The WCA will NOT be scrapped. How the budget went from I, Daniel Blake to I, Torsten Fake…

There are lies, damn lies and … carefully controlled budget leaks!

The ‘chatter’ from the weekend saw Torsten Bell the head of the Resolution Foundation think tank and a noted critic of government policy assert, and definitively, that the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) would be scrapped.  Yet it won’t be as the White Paper on Health and Disability confirms:

The WCA will ONLY be scrapped IF the Conservative Party wins the next general election is what the wording – the devil in the detail – says.  Even if they do win the next general election there is no guarantee the new Conservative government post 2024 will be bound by this aim / pledge / woolly assertion. 

PS: IF you need ‘transitional protection’ doesn’t this mean the intention of government is to reduce incapacity and disability benefit spending? YEP!

However, the biggest immediate issue of note for me is how the current government has significantly reduced the credibility of those who highlight the flaws in government policies, how they have undermined their enemies. 

This is brilliant politics from the Conservatives best seen when the word ‘politic’ means sly and underhand and is a consistent recent strategy also seen in Kwajo Tweneboa the social tenant activist done up like a kipper in the Making Things Right initiative as they have done with Torsten Bell here. 

All over the ‘pre-Budget’ weekend the scrapping of the WCA was all the rage. TB released this as an exclusive and given his previously good credibility and reputation it was piled on by every Tom Dick and Harriet on the basis of if TB says it then it must be true.  The same rationale with Kwajo Tweneboa was used by Michael Gove when KT fronted government propaganda in saying the Ombudsman route is best for social tenants to get redress for appalling repairs and housing quality and not the use of the legal route as I discussed here.

You can see government strategists saying (a) who is the enemy? Then (b) who is our enemy’s audience? I know let’s take away our enemy’s credibility and we stifle dissent and scrutiny as the enemy’s audience can never again believe a word our enemies ever say again.

The WCA was the theme of Ken Loach’s powerful film “I Daniel Blake” which should be renamed as “I Torsten Fake” and in Conservative propaganda speak is a focus on what work you can do not what work you can’t do  – a phrase parroted like mantra by Tory MPs and pundits as it appears so right and virtuous.  Yet it means when you barely scratch the surface that having no legs and two prosthetic arms means you can work on a supermarket till and therefore you are fit for some work hence fit for all work in benefit terms.

Steering social housing tenants down the Ombudsman route as KT has done means it will take far longer for social tenants living in what I politely call shit hole properties to get redress AND is the cheapest option for those ‘social’ (sic) landlords who treat social housing tenants like shite.  Michael Gove getting KT to front this also sees government claim they are doing something FOR social tenants and AGAINST bad social landlords when the reality is reporting more repairs actually works AGAINST social housing tenants and works FOR bad social landlords. Calling this initiative Making Things Right when it does nothing of the sort provides the cheery on the cake

Just wondering whether I will now be attacked for daring to criticise Torsten Bell like I was for having the absolute temerity to criticise Kwajo Tweneboa?  I probably will be yet the Tories have shown that the shameful ‘attack the messenger’ strategy is politically old hat.  It is far easier and better to appear to work with Tory policy detractors and then see them exposed as incompetent and no longer credible as the followers and supporters of these activist leaders realise they have put their faith in someone who is not credible and the activist issue and criticism dies with it.  Machiavelli and Goebbels would be so proud of current Conservative Party strategy of make the Queen Bee decapitate herself and the worker bees will fly off somewhere else.

One quirky Budget announcement that made me chuckle was the mention of “returnerships” – a policy to get the over 50s retrain in a new sector.  I wonder if the Chancellor believes the April 23 onwards £5.28 per hour national minimum wage for ALL 1st year apprentices of ANY age will be a ‘constraint’ to this over 50s cohort?  Enough to cancel their retirement that their taxes have paid for and to be the substitute for all the former workers from the EU that have been forced to return by Brexit.  IF this cohort could manage to save enough and pay enough in taxes before they retired then surely they will not need the new unlimited amount they can put into their pensions policy, though quite how they can do that on £5.28 per hour as their minimum wage is another question entirely.

