A reader from Bournville draws attention to an article by Jules Birch in Inside Housing, a weekly magazine for housing professionals. He focusses on a recent TV Panorama programme about the benefit cap that now leaves thousands of people with 50p a week towards their rent.
He noticed that roughly 95% of tweets with the hashtag #benefitcap (scroll down to April 7) were hostile to the people featured in the programme rather than the policy. The majority of people commenting on Twitter were seeing the undeserving individual instead: the stroppy single mother with a mobile phone and the couple with many children. He notes that exactly the same thing happened with Benefits Street, How to Get a Council House and a Dispatches documentary on the cap last month.
Part of the problem, he believes, lay with the way Panorama framed the issue. As Joe Halewood was quick to point out, the programme and its advance publicity seemed to assume that most people capped are unemployed and on Jobseeker’s Allowance, when in fact just 13% are.
The fact that the vast majority of people capped are either unable to work or not required to work was only raised tentatively halfway through the programme. Most of those capped are lone parents with young children who are not required to look for work, or people on Employment and Support Allowance who do not qualify for an exemption but are still not fit for work.
David Pipe explained the effects in a piece following the Dispatches documentary last month. 7,500 households across 370 local authority areas have lost their housing benefit and are now receiving just 50p a week to pay their rent. The cap leaves a nominal amount for housing benefit or Universal Credit once someone’s benefits total more than £20,000 (£23,000 in London). In effect it is imposed on top of the rest of the benefits system.
The latest budget highlighted cuts for the poorest 18-21-year-olds, who will no longer be entitled to help with their rent through Universal Credit from April 1.
For many, Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) are the only thing keeping them in their home and the effect over time will be rising rent arrears and evictions and allocations policies that make it less likely that people on benefits will get a tenancy in the first place. So where and how can the poorest people live? Even people in caravans are being capped, and what will the knock-on costs be in terms of homelessness and the impact on the children?
Meanwhile in Broken Britain, the May government continues the policies of its predecessors and makes decisions which seriously afflict the poorest and greatly benefit the richest: the arms traders, Big Pharma, the privatised utilities, large developers, car manufacturers, private health companies and expensive, inefficient outsourcers – Serco, G4s and Capita.
The FT recently reported that, according to figures from the Information Services Group consultancy, government spending on outsourced public services has risen from £64bn to £120bn in the five years since the coalition came to power.
Though the Serious Fraud Office is investigating Serco and G4S and the National Audit Office has called for tighter scrutiny of government contracts, the ‘outsourcing market’ gathers pace in health, justice, welfare and defence sectors and is now said to be the second largest in the world outside the US.
Concerns over food safety – and now nuclear security
Capita, which took over the Food and Environment Research Agency in March, has won another contract. The Independent reports that the ‘outsourcing giant’ is to play a support role at the command centre of the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, an armed special police service that protects nuclear power plants, waste dumps, and nuclear material in transit.
But Capita is neither cheap nor reliably efficient:
- One of many instances: Professor David Bailey: Service Birmingham’s £63,000-a-day Dividend Bombshell
- Capita’s MoD online recruitment computer system is two years behind schedule.The government has contracted to pay the company £1bn over 10 years to hire 9,000 soldiers a year for the army.
Why does the government make such decisions – manifestations of the corporate-state nexus at its worst?
Government payment strategies boosting the working capital of corporates but jeopardising the future of SMEs
G4S, Serco, Capita and the like have been flourishing – but is the friendly government worm turning?
Gill Plimmer reports that the Official Journal of the European Union database, which records every public sector contract worth more than £115m, reveals that £20bn worth of government contracts is now handed to the private sector.
About half of council waste management services and 23% of human resources, IT and payroll functions are now privatised. Tens of thousands of health, defence, security and IT workers have transferred to corporate employers such as Babcock, G4S, Serco, Capita, Mitie and Carillion.
The process continues, even though the reputation of the private sector in delivering public services has been repeatedly damaged – recent examples include the high profile failure of G4S during the Olympics and the legal action facing Virgin Care over its running of NHS and social care services in Devon.
In an earlier article, Plimmer notes that government has shaken the private sector companies by deciding to keep four out of nine prisons, due to be outsourced, in state hands because providers did not give ‘best value for money’; confidence has been further shaken by the decision that G4S will have to relinquish its Yorkshire prison contract because of inefficiency.
Read the full article here.