Today’s news that the government is dropping the proposed housing benefit rule that people on jobseekers allowance (JSA) would lose 10% of their HB after a year is very welcome.
The spin is that Nick Clegg intervened to have this proposal dropped – evidently he needs a boost – but it shows that pressure and campaigning can work, even with this government. With David Cameron wobbling on his policy of selling off the forests and woodlands as well, this should inspire everyone to get organised and to redouble campaigning efforts.
The JSA rule was just one of the welfare reform policies that is giving back to the Tories their reputation as ‘the nasty party’. It was indeed a very nasty proposal, which has been defended on the airwaves by Tories and Liberal Democrats since it was announced in the George Osborne’s June Budget.
Only last week it was denounced in the strongest terms by the National Housing Federation, who published research by the University of York showing that 130,000 households would lose an average of £475 a year which they would have to meet out of their JSA (currently £65 a week for single people over 25). In some areas the number of people on JSA is many times more than the number of vacancies, and the research highlighted constituencies like Hull North (45 claimants per vacancy) and Birmingham Hodge Hill (35 per vacancy). The NHF was right to call it a policy that was “punishing people for failing to find a job in a very difficult job market. The proposal is unfair, unjust …….. people should be encouraged into work, but threatening the homes of those who are unemployed isn’t the right way to go about it.”
The Welfare Reform Bill, to be launched by Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith, contains some proposals with potential that are worth debate – like moving to the Universal Credit – but will also have plenty of other nasties in it. Taken together, the remaining housing benefit changes and the total benefits cap will make it harder and harder each year for people on low incomes to afford decent housing, in all areas of the country, whether they are private or social tenants.
Campaigners should be encouraged that they might win more U turns as the Bill goes through Parliament.