The Conservative Government appears to be trying to implement another arms-length attempt to kill off people ministers do not consider useful.
The cap would affect around 50,000 households over the course of a year, and they would lose an average of £68 per week in housing benefit.
The Tories are claiming it will bring housing benefit for social housing tenants in line with the private sector. It was announced by George Osborne in his Autumn Statement as a way to “prevent social landlords from charging inflated rent for their properties”.
But if it affects people with what we might call special housing needs – the frail elderly, domestic violence victims and the mentally ill – then the policy crosses beyond merely saving government money and into much more sinister territory.
One may justifiably ask where anybody is going to make up the loss of £68 a week on average. The standard Tory answer is that they should find work to cover it. But elderly people are beyond working age; the mentally ill may not be capable of it; and victims of violence need time to recover.
They fit – very well – the description coined by professors Karl Binding and Erich Hoche in Germany’s Weimar Republic. They considered people with disabilities to be “useless eaters” whose ‘ballast lives’ could be tossed overboard to better balance the economic ship of state.
Binding and Hoche wrote: “Their life is absolutely pointless, but they do not regard it as being unbearable. They are a terrible, heavy burden upon their relatives and society as a whole. Their death would not create even the smallest gap—except perhaps in the feelings of their mothers or loyal nurses.”
They drove home their argument by calculating the cost of caring for such people, concluding that this cost was “a massive capital in the form of foodstuffs, clothing and heating, which is being subtracted from the national product for entirely unproductive purposes”.
How is that different from the Conservative Government’s claims about housing benefit for tenants in sheltered housing?
Tens of thousands of tenants in sheltered housing, including frail older residents, domestic violence victims and people with mental illness may become homeless as a result of benefit cuts, landlords have said.
Government plans to cap housing benefit for social rented properties from April will put an estimated 82,000 specialist homes under threat of closure, leaving an estimated 50,000 vulnerable tenants who are unable to work without support.
Housing associations and charities have warned of closures on “a massive and unprecedented scale” unless ministers exempt supporting housing schemes from the housing benefit cap.
David Orr, the chief executive of the National Housing Federation, which represents English housing associations, said: “If this cap applies to specialist housing, tens of thousands of vulnerable people will be unable to afford the cost of their home and care.
“Huge numbers of people will be affected from older people and dementia patients, to disabled people and women fleeing domestic violence – they cannot go without specialist care and support.”
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