The benefits are too low and people are dying

People are suffering and dying early deaths because government benefits are too low.

The Office for National Statistics estimates that there were 597 deaths of homeless people in England and Wales in 2017, up by 24 per cent over the last 5 years.

What else has happened in the last 5 years? The government has decided to stop covering people’s rent. Here’s a potted history:

  • Prior to 2011 households were given benefits to cover rents at up to half of of the market, with under 25s being given a lower level (on the assumption that they’d share a house with others).
  • The coalition government changed this so that in 2011 Local Housing Allowance covered just under a third of the cheapest rents in an area.
  • From 2013, rates were only increased by the Consumer Price Index (CPI). In 2014 and 2015, the rates were increased by one per cent.
  • In 2015, the Shared Accommodation Rate was extended from under 25s to under 35s.
  • In 2016, Local Housing Allowance rates were frozen completely for four years.

As Crisis argue

“The cumulative effect of policy changes to Local Housing Allowance rates since 2011 has resulted in a significant erosion of the support people can receive from the government to help with the cost of their rent.”

How bad has it got? The table below tells its own story. If you live in London benefits no longer cover the full cost of rent.

For many households this means making sacrifices, for example, reducing spending on food or utilities. We know that people who end up sleeping on the streets often do not have support networks they can rely on when times get tough. They may have support needs around drug or alcohol use or mental health.

For these people, the current situation is particularly tough. Dealing with the stress of trying to find extra money to make rent on top of the other things they have to worry about inevitably means a percentage end up sleeping on the streets.

The Government recently published a rough sleeping strategy in which they committed

to look at affordability in the private rented sector, with a view to developing policy options for post-2020 when the current Local Housing Allowance freeze ends.

In their 2017 housing manifesto Labour committed to:

undertake a review of the adequacy of support for housing costs through the social security system

These are astonishingly complacent statements given the scale of the situation. If you think that the government should provide a safety net so that no one becomes homeless, you can join Crisis’ campaign to ‘Cover the Cost’ here

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