Meacher amendment to Housing and Planning bill challenges government to put public health before freemarket dogma

Free market dogma has been put before​ public health.

People are being made to conform to the market when the market should be serving the people with affordable and stable homes. 

Over the weekend three press announcements and a blog have added sad grist to the mill ​of Baroness Meacher’s amendment to the Housing and Planning Bill. The Government whips office is planning on reaching the amendment on Tuesday night the 9th ​February

BARONESS MEACHER

BARONESS HOLLINS

LORD JUDD

Amendment 23 Insert the following new Clause—

 “Rent arrears The Secretary of State shall lay a report before Parliament annually about the impact of rent arrears on the health and wellbeing of men, women and children.”

People are being made to conform to the market when the market should be serving the people with affordable and stable homes. Free market dogma ​comes before​ public health.

Shelter; Council house tenants rents increase four times faster than average wages Rent arrears are inevitable

Local Government Association Social housing tenants will be priced out of home areas by Housing and Planning Bill. Rent arrears are inevitable. “”A couple with three children, earning £15,000 each a year, cannot be defined as high income.” 60,000 households will be forced into rent arrears.   

NAHT Heads warn over pupils untreated mental issues but not about the need to prevent those issues. Families are being evicted and moved indiscriminately and far too often. Repeatedly changing schools damages education and upsets the children. Moving schools multiple times has a devastating impact on pupil’s grades and the numbers of children affected are set to grow, according to a wide-ranging report published by the RSA, Between the Cracks.

This is something public school boys might not understand; their parents can move around the world any number of times, and some do, but the children stay in the same British boarding schools from 8-11 and 11-18.  

Ekklesia Working welfare; working the poor to death? “We need to keep more people at work, requiring them to retire later and keeping people with health problems in work”. This is the government’s argument. But is it fair?

​See also the TAP website

Public health damaged by welfare reform while UK housing market runs amok but Lord Freud avoids the point

 

LORD FREUD AVOIDS THE POINT.

Rev Paul Nicolson

Lord Freud replied as follows to Lord Rambotham’s amendment to the Welfare Reform and Work Bill requiring the DWP to report annuallly on the cumulative impact of benefit cuts, caps and council tax on the health of men, women and children

“We recognise that, as the evidence review pointed out, child ill-health is also a driver of poverty. We are absolutely committed to reducing health inequalities in terms of access and outcomes, and we are working across government to ensure that ill health does not hold our children back from fulfilling their potential. The Government have already put in place a well-developed reporting framework—the public health outcomes framework—that supports health improvement and protection at all stages of life, especially in the early years. The framework includes a large number of indicators on children and young people’s health and,
HOL Hansard 25 Jan 2016 : Column 1074
along with the NHS outcomes framework, sets a clear direction for children’s health that allows anyone to hold us to account.”

LORD FREUD AVOIDS THE POINT.

The Public Health Outcomes Framework does not capture the specific public health outcomes of rent arrears, which are created by a government that decides to cut housing benefit while simultaneously freezing the annual increases of already low benefit incomes at 1%, which are then taxed by local authorities.

The consequences of these decisions are

1. rent arrears,
2. council tax arrears
3. other debts,
4. the draconian enforcement of debt
5. malnutrition.
6. fuel poverty
7. unreasonable stress leading to mental health problems.

The scale and cost of that damage to public health has yet to be assessed.

Rents are taking a higher and higher proportion of the lowest incomes needed for food, fuel, clothes, transport and other necessities; the impact on public health is exacerbated by cutting housing benefit and then imposing council tax and sanctions.

LOCAL AUTHORITIES IN AN IMPOSSIBLE POSITION.

Local Authorities have been given responsibility for improving public health but they are in an impossible position when central government is implementing polices with such adverse public health consequences in a UK housing market that has run amok for decades.

Dr Angela Donkin of the Institute of Health Equity has commented.

“The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud) has stated a commitment to tackle the root causes of poverty and has provided this as a reason not to measure the impact of poverty on health or maternal nutrition for example. However he cites action on worklessness and educational attainment as being the root causes of poverty. This is where the logic crumbles. Being in work is also a root cause of poverty – as the JRF point out, the majority of those in poverty are now in work. Given that over a million people needed to go to food banks last year, and there have been increasing levels of absolute poverty, this is not the time to be refusing to measure the impact. It is simply convenient for the current Government not to look or report on the devastating impact of their actions, lest it make them uncomfortable.”

