The man lay down under a blanket and “never got up again” (file picture) [Image: Daily Mirror].
David Gauke said the Conservatives aim to halve homelessness by 2022 – this is how he proposes to do it (although he’ll never admit the fact).
The death of ‘Christopher’ at a shelter in London on Christmas Eve means homelessness has fallen, according to Tory government figures.
Mr Gauke will be delighted.
Tories don’t understand the human tragedy and certainly won’t lift a finger to prevent it.
A homeless man died under a blanket at a packed shelter on Christmas Eve – despite the desperate efforts of other rough sleepers to save his life.
The man, called Christopher and aged in his 60s, had laid down on the floor of the London-based shelter’s sleeping area, surrounded by around 130 others.
But tragically, he “never got up again”.
A devastated Crisis worker broke the news of his death to volunteers and other homeless people, telling them he “gently” passed away of natural causes.
Shift leader Ros Ponder … shared the heartbreaking incident on Facebook on New Year’s Eve.
She said: “We are not living in Victorian times.
“This is 21st century Britain. We’re a nation that spends more than £78billion on Christmas food, gifts and parties… and yet more and more people are living on our streets – curled up in doorways, on buses, park benches, even in dustbins.
“The average age of death for a homeless person in this country is just 47.
“We should all be horrified.
“In 2018 let’s all try a bit harder to put an end to this.”
Every year, under our ignorant Conservative government, I write a version of this story.
And every year the number of homeless children increases, under an ignorant Conservative government that keeps claiming, against all the evidence, that their policies are improving the situation. Every year.
Others take a different view. Let’s look at the public response to Shelter’s announcement that 128,000 children – more than at any time in the last 10 years – will be homeless this Christmas:
128,000 Children will officially be homeless for Christmas and the persecution of the sick& disabled and for Theresa Mays promised a fairer Britain outside Num 10 in July 2016 words are cheap just like Mrs May
Think about this for a moment: the number of homeless children in Britain (128,000), is around the same as the population of the Isle of Wight, or Norwich, or Thanet. We have a national crisis on our hands thanks to a Conservative government – and they're doing NOTHING about it.
No accident, none of it. 128 000 kids homeless at Christmas in the so called uk…all the while Branson sues the ENG NHS for millions&lives in a tropical tax haven. I'll not even start on the #ParadisePapers#PanamaPapers or any of the many others evading tax in this TORY uk. https://t.co/lwZ67qpdbE
New figures just released by homeless charity Shelter show that 128,000 children will wake up homeless on Christmas Day. If you still think a Tory government is the way forward then let me assure you of one thing: you are part of the problem. #ToryWinterCrisis
A shocking 128,000 children in Britain will wake up homeless and in temporary accommodation this Christmas, a new report by Shelter reveals today.
One in every 111 children is currently homeless, and with the country still at the mercy of a worsening housing crisis, 2017 has seen the highest numbers of homeless children in a decade.
At least 140 families become homeless every day, and in the last year alone, 61% of families helped by Shelter’s frontline services were homeless or on the brink of losing their home. In response to such huge demand, the charity is calling on the public to help fund its frontline advisers by supporting its urgent Christmas appeal.
To expose the devastating reality of homelessness, Shelter carried out in-depth interviews with children and their parents living in emergency bed and breakfasts (B&Bs), and hostels. This is widely considered the worst type of temporary accommodation. In the unique investigation:
Every family lived in a single room which significantly disrupts the children’s ability to play, do homework and carry out any kind of daily routine
A quarter of families had no access to a kitchen at all, and the rest had to make do with shared facilities. Struggling to cook meals, more than half of parents said they rely on expensive and unhealthy takeaways. And two-thirds had to eat family meals on the bed or floor of their room
Half of families had to share toilet and bathroom facilities with other households, often with filthy conditions and unlockable doors, meaning strangers could walk in at any moment
More than a third of parents had to share a bed with their children. Three-quarters say bedtimes have become difficult and half say their children are more tired
In England, where the highest number of families are placed into B&Bs, 45% stay beyond the six-week legal limit. The charity’s findings lay bare the psychological turmoil experienced by families living in these cramped conditions for often long periods of time, including:
Three-quarters of parents felt their children’s mental health had been badly affected. One parent said her daughter had become suicidal since living in the hostel
Half of parents reported that their children’s physical health had also worsened, with incidents of bed bug infestations, and broken heating causing children to fall ill
Children spoke about feeling anxious, afraid and ashamed. Several children described school as a respite. For one it was the only place he felt happy, another felt stressed at the thought of returning to her accommodation at the end of the school day
Children also talked about their school work suffering because of long journeys to school each day, poor and broken sleep, and having no space or quiet-time to do their homework
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: ‘It’s a national scandal that this year the number of homeless children in Britain has risen every year since 2011. No child should have to spend Christmas without a home – let alone 128,000 children.
