and others is the same – write to your MP!

When the truth of what is really happening to the vulnerable and disabled people (some of who are our brave soldiers who have returned with severe injuries)  – when that truth finally hits the eyes of the General Public, the majority will not tolerate it. The tide will turn.

But how many have to unnecessarily suffer in the meantime? How many have to be forced into inescapable debt? How many have to be pushed into care homes? How many have to lose their independence? And how many will die unnecessarily in the meantime?

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Male. Married. 3 Children. No Pets. Concerned about the changes the new Conservative Government are introducing. Very concerned about changes that adversely affect the vulnerable and disabled people. Commenting on current affairs, music and life in general.

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5 comments on “What £26k?
  1. Joy says:

    I agree with everything you are saying. My daughter has autism and adhd, in August last year on her 21st birthday her dla was cut to the minimum level and as a result I have lost both carers allowance and income support. I have had to claim job seekers allowance. My daughter does get esa and attends the local college doing a foundation computer course this is supposed to ensure that she gets a job.

    Because my daughter is scared of using the buses because of her condition she goes to college by taxi each journey is £6, the rest of her money she uses to pay for her lunch at college and replace any items of clothing she may need. She now receives £159 dla which I have to use to pay for heating light phone and internet which she uses. We are waiting for the dla appeal which we have been told will be some time between now and July 1st because there is a “backlog” of appeals and the joke is that the company responsible for this FARCE, ATOS is never fined or penalised when they get things wrong.

    When I was signing on to make my claim for jsa, there was a French couple at the table next to me, they had come into this Country on the strength of a SIX WEEK PART TIME job, he had the job she did not work and had not worked in this Country. They explained the situation to the Dss officer, who having made clear that the Frenchman knew the job would only be temporary, patiently pointed out that as they had only been in the Country 6 weeks, they were not entitled to anything.
    “But we were told, go to England you will be given money” He insisted and continued to argue the case, eventually the Dss Officer went to his supervisor at the next desk and asked her for help as he had tried to point out for 5 minutes that the couple were not entitled to anything. The supervisor’s response? “Oh yes, we have special forms for people like them, they are in the cabinet over there, in the top draw”.

    I found out when I questioned my MP about this state of affairs that, “This is Government policy”. And I was then offered a printed copy of this “policy”.
    So the disabled of this Country are vilified,forced to live in penury, and used as the scape goats for the financial mess that this Country is in, while “Government policy” allows ANYONE free access to which ever benefits they desire, especially if they come from another EU Country! Perhaps if the Government was to stop handing out benefits to anyone who enters this Country then the bill would go down, but they wont as it is “Against their Human Rights”
    However, there is no mention of “Human rights” when it comes to the disabled in this Country having their funding removed.

    My daughter now has to attend “Work focused” interviews at the local jobcentre plus “Aimed to get her into the workplace” How? When every job part or full time goes to the first migrant worker who apply’s.

    What can we hope for? We can hope that Mister Cameron will be reminded of his promise that no one who went through Special education will have to go through this, that the House of Lords will force the Government into reinstating the benefits for the disabled. What ever happens will probably be too late to benefit us, as I cannot continue to keep the pair of us on my jsa, so unless there is a miracle, I will have no options but to put my daughter into residential care.

  2. Mike Jaega says:

    Brilliant blog! Anyone can become disabled! This country has a duty to help and protect the disabled! All disabled people can and do contribute to society! Look at the Paraolympians, the volunteers, the carers, the children of disabled people and the TAX PAYING disabled people of this country that fight to survive every single day, against the toughest odds! We are what makes Britain Great!

  3. […] when people have managed to get all the benefits to which they are entitled it isn’t always enough. I need relatively few adjustments to live. A wheelchair, a shower seat. Some people need hoists […]

  4. sarah says:

    It’s not the 50th percentile any more, they cut it to 1/3. I’m one of those working people on housing benefit and when it changes I think i’ll lose my hb (currently £20 a week). I’ve taken on a second job in preparation, and i’m also studying part time for a masters. Which is probably why I woke up in a panic at 6am today and most other days this week.

    I can’t imagine being disabled and having children on top of everything else. How do you ever sleep?

    I think you can be exempted from the room thing though. A friend with severe mental health issues has a 2-bedroom council flat and it’s been confirmed she won’t have to move as they class her “severely disabled” or something.

    Also, I expect you’ve done this but talk to your energy company. They have to help people in fuel debt (contrast this with case in nz where i’m originally from – they cut off a lady’s electricity, her dialysis machine stopped and she died). Also speak to councillors, both your local councillors and the housing portfolio holder. And check whether your local council offers a fuel switch service. Also, if you’re having to spend that much on heat maybe your home isn’t insulated enough? You can access grants and other help through the council for insulation, draught proofing, etc etc.

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