​Rent arrears cause illness of men women and children Baroness Meacher Housing Bill amendment demands health report

TO​ ​​MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF LORDS. ​

​HOUSING AND PLANNING BILL

The following amendment has been tabled by

BARONESS MEACHER

I​nsert the following new Clause—

“Rent arrears​;​ The Secretary of State shall lay a report before Parliament annually about the impact of rent arrears on the health and wellbeing of men, women and children.”

​Debt and hunger, and therefore mental and physical illness, are created by the failure of successive governments to set statutory minimum incomes at the level needed for healthy living after the rent has been paid. It has been estimated that the economic and social costs of mental health problems in England was £105 billion in 2009-10 – taking into account costs for health and social care, loss of output and human costs. Those who developed this estimate think it is likely to be an underestimate.

  • In the 1980s the Thatcher government deregulated lending, abolished rent controls and allowed the free flow of money in and out of the UK.
  • National and international cash flooded into the UK housing market in short supply forcing rent and prices upwards. That has continued up to the present day.
  • The Blair and Brown governments let it rip.
  • The cost of housing benefit to the taxpayer rose with the market from £5.4 billion in 1986/7 to a planned £19.7 billion in 2007/8.
  • Despite governments cutting the payments of housing benefit to tenants in 2009, 2013 and 2016 the cost to the taxpayers has gone on rising. It reached £25 billion in 2014/15. £10.8 billion a year is expected to be paid to private landlords by 2018. Housing benefit makes up about 14 percent of welfare spending.
  • Landlords gained substantially from both the increase in the value of their land and the guaranteed payments of increasing rents rent through increasing housing benefit. Home owners also gained substantially over the years but tenants have been left to feel the pain of the 2008/9 recession.
  • Based on the 2011 Census data, we know that 58.2% of households in the London Borough of Haringey are living in rented accommodation (social and private rented), mostly in Tottenham. This is higher than London (47.8%) and England (33.1%).
  • Alistair Darling was faced with finding £1.1 trillion to shore up the banks in 2009.
  • He cut the payments of housing benefits to tenants with the Local Housing Allowance in 2009; that created rent arrears.
  • The labour government started the benefit sanctions in 2009, which have beem automatically stopping the payments of housing benefits – more rent arrears.
  • Sanctions, now lasting for one or three months, make it impossible to pay off rent arears, or any other debts or fines. Arrears pile up during a one month or three month sanction and then have to be paid of out of benefits or low pay.
  • The 2010 coalition introduced two more cuts in housing benefits payments in April 2013, the bedroom tax and the £500 a week benefit cap, so creating more arrears.
  • The Welfare Reform and Work Bill 2016 has cut the £500 a week benefit cap to £442 a week in London and £384 a week outside London, again adding rent arrears.
  • Say a tenant’s total benefit payments comes to £600; then the housing benefit payment is reduced by £100 to impose the £500 cap, leaving that £100 of rent to be paid out of the income needed for food, fuel, clothes, transport and other necessities.
  • Reducing the cap to £442 in Welfare Reform and Work Bill increases the risk of rent arrears.
  • 250 out of 326 councils reduced also the council tax benefit payments April 2013 leaving 8.5% to 30% of the tax to be paid by benefit claimants; £50 – £125 court costs are added to the arrears of late and non payers, of which there are an estimated 3.5 million a year in England and Wales. The bailiffs add up to £420. That is a lot of debt against benefit incomes on top of rent arrears.
  • It is not surprising that the LGA is reporting that councils will not have been able to collect £1 billion due to the increased regressiveness of the tax. It has always been a very regressive tax. It competes with rent arrears, food and fuel for very low incomes which are diminishing in value.
  • Annual increases in the benefit incomes, which are now required to pay rent and council tax as well as for all other necessities, have been frozen a 1% since April 2011. In April 2016 they will not be increased at all.
  • The government has decided that affordable rents are 80% of the local market rent. Increasing rents with the market while benefits increases are frozen takes an ever increasing proportion of benefit incomes needed for food, fuel, clothes, transport and other necessities. That creates more debt and hunger.
  • It is not surprising that, according to the MOJ, nearly 42,000 families were evicted from rental accommodation in 2014, the highest since records began in 2000. County Court bailiffs in England and Wales evicted more than 11,000 families in the first three months pf 2015 and increase of 8% on the same period last year and 51% higher than five years ago.
  • The minimum wage, currently £7.20, is increased by 50 pence a week to be called the “living wage” of £8.30 in April. It not backed by any known research in to living costs; unlike the living wage set by the Living Wage Foundation which is currently £9.40 in London and £8.25 in the rest of the UK. Nevertheless the good intentions of all living wages are undermined by the ever rising rents in the the chaotic UK housing market.
  • All this is particularly hard on single adults whose JSA/ESA/IS is £59.70 a week up to the age of 25 and then £73.10 with no increase in April 2016. Adults recently widowed have been expected to pay the bedroom tax for a spare room and council tax plus out of that £73.10 since April 2013; too often plus CT enforcement costs and threats of eviction for rent arrears.
  • The very low level of JSA/ESA/IS for single adults, and inevitable rent arrears, raises special concerns about poor maternal nutrition before and during pregnancy. That increases the risk permanent developmental brain disorder in their offspring. Professor Crawford of the Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition has written “Low birth weight associated with poor maternal nutrition and with foetal growth restriction is the strongest predictor of poor learning ability, school performance, behavioural disorders and crime”.
  • Under the heading “other debts”, competeing with the rent arrears for payment, will be poverty related fines for fare and TV licence evasion, and prepayment meters for gas and electricity which are set to pay off debts as well as current use. That sometimes leaves tenants without the power to cook the food they have collected from the food bank or to keep themselves or their children warm.
  • Homelessness. The Institute of Health Equity reports there were 280000 cases in 2014 (Fitzpatrick et al, 2015). The homeless are more likely to die at any age than housed contemporaries. They are 35 more times more likely to commit suicide and, twice as likely to get cancer (Burki, 2010). A national audit in 2010 found that 82% have at least one physical health problem and 72% have at least one mental health problem (Homeless Link, 2010).