‘Many of us will spend Christmas day enjoying all of the festive traditions we cherish, but sadly it’ll be a different story for the children hidden away in cramped B&Bs or hostel rooms. Imagine living in a noisy strange place full of people you don’t know, and waking up exhausted from having no choice but to share a bed with your siblings or parents.
‘That’s why our frontline advisers will continue to work tirelessly, including on Christmas day, to help more families fighting homelessness. But we can’t do this alone. We’re asking people to help a homeless family and make giving to Shelter their new Christmas tradition.’
Case study: Twins Ellie and Amy, aged 15, are currently homeless and living in temporary accommodation. Until a few weeks ago, they were living in a tiny hotel room which they shared with the rest of their family. They had no access to a kitchen and only shared bathroom facilities; the twins also had to share a bed.
Amy said: ‘We’re living in a B&B. It’s a small room with five people living in it. It’s got one double bed and one single bed. It’s not even a proper bed… it’s a camp bed. Three people sleep in the double bed with one person at the bottom and two people at the top. And two in the single bed. I sleep next to my brother, he kicks. My mum talks in her sleep.
‘There’s a tiny toilet with a shower but my brother doesn’t like showers because he’s autistic, so he has to bathe in a bucket. He stands in it and mum tips a cup over him. He screams if you try and put him in the shower.’
Ellie said: ‘It’s hard to concentrate at school because there’s the worry about coming home. It’s just stressful. There’s nowhere we can relax or get any privacy. Before it was much better. We had our own home right near school and right near our friends. We all had our own rooms and a cooker and a fridge. We could eat proper meals. I just want it to be like it was before.’
To support Shelter’s urgent Christmas appeal, please visit www.shelter.org.uk or text SHELTER to 70080 to donate £3.
Almost 19,000 families became homeless after being evicted by a private landlord in the past year, the highest number ever recorded [Image: Getty].
The Conservative Government is shifting its policy on homelessness – although whether it will be effective has yet to be seen.
After years of laissez-faire slackness regarding the causes of homelessness that have seen huge year-on-year increases under David Cameron, his successor Theresa May has announced a change.
From now on, local councils will be charged with preventing private landlords from throwing people out of their homes.
There’s just one catch: Local councils are being starved of money by – guess who? – the Conservative Government.
A helpline run by an anti-homelessness charity now receives one call asking for help every 30 seconds, new figures reveal.
Shelter’s advice line has seen the volume of calls rise by 50,000 in the past 12 months, with one in four cases taken on by the line from people who are homeless or at risk of losing their home within 28 days.
Almost 19,000 families became homeless after being evicted by a private landlord in the past year, a 200 per cent increase compared to five years ago and the highest number recorded.
In August this year the House of Commons Communities and Local Government Select Committee warned that the Government’s welfare reforms had played a significant role in driving up homelessness figures.
A report by the cross-party group of MPs warned that the number of rough sleepers in England had risen by 30 per cent to 3,569 between 2014 and 2015. The Committee in part blamed changes to housing benefits payments.
Other factors, such as a trend away from social housing and towards private renting, have been blamed for the increase in homelessness and rough sleeping in recent years.
I write this story every year and, every year we have a Conservative Government, the numbers are worse than the year before.
In 2013, we had 80,000 homeless children. Now, just three years later, that number has increased by 50 – fifty – per cent.
And the Prime Minister – whoever it is, under the Tories they’re all interchangeable – says the government is reducing homelessness and puts out a line about the amount of money being given to local authorities to sort it out.
Because the Conservative Party measures success in terms of the amount of money poured into the system, not the outcomes it generates.
