Housing benefit cuts leave families in central London without homes
February 17, 2012 Leave a comment
Housing benefit cuts are starting to have an effect on families who live in central London. Whilst a council officer recently declared that ‘to live in Westminster is a privilege, not a right’, primary schools are starting to see the disruption that these changes have brought about and there is a fear that this new cap will create ‘benefit ghettos’.
The housing benefit cuts were initiated by the government in order to save money, as well as growing public concern at the amount of tax payers’ money being spent on housing benefit. The cap will not affect those in council housing and will only affect houses in the private rental sector. Waiting lists for council flat and houses are already very long and such a measure will mean an even higher demand for such housing. Benefits for housing will be capped at £250 per week for a one-bedroom property and a £400 a week for a property with four or more bedrooms. However, such properties within this price range are impossible to find in Westminster.
It has been estimated that up to 43% of pupils in some schools in Westminster could be forced to move due to the housing benefit cuts and that 17% may need to move to other boroughs with more affordable housing. Teachers and school governors are trying their best to support these families and it has been noted that when families move quickly, it is hard to track down pupils and let their new school know about the pupils’ history, including any learning difficulties.
Many families who can no longer afford rent may have to resort to living in a B&B or a homeless shelter as there is no other alternative. The fear of this is that these families will have a hard time adjusting to this new budget and may try to compensate by saving on food or heating expenses.
Westminster estimates that this measure will save the borough up to £39m a year. They deny that the policy will create a ‘doughnut’ like in Paris, where the outskirts are where poorer people are forced to live.