Poverty related mental and physical illness can only get worse so long as rents are linked to the market while benefit incomes are frozen. It will take years, if not decades, to build enough homes to increase the supply of homes and make rents affordable.

Immediate action is needed to prevent the ill health of the tenants with low incomes.

Governments have been told for decades that there is a link between debt and mental health problems;

See the Royal College of Psychiatrists, The Government Office for Science and the Financial Conduct Authority .

The Ministry of Justice has recognised vulnerability in National Standards for Bailiffs clauses 70-77 but the courts never tell vulnerable people about them. I had a hand in getting 70-77 accepted by the then Lord Chacellor’s department in 2001 when Lord Irvine was Lord Chancellor.

Rent arrears, debts and mental illness were serious health problems for benefit claimaints before 2008/9. Those problems are far worse now housing benefit had been cut three different ways with the benefit cap, the bedroom tax and the local housing allowance; and benefit increases have been frozen at 1% since 2011; and then benefits are taxed by local authorities. The sanction is a “slow release” punishment that goes on inflicting pain through debt long after the “treatment” is over.

Psychologists against austerity have done relevant research. the five ‘Austerity Ailments’ we have identified, based on robust and long standing psychological evidence:

Read here about the five ‘Austerity Ailments’ we have identified, based on robust and long standing psychological evidence: 

Humiliation and Shame

Fear and Mistrust

Instability and Insecurity

Isolation and Loneliness

Being Trapped and Powerless

Read the evidence in full their our briefing paper

My colleagues at the Zacchaeus 2000 Trust (Z2K) have noted that;

CABs around the country are now reporting Council Tax arrears as their most frequent debt, and, in its evidence to the recent Work & Pensions Select Committee inquiry into the local welfare safety net, Citizens Advice said there is “a correlation between the minimum payment threshold set by local authorities and the number of people presenting with Council Tax arrears”.