Fifty years since Shelter was first founded, the country is once again in the grip of a housing crisis. If there’s one thing that sums up the situation, it’s the fact that 120,000 children will be homeless this Christmas. This is the equivalent of four children at every school.
You may not have realised child homelessness was this high, because you won’t see children on the streets. And because they are out of sight, most people have no idea of their appalling, unsafe living conditions.
While children in emergency accommodation might have a roof over their heads, they are clearly without a home. They do not have the space to live their lives – to play, study, or relax. Nor a place of stability and safety where they can grow and develop.
If you thought you had it bad under the Coalition then, as someone once said, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!”
The Conservative victory in last night’s election has left many of us reeling – not just because of its disastrous implications for the future of the UK and its citizens, but because nobody saw it coming.
Some have blamed ‘shy’ Tory voters. These are selfish little liars who skew the polls by denying any intention to vote for the Nasty Party. In the case of yesterday’s vote, many will have done so against their own best interests.
So why did they do it? The most likely reason being touted overnight is the success of the Conservative Party’s big scare tactic: The lie that Labour would go into a coalition with the Scottish National Party in the event of a hung Parliament. Cameron made vague claims that this would hit everybody in the wallet and Middle England – already burdened by a £4,000 per year loss of earnings thanks to Tory austerity – turned into a tribe of ‘shy’ Tories.
With the polls duly skewed, there was no way for Ed Miliband and Labour to know that their strategy wasn’t going to work for them, so they carried on. Britain fell into the Tory trap and now David Cameron has a slim majority.
And we are all in deep, deep trouble.
For supporters of the SNP, the disappointment must be the most bitter. Still, they supported a party with the most contradictory message of all – vote SNP in Scotland because Labour is bad, so that the SNP can go into coalition with Labour MPs from everywhere else because Labour is good.
It seems likely the most straightforward reason they voted SNP is because they had been whipped into a frenzy of righteous indignance about the independence referendum, believing the SNP propaganda that Labour was “in cahoots” with the Conservative Party – not just over the referendum but on general policy as well; ‘Red Tories’ was the SNP brand on Labour.
(Of course, others responded by labelling the SNP ‘Tartan Tories’. It is ironic that all this bickering resulted in the real Tories seizing power.)
So Scottish voters believed an SNP lie about Labour, and the knock-on effect was that English (and some Welsh) voters were convinced by a Conservative lie about Labour and the SNP. This created a domino effect which eventually meant that every single Scottish seat could have gone to the SNP, and the UK would still have ended up with a Tory government.
Is Nicola Sturgeon proud of herself? She seems to be. One is led to wonder how her party will respond to Tory legislation, when Parliament resumes.
Interestingly, Jon Craig (of Sky News) tweeted: “Tory at East Renfrewshire count: ‘Nicola Sturgeon has won more votes for the Conservatives in England than she has for the SNP in Scotland.'”
If anything, the election has demonstrated that Conservative/Coalition policy has created an atmosphere of division in the UK, greater than at any time in our history. Nationalism is on the rise, with Scotland keen to secede from the union and the UK as a whole heading for a referendum on whether to stay in the European Union.
The SNP result should also signal the death-knell of the First Past The Post voting system in this country – although its demise is likely to be protracted (the Tories will fight tooth and nail to keep it). Where’s the fairness in a system that can deliver 56 seats to the SNP with 1.5 million votes, and only one seat to UKIP, with nearly four million votes?
(This Writer supports neither party, as previous articles on this blog make all-too-clear. Facts are facts.)
It will also be interesting to see what impact – if any – the Coalition’s ‘individual voter registration’ has had on the number of people who voted. Also, how many people didn’t bother to vote “because it never changes anything”?
Come to that, what about all those people who were forced to move out of affluent areas because they couldn’t pay the Bedroom Tax (which will, of course, continue)? Did they move into Labour constituencies?
We could be looking at interference in the electoral process on an industrial scale.
Feel free to disagree with the free pass this image gives to Scottish voters if you like; the claim about voters in England is absolutely on the button.
Overall, the situation is best summed up by ‘Grumpy David’ on Twitter: “Seriously, who’s looked at the last five years and gone yeah, more of that please?”
What of the future?
Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK tweeted that a Tory victory would mean neo-feudalism is on its way in England, the union will be broken (with Scotland seceding), and the UK will leave the EU. He also predicted an economic crisis within a year.