The numbers once again are a case in point of the new announced over-50s UC support which Chancellor Hunt opined would see 50,000 a year receive this increased UC ‘support’ and would work to persuade of cajole the 1 million of this over 50s cohort back to work?  The red book of course does not project for 20 years in advance as 20 years it what this 50,000 per year ‘support’ capacity would take to coerce / cajole / persuade 1,000,000 over 50s returners … assuming of course they can live that long!

I will discuss other nuances of this knee jerk budget such as the over 50s returning to work and the 10.1% increase in Non Dependant Deductions will create even more social housing arrears and more existing tenants on the arrears to eviction to homeless pathway and how this will lead to even greater NO DSS being operated by social landlords in their allocations policies … Damn I may even mention those damn pesky facts again such as the average SRS tenant age is 56 …

But that will do for now as I’m off to get an appropriate glass of warm beer that the Chancellor loves so much


Why Kwajo Tweneboa is wrong to front the sham ‘Making Things Right’ initiative that makes the tenant lot worse not better!

Make Things Right is a new initiative from government advocating tenants report repairs and has been launched with fanfare yet what is it and does it make things right? No it doesn’t and quite the opposite. It’s a superficial as it gets initiative and it weakens tenant rights to repair by seeking to prevent them getting the legal redress their right to repair now holds and has always held.

There are two issues I discuss here.  The very minor one is that I criticised @kwajohousing a tenant activist for fronting this as a poster boy which brought down the wrath of Khan for my daring to criticise him.  The major one is the sham MTR initiative he is fronting for the current government.

The lot of 4 million social housing tenants is far more important than the ego and the cult of personality of any one  tenant activist so please spare me the oh he is a nice chap he wouldn’t put his name to anything that’s bad for tenants … which is precisely what he has done here and however unwittingly.

I am nasty for criticising him he said and he never asked me to follow him.  This is breathtaking arrogance and conceit.  You cannot criticise him unless he asks for criticism. You cannot follow him or comment on what he says or does unless he says so.  That is what his response says.  Why is he immune from criticism for anything he says or does as that is what he clearly believes and stating here? 

This is cult of personality nonsense and he is believing his own hype, which is fine, except when what he does by fronting this superficial initiative damages the lot of 4 million tenants, which it does and I explain below.

One final point is he refers to an earlier tweet last week which is below

An article written by a journalist for the right-wing Spectator and the Mail on Sunday by Tala Fraser did him up like a kipper by quoting him as saying Lisa Nandy has not made herself available or the Labour Party have no apparent policy here. Look how this right wing journo opens and frames the piece…

I fully agree the Labour Party position on any housing policy is vague even if any policies exist, sorry should that say missions not policies as God forbid that Starmer Labour will ever detail any policy never mind in housing?

This article was promoted by the right wing journalists solely on the assertion, probably true but still a politicallyu motivated assertion nonetheless, Labour has no policies and at least Michael Gove has some and thus pure political spin. 

In doing this it presented a narrative – with the ‘credibility’ of Kwajo being in place as a ‘patsy’ –  that the Gove policy which we now know as Make Things Right was meaningful without the article saying what this Make Things Right initiative was or is:  Done up like a kipper accurately describes the reality.

Nobody is too big or too good to not be criticised and I will continue to criticise any person, any journalist, any housing actor at all who attacks or makes things worse for tenants and do so constructively.

Make Things Right – the ‘initiative’

As its name says make things right is wholly reactive as something must have gone wrong for something to be made right. The social housing tenant must believe something has gone wrong that the landlord can and should put right and government has produced an overview that is riddled with spelling mistakes (showing the seriousness of this perhaps?) and frequent and repeated use of the word ‘should’ in classic political propaganda purposes and it does not state how a tenant can enforce the rights already held to repairs which the legally binding Tenancy Agreement gives them and the tenant and landlord agree to in that contract.

And this guide then is replete with ‘should’ and ‘expect’ and other vague terms and language and yet more spelling mistakes in a process that will never be shorter than six months and often longer than a year!

At best this Make Things Right charade is political hokum, a wish list that is not enforceable and places undue authority in the Housing Ombudsman and steers the tenant down that route rather than seek legal redress for the landlord not doing what the legally binding tenancy agreement says they must.  Tenant put your faith in the toothless ombudsman and take months to get resolution and even years while you suffer the consequences of the social landlord breaching the tenancy agreement and your right to repair and the landlord responsibility to undertake repairs. 

