Esther McVey has been appointed as the new Secretary of State Work and Pensions and aside from the huge outcry this will rightly see in all disability lobbies, it also puts a further nail in the social housing coffin.
As Minister for Disabled Persons she oversaw the introduction of PIP to replace DLA which the government’s own impact assessment admitted would see 600,000 fewer disabled households receive PIP than received DLA. Personal Independence Payment (PIP) was designed to precisely take away disability benefits from 19% of those who received DLA – these 600,000 households down from 3.2 million to 2.6 million households.
That and her claim that ‘disabled people’ get better caused outrage, understandably so, and earned her the title of McVile among disabled lobbies … little realising that any such title around being a heartless bastard is a surefire way for promotion for a Tory MP.
Yet little attention was paid to how this also affects social housing which it does in a huge way given that social housing is where disabled households live as the private rented sector does not ‘do’ disability as adaptations etc are outwith the private landlord profit model. Putting in then taking out adaptations is a cost no private landlord does in simple terms.
Add to this another DWP statistic from another impact assessment that 63% of all bedroom tax households contain a disability and you see the hugely disproportionate number of disabled households who live in social housing.
McVey herself saying that just 3% of people are born disabled in an attempt to justify these cuts to disability benefits and you see that social housing (forgive this expression reader) has become repository housing for those with a disability.
Receipt of disability benefits such as PIP or DLA provides exemptions from cuts to housing benefit policies such as the overall benefit cap and receiving PIP makes a disabled household a viable one for social landlords … but ONLY if they continue to receive it. Once they lose PIP they become just as financially toxic to social landlords as non-disabled households, whether existing or prospective social tenants as they also lose the overall benefit cap exemption.
Social landlords will soon find that more tenants are losing their disability benefit and becoming liable for the swingeing overall benefit cap cuts which results in massive cuts to their housing benefit entitlement. The problem for social landlords is that they do not KNOW what benefits their tenant receive and thus only find out of the cut to housing benefit when much reduced 4 weekly housing benefit payments arrive … or no housing benefit payment arrives.
To a lesser extent some social landlords have already experienced this with their tenants being moved from the incapacity benefit called ESA and from the support group (which makes the household exempt) to the ESA working group which makes them liable for the OBC massive cuts to housing benefit. Both of these movements and benefit cuts are directly caused by the fundamentally flawed private sector operated assessment processes of which 65% are overturned on appeal to a tribunal which reveals how flawed they are … yet only 6% of such assessment decisions get appealed as their is no funding to take such appeals.
What will now happen is that social landlords will not choose to support their tenants at appeal as it is cost intensive (even if they had the in-house skills to take them) and so existing tenants will simply become arrears cases and a problem. Even worse is that UK social landlords will increasingly refuse to allocate any of their 440,000 per year new tenancies to disabled households because the risk of them losing disability benefits has just increased exponentially by McVey being the new DWP Minister. McVey who is politically wedded to these flawed assessments and to the notion that 19% of those on disability benefits are swinging the lead!
All disabled households have become an increased financial risk to social landlords and they will react in their usual risk averse way and refuse to accommodate disabled households which leads to the obvious question of Where will they live!
I have tried thus far not to swear reader but McVey becoming the new DWP Minister is truly one of those oh fuck moments!! The naked ambition of McVey makes Brutus look like a human shield around Julius Caesar preventing the knives … and those knives are well and truly out and in McVey’s hand to kill disabled households and with it kill off social housing’s principal concept of housing those most in housing need.
Social housing sees 3.2 million of its 4.4 million households receive housing benefit and almost 3 in every 4 social housing properties are dependent upon housing benefit to pay the social housing rent. The sector always overlooks the fact that THEY as landlords are controlled by every single change to the payment of housing benefit. It downplays such obvious facts and so does not quickly see that every change in policy to the receipt of housing benefit however nuanced changes the operation of social housing.
We have already seen one report (CIH / University of Sheffield) in September 2017 confirm what I have been saying will inevitably happen for 5 years – that 60% of council and housing association refusals to accommodate are due to affordability, or in simple terms that housing benefit cuts means HB will not cover the rent. You can bet your bottom dollar that this will get worse and even before the proposed inflation busting social housing rent rises come back in April 2020, and the reason you bet your bottom dollar is the appointment of Esther McVey as DWP Minister.
Poverty porn, the shirker, the mention of handouts and all other such inflammatory and errant language will once again be to the fore with McVey and how the right wing media will so love that! The more inflammatory this extremely ambitious harridan McVey becomes (and note she will see that as complimentary not criticism) the more newsprint and click bait it generates. This is the same McVey who said there is no housing shortage and landlords should simply remodel all properties from 3 bed family houses into 3 x 1 bed flats … just in case any of the many soft Tories in social landlords think I am being harsh.
The same Esther McVey who announced that the pre 1996 bedroom tax fiasco was for local councils to sort out not central government and who said at most 3000 families only were affected … and if was over 40,000 who were wrongly charged the bedroom tax across the UK!
Oh I could so write so much more on this but for now I am just flagging up some immediate issues which come to mind and WHEN not if the proverbial hits the fan for disabled tenants and for social landlords and when the Daily Fail et al run 40 stories a day about scrounging disabled bastards and the rest you will know from where they have sprung …