Europe will be a major issue for the Conservatives now. With no Liberal Democrat partners to blame for government decisions, Cameron will be exposed to attack from his own backbenchers – many of whom are raving Europhobes.
Everyone on benefits will suffer, including those in work. Rachel Martin tweeted: “If exit polls are accurate I advise you not to be poor, not to be ill, not to be old and not to be in need of a job.”
The Tory victory means the end of the welfare state as we know it: People who deserve compassion will get none. Instead they will suffer £12 billion of cuts. Many thousands will die for the sake of a few pennies.
And the NHS? Privatised. With the provisions in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that will lock that privatisation into international law. Here’s Jacob Richardson: “Imagine seeing rape crisis shelters being closed and children’s palliative care being sold off to Virgin Healthcare, and wanting more of it.”
Workers’ pay will take a hammering – and our ability to protest and get a fair deal will be removed, along with the rest of our rights according to the Human Rights Act. They will be replaced by a ‘Bill of Rights’ telling us more about what we can’t do than what we can.
The Labour Party will need to get its act together quickly. Probably the best thing to do is get right back out to the general public and get confirmation of why the vote went to the Tories. Was Labour policy too close to the party’s arch-rivals, as some have surmised? Did people feel Labour wasn’t offering a genuine alternative? There will be a conflict between the neoliberal Blairites and traditionalists, and it is important that traditional Labour wins. If there’s one thing to learn from the SNP victory, it’s that a genuinely left-wing, anti-austerity platform delivers a massive victory at the moment.
The Liberal Democrats have been destroyed as a Parliamentary political party – and rightly so. The message for others to take away is that any form of compliance with Conservatives is fatal. The Tories will shift blame for anything bad onto their partners and contrive to win more votes.
UKIP is also a spent force. Despite increasing its vote share, its representation in Parliament has been halved. Voters will see this and abandon.
The SNP has taken on the role that the Liberal Democrats enjoyed at the 2010 election. They were the darlings of the voters this year but will lose out when it becomes clear that they cannot deliver a single promise – and, in fact, their victory in Scotland ensured that they would not be able to do so.
Finally, what can we do – the public?
We need to watch the Conservatives – and any of their known collaborators – hawkishly. We need to build up information about them, their policies, and any other interests – including and especially those that are less than legal (and there will be a lot of this). They won because the public believed them. It is important to undermine that trust with the facts.
We need also to ensure that the Liberal Democrats do not stage a comeback. That party betrayed the people and must be consigned to history. Again, we need to monitor the behaviour of its members and work to make sure the public is not gulled into a false sense of trust.
And it would be good to start thinking about the kind of country we would create, if we had the chance – and what steps we could take to build it. This may seem like pie-in-the-sky at such a dark point in our nation’s history, but it is only with careful and clever planning that anybody achieves anything.
We are in a very dark pit at the moment – dug for us by the Conservative Party. At least we can take heart that, from here, the only way is up.
A few months ago, Mrs Mike – who is the named tenant of VP Towers – received a communication from our landlord (a housing association).
It was notification that the HA had applied to the Welsh Assembly to set a ‘fair rent’ at about £9 per week more than the then-current level.
Depending on your own circumstances, £9 per week may not seem altogether high but for Mrs Mike, who considers herself to have suffered undue neglect from her landlord (remember the flood last year?), it was the last straw. The notification letter stated that she could appeal against the increase, so she did.
You may be surprised, dear reader, to find that I was reluctant to support her. I feared the possibility of a revenge attack by our landlords, resulting in us ending up on the street.
I was wrong – but the issue took a few months to resolve. At first, the Assembly agreed with the housing association that our rent should be increased and, following representations by Mrs Mike, by more than the HA had originally requested. The landlord promised that it would stick to the original figure but Mrs Mike wasn’t having any of it and took the case to a tribunal, pointing out that our landlord wasn’t comparing our rent with similar houses in the local area (as is necessary) and that calls for repairs were habitually ignored or dismissed by servicers who are based almost 100 miles away.
Now our rent is cheaper – yes, cheaper – than it was before, and it seems our landlord is going to abide by the decision.
But this is a rare case, according to homelessness charity Shelter – and it seems we are safe only because we rent from a social landlord.