In a similar context we saw the official regulator of social housing (RSH) get involved after the ITV News broadcasts by Daniel Hewitt expose the appalling state of how Clarion Housing Group, the UK’s largest landlord, made tenants suffer and the RSH decision was there is nothing to see here because they believed Clarion as they had no powers to speak with tenants so they didn’t!  The appalling state of housing the country saw in stark video footage of Clarion and a few other large housing associations – what I called something you would not even want your worst enemy’s dog to live in – was fine and dandy for the official regulator!

Make Things Right is much more than social landlord pressure on government to steer tenants away from seeking legal redress by a solicitor which is the key point of this initiative and why landlords are more than happy with this charade.  It is a diminution of existing tenant rights that Kwajo is advocating and makes the tenant lot worse!

Tenants are being steered down a very long route to get redress as landlords kick the repair can and complaint can down the road and steered to make those complaints themselves rather than getting legal help and drafting for those complaints.  A simple yet rhetorical question is:

Has a legitimate tenant complaint got a better chance of success and redress if drafted by a housing solicitor or by a tenant?

Kwajo is saying in promoting this superficial initiative do it yourself and don’t get legal and professional help for your legitimate tenant complaint.  That is the rub.  I am not in any way doubting his sincerity or integrity, I am criticising his competence and that criticism is deserved even in overview and principle before I discuss the Make Things Right process which is a sham and extremely lengthy and with a lesser chance of tenant redress than what tenants now have as right.  He is letting all not just the bad social landlords off the hook by allowing them to pass complaints on to the Ombudsman and allowing them to escape the costs and the seriousness that a tenant complaint made by a solicitor warrants and would receive. 

Will social landlords uphold fewer complaints and provide lesser tenant redress by steering tenants down the Ombudsman route as a cost factor?  Yes of course they will as they are commercial organisations and that would be standard business practice.  Social landlords will only harden their tenants are vexatious persons who complain at the drop of a hat narratives and undertake fewer repairs in the first place even the most legitimate and obvious ones as they can delay the cost of repairs until the Ombudsman finally report of immediately before after waiting 6 months or even over a year to effect a repair that should have been done within 28 days at most.

Tenants and those who support the cult of personality that surrounds Kwajo Tweneboa – and aided by the entertainment agency he has – have to think on what will the social landlord responses be to this initiative rather than saying any advertising campaign to promote more tenant complaints has to be a good thing.  If Kwajo promote it then it must be good for tenants is a non sequitur at the best of times but with Make Things Right – which should be renamed as Make the Tenant Lot Worse – it is rank incompetence and rank political naivety on his part.   

There is absolutely zero in this initiative that makes the lot of the social housing tenant better.

Some final words on the outrage and flak that has rained down on me and from those I have respect for.  Let’s start with Daniel Hewitt at ITV News who tweeted:

Daniel, nothing in this MTR initiative helps social tenants at all yet you presume it does because *check fact* you fail to understand how this MTR charade actually works against tenants! How has the government acted? Wholly AGAINST tenants!

Tom.  You presume I have deleted a tweet.  I haven’t.  Kwajo has deleted my responses as have others who jumped on the defend Kwajo and how dare I criticise him bandwagon!  As a related point you often say Clarion and other ‘supersized’ HA’s are too big to fail yet are you implying here that Kwajo is too big to fail?  That rather sums up my argument around the cult of personality which surrounds him.

I again estate that I am not attacking the sincerity or integrity of Kwajo Tweneboa  I am and rightfully criticising his competence and political naivety in this issue which is deserved as this sham MTR ‘initiative’ is pure political hokum that WILL work against social tenants not help them!

A general question which is being sidelined in the housing quality / disrepair arena is … Why should tenants have to pay social landlords full rent for properties that are deficient and in some cases unfit for human habitation?

If anyone rents anything, whether on a one-off basis such as a car, an AirBnB, a lawnmower that is deficient or rents something on a longer term basis that is unfit we don’t think twice about withholding payment and demanding that the deficiency is put right as soon as possible.  Yet with a rented property we somehow believe we should carry on paying rent and in full.  That has to change.

