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Monday, 25 June 2012

Not all animals love their offspring

We did a job a few years ago on a site adjoining a white working-class council estate. When I say working-class I mean of course non-working-class; barely any of the gobby, chippy semi literate squabbling tenants actually worked. They complained that our plant was waking them up, and could we keep it quiet until 10am or so? Anyway, the kids from the estate turned out to be more amenable than their parents, and were soon on bantering terms with the lads on site, running errands and even banking delivery vehicles. One day the site manager asked them why a usually cheerful lad was sitting off by himself in deep despondency. "His parents are chucking him out the day after his birthday" they explained; at sixteen, unless he was in education, his child benefit would stop and unless in employment he couldn't make the difference up. If he wasn't bringing in money, he was out. And they meant it. The rest of the kids thought it maybe a bit extreme, but by no means uncommon. Not all animals love their offspring. And of course he'd qualify for a Housing Association bedsit or shared dwelling, with Housing Benefit to pay the bill. 

Cameron's proposal to stop HB for the under 25s would stop all this, of course, and save £2bn a year. Quite so. But to avoid the shop doorways being jammed with homeless kids he also needs to reduce HB for any social housing tenants who don't have full occupancy, or compel them to trade down to homes with fewer bedrooms if their offspring move out. Carrots and sticks.


Anonymous said...

Which is exactly what is already happening.
To everyone on benefits, including those living in their own houses, whose council tax benefit is reduced if they are living in a house with unused beds.
Two people living in a house with two unused bedrooms can expect a reduction of around 30% (-+) in housing benefit. Further: a house of three beds inhabited by a couple with two male children is deemed under-inhabited by one room.
Housing benefit now puts a value on rent cost that is frequently lower than market value.

Sue said...

To be fair, they did say they would look at individual circumstances. I think that they do realise that it is just impossible for some to go home for one reason or another.

Nevertheless, there has to be a better way to help these young people than to abandon them to a life lived at the mercy of others in a flat on their own. Many of them could flat share. Why not house more of them in one dwelling?

Edward Spalton said...

When I was getting a business started and needed some temporary help, two bright young lads of 17 or so turned up. They worked reasonably hard, were cheerful and intelligent.

They were not really interested in regular work because the tax made it hardly worthwhile (they said). They regarded the money they got from "the Social" as their basic salary and casual work as a bit of a bonus.

They were great pals and had found another way to work the system. Each went to "the Social" separately and said that their parents had chucked the out - but they had found lodgings each in the other's home. That way, they were able to claim housing benefit.

Edward Spalton said...

A more recent example occurs to me. I know a young lady who is working part time as a waitress whilst studying for her degree through the Open University.
She comes from the sort of family which is always in work and does not believe in debt. She also has quite a serous hip problem.

An older woman asked her why she was working because she could claim disability benefit. Then, for good measure, added that she should have a baby -then the council would give her a house..

TrT said...

I know families where the 16/17/18 year old "kid" could and would beat his parents so badly they would need hospitalisation.

Thats not to say Cameron is wrong, but some parents have a damned good reason to want rid of their children.

You're never going to solve the problem, because every issue is different, and one size doesnt fit all.

I remain of the opinion that replacing the welfare state with a citizens wage is the way to go, but Cameron doesnt "do" radical

Edward Spalton said...


I know a very slightly built man who was thrown downstairs some years ago by his muscular, teenage, adopted son - with the general idea of killing him.

But the fact is that officialdom can only ever produce "one size to fit all".

The rot really took hold with the "civilised society" , advocated by Roy Jenkins (1960s). Its main objective was to destroy forever the idea that there could ever be any slight distinction between the "deserving" and "undeserving" recipients of state benefits. I knew a young (and eventually very senior) social worker at the time and read the "trade" papers
of the era.