Current laws mean it is entirely legal for any private landlord to evict tenants, Shelter says, simply for speaking up about bad conditions going unacknowledged and unrepaired, as Mrs Mike has.
The situation affects no less than nine million UK citizens – and last year, 200,000 of them were thrown out of their homes in what the charity has described as ‘revenge’ evictions.
It seems some landlords don’t like to be embarrassed when their neglect comes out into the public domain.
This means that, according to Shelter, one in 12 private renters have avoided asking for repairs in case they are evicted.
But on November 28 MPs have the chance to end revenge eviction, the charity says.
“They’ll be debating a small change to the law: to stop landlords issuing an eviction notice when the tenant has made a legitimate complaint about conditions.
“You can tell your MP to save the date – to attend Parliament on 28 November and vote to end revenge evictions.
“Normally, MPs go back home on a Thursday to do constituency work on a Friday. This time, we need them to stay in Westminster until Friday morning, so they can vote to change the lives of the thousands of renters they represent.”
Shelter has provided a handy system to help you email your MP and ask them to improve the lives of nine million UK citizens. Here it is:
In the run-up to a general election, voters will be watching their MPs very carefully. Do they really represent you? November 28 will be a test of their good intentions. If they don’t stay and vote, you’ll know what to do with them next May. But they need to know what you want them to do.
The number of people made homeless because they were evicted by their private landlord has more than doubled in the last five years, new government figures show, according to Shelter.
In the past twelve months, 13,990 households were accepted as homeless by their council after their landlord ended their private rented tenancy, compared with 5,650 five years ago. Private rental evictions became the number one cause of homelessness for the first time in early 2012, and now represent nearly a third (30 per cent) of all homelessness cases in England.
More than nine million people now privately rent their homes in England, and almost one in three renting households are families. Shelter is warning that the situation is likely to get worse as a combination of sky-high rents, unstable short-term tenancies and a wave of welfare changes are leaving thousands of families struggling to find anywhere they can afford to live.
The government’s figures also reveal that the number of homeless families in temporary accommodation rose to 44,510 – the highest it has been for five years.
Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: “Behind every one of these shocking statistics stands a person or a family who’s gone through the tragedy of losing their home. And what’s more worrying is that we know these figures are only the tip of the iceberg.
“The failure of successive governments to build enough affordable homes has left us with a housing market that’s totally out of control. As a result more and more families are finding themselves living in unstable rented homes, unable to put down roots and facing a monthly battle with sky-high housing costs.
“We speak to families every day who are struggling to cope with the cost of housing, often forced to cut back on essentials or even skip meals just to keep a roof over their children’s heads.
“With so many of us already on a financial knife-edge, all it takes is one thing like a sudden rent rise to tip a family into a spiral that ends in homelessness.
“Politicians have to give back hope to all those crying out for a stable home, by building the genuinely affordable homes that we desperately need.”
While the overall number of households accepted as homeless has slightly dropped again this quarter, the number in B&B has increased to an 11 year high.
And the number of households placed in temporary accommodation in another council area is at the highest level since records began in 1998. And a quarter of temporary accommodation is now out of area.
What Shelter won’t tell you is that this is the intended result of government policies designed to turf people the Conservatives (and, one imagines, the Liberal Democrats) deem undesirable out of areas they consider to be desirable and force them to find somewhere else to live – if they can.
The Bedroom Tax, the Benefit Cap, low wages, high private rents and house prices all contribute to this, and are either Tory policies or phenomena the Tories and their friends have allowed to go unchecked.
Tories don’t care if these people end up starving on the street, as long as they can make a fat wad of cash out of the space they leave behind.
You may have noticed that yesterday was Christmas – the day when Christians throughout the world celebrate the birth of Jesus, whose teachings in later life form the basis of their faith.
Jesus was born into a world of politics and political machinations – the Roman world was much the same as our own in this respect – and had an effect on it, right from his birth.
According to one of the Gospels, when King Herod learned that a child had been born who had been named ‘King of the Jews’, he sent spies to find out who this possible usurper was; failing in this attempt, he gave orders for the death of all boys aged two or less in Bethlehem and nearby.
