The House of Lords’ vote on the Government’s £26,000 benefit cap has generated a lot of national media attention in recent days. Once again it has re-opened the debate about this country’s ‘broken’ welfare system and the huge numbers of people that choose to enjoy a state-subsidised life rather than go out and get a job.
What strikes me is the relish with which the Government embraces this particular scrap. It welcomes the opposition from wishy-washy Bishops and bleeding heart liberal peers precisely because it is one of those key areas of policy where it has the support of large parts of the British public. It is also able to lay the blame firmly at Labour’s door - not only for creating a nation of ‘benefit scroungers’ but for ‘breaking’ the economy and making cuts to the welfare bill ‘essential’.
As is often the case, the reality is somewhat different from the national media headlines and while the benefit cap in itself won’t necessarily push families into poverty or create mass homelessness, combined with the Coalition’s other policies across housing and welfare, it will certainly put increased pressure on those parts of society that our sector seeks to serve.
What concerns me most about benefits capping is that it doesn’t take into account individual circumstances and there doesn’t seem much room for individual negotiation as they are centrally imposed. A case in point is the housing benefit cap, the subject of this month’s cover feature. While the £400 a week limit may seem generous to many, in parts of central London where private rents have sky-rocketed in recent years, it is nowhere near enough to cover the housing costs of some families, forcing them to relocate to cheaper parts of the capital – or out of London altogether.
Paul Coleman investigates the extent of the problem and takes views from both sides of the argument.
Elsewhere in this issue, we look at another area where the Government’s policies appear to be having a negative impact. With youth unemployment at record levels, Sam Thorp reveals how homelessness charities are reporting a rising demand for their services from the under 25s.
On a more upbeat note, I should also mention that online voting is about to get under way for our 2012 Young Leaders Award. Get involved by visiting www.24dash.com/campaigns
Editor, 24housing Magazine