Z2K certainly shares that view and so we welcome the committee’s report published today, which specifically calls for the Government’s review to investigate “the underlying causes of recent increases in Council Tax arrears and whether particular local approaches to Council Tax support have contributed to the rise”.

The increase in council tax arrears should be examined in the context of rents in a housing market that take an ever increasing and unmanageable proportion of the lowest incomes with severe consequences for the health and will being of tenants.

Rev Paul Nicolson 2 February 2016

Health and wellbeing brushed under noble carpets as Labour ​Peers ​abstain in welfare vote

MEDIA RELEASE
Health and wellbeing amendment lost because Labour ​Peers ​abstained

The benefit sanction is a “slow release” punishment that goes on inflicting pain long after the “treatment” is over.

Last night a vote in the House of Lords requiring Ian Duncan-Smith to report annually on the health and wellbeing of children was lost 110 votes to 184. (Column 1066). It was lost because Labour Peers abstained while Conservatives voted against. Five Bishops supported the amendment moved by the crossbenchers Lord Ramsbotham and Baronness Meacher.

Among the policies that damag​e​ health the most are the benefit sanctions. They were invented by New Labour, the srews were turned by the Coalition and​ they are​ now mercilessly imposed in increasing numbers by the present government.

As a result, the Fawcett Society has reported, particular groups of women (including single mothers, women facing sexual and domestic violence, and women who have difficulties with English) are exceptionally vulnerable to sanctions through no fault of their own. This is affecting women’s safety, their mental and physical health, and the health and wellbeing of their children.

The benefit sanction is a “slow release” punishment that goes on inflicting pain long after the “treatment” is over. Council tax and rent arrears cannot be paid while a one month or three month sanction has stopped income. Debts pile up, their enforcement continues during the sanction; they have to be paid when the sanction ends out of low pay or diminishing benefit incomes.

The devastating impact on the health and wellbeing of men, women and children​,​ when debts are enforced by powerful government departments against the low​, or non existent​, ​incomes of ​vulnerable and powerless households​,​ has been brushed under the noble carpets of government and ​Labour ​Peers. .

Rev Paul Nicolson​
Tottenham​
02083765455
07961177889

A benefit sanction is a “slow release” punishment that goes on inflicting pain long after the “treatment” is over

COUNCIL TAX AND RENT ARREARS  CANNOT BE PAID DURING A BENEFIT SANCTION

THEY PILE UP AND HAVE TO BE PAID WHEN THE SANCTION IS FINISHED

EITHER OUT OF LOW BENEFITS OR LOW INCOMES

THE DEVASTATING IMPACT ON HEALTH IS IGNORED BY GOVERNMENT

Psychologists against austerity have done relevant research. Their research was launched in the  House of Lords at a meeting supported by Baroness Ruth Lister and Baroness Sheila Hollins.

Read here about the five ‘Austerity Ailments’  they have identified, based on robust and long standing psychological evidence: 

Humiliation and Shame

Fear and Mistrust

Instability and Insecurity

Isolation and Loneliness

Being Trapped and Powerless

Government should also read and act on advice from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, The Government Office for Science and the Financial Conduct Authority . The last two only deal with commercial debts.

When I showed the A-TALE-OF-TWO-ENFORCEMENTS  one of which I helped and the other we heard of too late, to Professor Rachel Jenkins, who took part in the GoS paper, she of course saw the connection with paying off debts while claiming benefits.

The Ministry of Justice has recognised vulnerability in National Standards for Bailiffs clauses 70-77 but the courts never tell vulnerable people about them. I had a hand in getting 70-77 accepted by the then Lord Chacellor’s department in 2001 when Lord Irvine was Lord Chancellor.

We need some more mental health research that looks at cases like A-TALE-OF-TWO-ENFORCEMENTS  They happened in 2001.

It is far worse now housing benefit had been cut three different ways with the benefit cap, the bedroom tax and the local housing allowance; and benefit increases have been frozen at 1% since 2011.

A one month or three month sanction stopping income makes it impossible to pay off existing debts and creates new ones. When the sanction is over the debtor often carries greater debts than he or she had before the sanction into continued unemployment or into work, often on low pay.

The sanction is a “slow release” punishment that goes on inflicting pain long after the “treatment” is over.