Joseph (husband of Mary, Jesus’ mother) was warned in a dream that Herod intended to kill Jesus, so the family fled to Egypt until after the King’s death – then moved to Nazareth in Galilee to avoid living under Herod’s son Archelaus (the Romans had divided the kingdom into three, and Nazareth was ruled by another of Herod’s sons, Herod Antipas).
Regarding the Massacre of the Innocents, doubt has been cast on whether the event ever took place. No other account of the period makes reference to it. Some have said that this may be because the number of male children of the right age might have been less than 20.
Since the point of this article is to compare what happened then with current events, here in Britain, it seems best to bookmark the disputed event; we’ll come back to it if we must.
The part we are told under no uncertain terms is that Joseph took Mary and Jesus to Egypt until Herod’s rule was over. In modern terms, they were made homeless because of political persecution that was so extreme, they had to flee the country.
The situation in the UK today, as stated by Shelter, is no less than 80,000 times as bad.
The charity told us (in November): “Government figures show that 80,000 children in Britain will be homeless this Christmas.”
Vox Political said then that government policies had caused the dramatic rise: “The bedroom tax; the ‘Pickles Poll Tax’, otherwise known as the Council Tax reduction scheme; the benefit cap that so many people in this country seem to support without understanding any of its implications.” This blog had warned that this would happen, as long ago as January.
In contrast with the Bible story, in which the family fled to safety, most homeless families interviewed by Shelter said they felt more unsafe, witnessing violence, sexual offences, drug use and dealing.
This is more than 2,000 years after the Biblical incident; civilisation is supposed to have improved over that time. Why are we allowing our government to do this to our children on such a massively more widespread scale?
Perhaps we can take some small comfort from Herod’s fate. Modern medicine suggests he had chronic kidney failure, complicated by Fourier’s gangrene – but let us see how it was described at the time. The historian Josephus – in Antiquities, Book 17, Chapter 6, Verse 5 – describes the disease that killed him shortly after he set out to murder Jesus: “a fire glowed in him slowly, which did not so much appear to the touch outwardly, as it augmented his pains inwardly; for it brought upon him a vehement appetite to eating, which he could not avoid to supply with one sort of food or other. His entrails were also ex-ulcerated, and the chief violence of his pain lay on his colon; an aqueous and transparent liquor also had settled itself about his feet, and a like matter afflicted him at the bottom of his belly. Nay, further, his privy-member was putrefied, and produced worms; and when he sat upright, he had a difficulty of breathing, which was very loathsome, on account of the stench of his breath, and the quickness of its returns; he had also convulsions in all parts of his body, which increased his strength to an insufferable degree. It was said by those who pretended to divine, and who were endued with wisdom to foretell such things, that God inflicted this punishment on the king on account of his great impiety.”
Eric Pickles, Iain Duncan Smith, and above all David Cameron, beware.
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Tory politicians don’t care and Liberal Democrats don’t have any power – that’s why 80,000 children are being housed in temporary accommodation, alongside drug users and enduring threats of violence, as reported by Shelter today.
The government’s own figures show 2,090 families living in bed and breakfasts – an increase of eight per cent on 2012 and the largest number in 10 years, according to The Guardian. Of these, 760 have been living in B&Bs longer than the legal six-week limit – a 10 per cent increase on last year.
More than 43,000 other homeless households with children are in other emergency accommodation – usually privately-rented short-term flats, which are expensive. This is an increase of nine per cent on last year.
To put this into context, a Labour government commitment to halve the number of families in this kind of emergency accommodation meant the total fell between 2005 and 2010 – but it has been rising again since June 2011.
This is a human disaster created by the Coalition government.
Most families interviewed by the charity said they felt unsafe, with one child directly threatened by a man after an argument over a shared bathroom. Almost half said their children had witnessed incidents such as sexual offences, drug use and dealing.
One mother of three said: “One of the reasons we left was one of the residents trying to sell us crack cocaine.”
Most of the 25 families Shelter interviewed lived in one room; half said the children were sharing beds with parents or siblings and the family was sharing kitchen facilities with others. All but three said it was hard to find a safe place for their children to play. Three families had no cooking facilities and one reported sharing a cooker and fridge with 22 other people.
More than half had to share a bathroom or toilet with strangers, with 10 families sharing with seven or more other people; two-thirds had no table to eat on, and schoolchildren were finding it hard to do homework.
