On the same theme as Tony’s post yesterday – the government’s cover-up of the damage housing benefit cuts will do – this post is from former Greenwich Councillor Pete Challis. And below is an extra note from me on the evidence from schools in Westminster.
“No one will be made homeless: Cameron calls for calm over housing budget cuts” ran the headline in the Daily Mail on 29 October 2010. Similar stories appeared elsewhere. ‘David Cameron insists housing benefit reform won’t create homeless’ ran the Metro headline quoting David Cameron as saying ‘I don’t think it will be necessary for anybody to go without a home’
Yesterday’s Observer provides the full text of the letter from Nico Hislop, Private Secretary to Eric Pickles written to the Prime Ministers Private Secretary in January 2011.
It reveals “Finally, our modelling indicates that we could see an additional 20,000 homelessness acceptances as a result of the total benefit cap. This on top of the 20,000 additional acceptances already anticipated as a result of other changes to Housing Benefit. We are already seeing increased pressures on homelessness services.”
The latest homelessness figures (June 2011) confirm that advice. The number of homeless households is rising again. Homeless acceptances for the year 2010/11 are up 10% but for the quarter January to March 2011 they are up 18 per cent compared with the same quarter in 2010.
The letter also reveals that CLG officials believed that families with 4 children receiving benefits will not be able to live in London and the South East.
The letter discusses the advantages of removing child benefit from the calculation of the cap and describes the benefits of doing so as:
‘The homelessness and child poverty risks set out above would be reduced – for example families with 4 children would be able to live in most parts of the country outside London and the South East.”
Charities have warned that new limits on housing benefit, now due to start in January 2012, will leave large swathes of the capital “no-go” areas for the poor. London Councils found that In seven of the most expensive local authority areas – Camden, the City, Hackney, Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, Tower Hamlets and Westminster local private rents are higher than the benefit cap throughout the borough.
In Kensington and Chelsea, of 2,771 households currently receiving benefits to help pay private rent, 2,047 will face a shortfall – 89.7 per cent. Of those, more than 900 are either aged over 70, or have young children.
Research by Homes and Property suggests that there are no 2, 3 or 4 bedroom private rented properties available in Kensington and Chelsea at rents that would fall within the cap and the Evening Standard reports that ‘Thousands of schoolchildren in parts of central London could be forced to move because of housing benefit cuts’. 11,800 children will be forced to move school resulting in outer London boroughs having to find extra primary school places. Assuming 300 children per school, if all the children are of primary school age, the equivalent of nearly 40 extra primary schools will be needed.
Steve Hilditch adds
The damage to Westminster school children
A briefing note to primary school heads in Westminster from the Strategic Commissioner for Children’s Services in May has revealed the full extent of the disaster the Local Housing Allowance cuts could have on Westminster’s children.
- 5,214 households or 80% of LHA cases will be adversely affected by the introduction of the caps.
- Some of the largest shortfalls will be in larger size/family size properties. For example the current LHA rate for a 3 bedroom property in the Central London BRMA (Broad Rental Market Area – which includes most of Westminster) is £700.00 per week. The new caps mean that a maximum of
£340.00 will be paid by housing benefit. This is over a 50% reduction in housing benefit for families in this size and larger accommodation.
- Even making assumptions about some landlords reducing their rents, the analysis shows that Westminster could potentially lose 17% of primary school age children and 11% of their 11 to 13 year old pupils.
- There is however variance between wards; Maida Vale
could potentially lose 43% of their primary age school population and Bryanston and Dorset Square 34% of their 11 to 13 year old pupils.
- There could be further school losses from boroughs outside of Westminster, which makes up 18% of the total school population in Westminster. If they were to also have the same losses then same proportion of the Westminster resident pupils lost could potentially be applied, suggesting that schools could see a 17% reduction in their pupil population. This would equate to a potential loss of 1,541 (over 6 school years), which averages at 257 pupils per year.
- Families may move out but continue to send their children to Westminster schools (not least because they may not be able to get a school place in their new area. Journey times are not known.
Westminster Council is writing to all affected claimants suggesting what action tenants can take in line with the Government’s views:
- Try to negotiate a lower rent with their landlord;
- Seek to make up the shortfall from income or savings;
- Apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment.
The council has been awarded £1.1m from the national Discretionary Housing Payment Fund for 2011/12. As the briefing states, “Because of the number of households affected and the scale of the benefit reduction (around £40m over a full year) it is clear that only a small number can be assisted.”
There is a huge risk to schools as a result of this. Funding is based on a headcount of pupils, schools losing pupils will then lose their funding next year. On the scale shown here, the whole future of a number of schools in Westminster is thrown into doubt at the same time as some outer London boroughs will have to find a large number of extra places.