NW6 tops housing benefit claimant table

A while ago I blogged here on the disproportionate impact of housing benefit reform on the north-west of Camden – which highlighted the importance of it (specifically Local Housing Allowance or LHA) to people as an in-work benefit, especially in areas like our where private rents are sky-high.

Camden has recently produced an really interesting briefing pack looking at the impact of welfare reform on the borough, and how we’re trying to attenuate the worst excesses on our most vulnerable residents. A link to it is here – and I really recommend reading it; it doesn’t pull punches but does give a real idea of the huge cumulative impact of all the welfare changes in Camden.

One slide in particular forced home the impact in Kilburn and West Hampstead – a map of LHA claimants:

Not only do the three wards of Kilburn, West Hampstead and Fortune Green have more claimants than other wards, those numbers are growing at a disproportionate rate.

This is against a backdrop of a decrease in both the total number of housing benefit claims and new claims since the introduction of the LHA cap last April. In 2010-11 there were 11 28,842 claims and 616 new claims per month on average; in August 2012 this had dropped to 28,116 claims and 475 new claims.

Juxtapose this with evidence from a relatively new dataset which shows that private rents in Camden have been rising. In June 2011 the market median weekly rent for a two-bed flat was £399.92; this June it was £444.92 – an increase of more than a ten percent at a time when wages are stagnant and benefits being cut.

(So much, then, for the Government’s theory that rents would adjust downwards to reflect limits on benefit payments. It’s like the Tories don’t really understand how a market like private rentals works, which would be laughably ironic, were it not forcing people out of their homes.)

It’s hard to tell whether the increase is solely a result of migration from other areas, or because of the existing high numbers of existing LHA claimants (as per my earlier blog). In all probability, its a mixture of both. But the human cost of these welfare cuts is dramatic, nonetheless. Here’s just one example, from the Camden briefing:

H is a single parent with three children and is self-employed. She has rent of £375 to which the cap of £340 has applied since February 2012. She therefore has a shortfall of £35 which she has been meeting out of her own income. This cancels out part of the increase in income that she secured on entering work and means that the family is struggling. However, the client has decided not to move but to continue meeting the shortfall out of her other income. She is hoping to be able to continue working as if she was to become unemployed she would not be able to cover the shortfall from out-of-work benefit income.

‘H’s story does underline how – contrary to the tabloid and Tory stereotype of the feckless poor – those being hit by these housing benefit cuts are trying to work their way out of poverty.

It’s the same with the recent announcement saying that under-25s might not be eligible for housing benefit. If you’re under-25 and claiming housing benefit, there’s a fairly high probability you’ve not had an easy life – perhaps you’re a care leaver, or fleeing domestic violence, rather than seeking an easy way out of having to live a “responsible” life.

Good luck to ‘H’ – but it’s hard to see how she and her family are meant to survive in this brave new world without being forced out of their home.

 

 

 

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