And their health is suffering: “It’s so hard to give him a balanced diet as it’s impossible to make proper meals here, let alone a Christmas dinner. He’s getting really pale and is so tired all the time. He gets so scared but it’s difficult when I’m scared myself. This is no place for a child to live,” said a mother in a Hounslow B&B.
“This shouldn’t be happening in 21st century Britain,” said Shelter’s chief executive, Campbell Robb, who described the charity’s findings as “shocking” and the conditions forced on families as “shameful”.
He said: “No child should be homeless, let alone 80,000. But tragically, with more people struggling to make ends meet and homelessness on the rise, we’re bracing ourselves for an increase in demand from families who desperately need our help.”
Housing minister Kris Hopkins couldn’t care less. “We’ve given councils nearly £1bn to tackle homelessness and to support people affected by the welfare reforms,” he sniffed.
“I am very clear that they should be fully able to meet their legal responsibility to house families in suitable accommodation.”
Let us be very clear on this: the problem is not that Tories like Hopkins don’t understand. This is exactly the result that they wanted; they just won’t acknowledge it because it is electorally damaging.
Look at the policies that created this problem: The bedroom tax; the ‘Pickles Poll Tax’, otherwise known as the Council Tax reduction scheme; the benefit cap that so many people in this country seem to support without understanding any of its implications.
Vox Political reported back in January what they would mean: “There will be a rise in rent and mortgage arrears… affordable housing will be less available and landlords less able or willing to rent to tenants on benefits… Private sector rental may become less attractive to landlords if tenants aren’t paying the rent. This will lead to a growth in homelessness. Councils have statutory duties and may see an increasing burden.”
But increases to the Discretionary Housing Payment fund have been entirely insignificant compared with the extra burden councils have faced. They received £150 million between them; Durham County Council had £883,000 and spent it all within eight weeks.
We have seen the start of the social cleansing predicted by this blog back in August 2012, when we noted that at least one council would use these measures to “clear out the poor and set up shop as a desirable residence for the rich”.
The housing bubble created by George Osborne with his ‘Help To Buy’ scheme will accelerate this process.
So don’t let a Tory tell you it’s nothing to do with them. They wanted this. In fact, 80,000 homeless children at Christmas is probably not enough for them.
Dangerously right-wing policies wrapped in a fuzzy exterior – but can Boris Johnson pull the wool over our eyes?
After David Cameron’s calamitously poor speech at the Conservative Party Conference, everyone seems to be touting Boris Johnson as the new Great Blue Hope for the Nasty Party.
He seems plausible, after all – a bear-like, genial-looking, slightly buffoonish, overgrown child who seems to fumble his way through his commitments, presumably on his way to a social get-together or a recording of Have I Got News For You. A friendly figure who should be taken to the public heart.
In fact, he’s nothing of the sort. His policies are more right-wing and dangerous to the poor than Cameron’s.
Let’s take law and order as an example. As London’s mayor, Boris has relieved more than 1,700 police officers of their duties, along with 1,800 community support officers. He then claimed that crime had dropped by 12 per cent. Recorded crime has indeed dropped, but only by 5.6 per cent. So he’s a liar.
Last year, he spent £50 million making Metropolitan Police civilian staff redundant.
Under Boris, social housing starts in London have fallen to their lowest level for a decade, with only 25 affordable properties being started in each of London’s 32 boroughs in the three months from April to June. That’s half the number for the same period last year. Local authority waiting lists show 366,613 households waiting for homes.
For those on middle-to-higher incomes, home ownership is an increasingly distant dream, with Shelter estimating that the average first-time buyer must now rent for 31 years before they can buy their own home – at a cost of £300,000 in private sector rent.
In this sector, rents soared by 12 per cent last year, but more than 33 per cent of homes do not meet Decent Homes standards, and tenants are often exposed to a lack of stability caused by rogue landlords and short-term tenancies.
In his conference speech, Boris announced a new “Housing Covenant”, with £100 million to help 10,000 “modest income” households become home owners – but this doesn’t event claw back the amount the Coalition government cut from London’s affordable house building budget in 2010. In 2009-10, £310 million was spent on housing for first-time buyers.
He has cut the London police force and reduced housing, despite rapidly rising demand.
What do you think he would do if he was allowed to play with the whole of the UK?
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