Even if the tenant is made to pay rent into some escrow account whilst the unfitness or repair is investigated and resolved the issue is why the hell do tenants and tenant activists deem it acceptable to carry on paying full rent for a property that is deficient?  If tenants and government want disrepair and bad quality addressed then that is the only and surest route to achieve that end and anything else including this sham Make Things Right initiative is pretence of that aim. 

Anything that is rented needs to be fit for purpose never mind fit for human habitation so when government tinker and get those with perceived influence to promote that tinkering they are playing offensive political games.  There is nothing in this or other proposal that will prevent the death of a 2 year old child directly caused by damp that the landlord refused to repair is there Michael Gove? All you have done is steer social housing tenants down a blind alley of a DIY complaint system that denies tenant rights and allows landlords to avoid their legal responsibilities to affect repair.

Finally, I turned down the then Labour government over 20 years ago when they offered me six figures a year to become a retained consultant.  The reason was I would have had to stop criticising the programme – Supporting People – that was moving from fine in theory to a nightmare in practise and government and local councils were seeking to make the lot of vulnerable residents far worse by superficial issues such as ‘Excellent Authority Status” and “freedoms and flexibilities” – all superficial buzz phrases in government seeking to reduce the necessary costs of it, just as the government of today is wrapping up MTR as a good thing for tenants in greater reporting when its aim is to reduce social landlord costs of dealing with repairs as they are legally bound by the tenancy agreement to do.

I prevented 70 local councils cutting the funding of support to vulnerable people by what you make call complaint and eventually Hampshire County Council were taken to the High Court and the Court of Appeal where the law found against them yet had no legal remedy, zilch, which was shameful and offensive.  I had to forego around £70,000 in fees but chose to do so and then publicised the case to prevent other local authorities spending millions as Hants did in legal fees in order to save £320k per year.  That worked until the idiotic Labour government decided to take the ring fence off the SP grant they continued to pay to local councils and today’s sees about 80% of that funding spent by councils on anything else but the housing-related support funding of very vulnerable persons. 

I knew I would never receive the fees and still chose to do what was right.  I knew I was turning down the six figure government consultancy because 30 pieces of silver will never buy my integrity.  I was fully aware of the political shenanigans of the Labour government of the day just as the above briefly discusses the political shenanigans of the Conservative Party now.  Indeed the government sought to try and impugn my integrity immediately after I had refused them and chose to use an existing retained consultant to do so. 

last time I wrote about this was at the time and 21 years ago as if anyone attacks my integrity and professionalism it is dealt with swiftly and never mentioned again. I gave them both barrels as you can imagine as reputation is all that a good consultant has.  It worked and always will and I have no problem defending my views and positions on any given issue where I have experience.

I have no envy of the work or celebrity status of Kwajo Tweneboa and I will and indeed have praised him in the past.  Massaging ego’s is not my bag even my own.

None of my criticisms of Kwajo’s fronting this sham MTR initiative are party political; they are all about the current government using his deserved good reputation and influence to make things WORSE for social tenants. If that still makes you believe I am nasty then take a long hard look at yourself and note well I do not waste my time engaging with any such closed minded people. 

Do not jump to resumptions that anyone is above criticism just because of past good works and myself included. Consultants are paid well enough to have metaphorical broad shoulders after all and they have a duty to criticise any policy, and any half-arsed ‘initiative’ such as MTR and those who however unwittingly get caught out and done up like a kipper by government and their paid journalists who write for right wing publications such as the Spectator and the Mail on Sunday to do the dirty work for the likes of Michael Gove.

I have no doubt that Kwajo is sincere in his aims to better the tenant lot and his well known background of his Father’s case proves that for me.  Yet he needs to develop the necessary broad shoulders as if he doesn’t he will end up hosting Homes Under the Hammer or some other programme that his YMU elite talent agency says is good for him.  If he can’t take criticism he shouldn’t be anywhere near the housing sector and claiming to want to better the lot of 4 million social housing tenants for the typical disdainful treatment they get from purportedly social landlords and governments central and local.

UPDATE 7 March 21:30pm

I see Kwajo Tweneboa has put out a tweet with a video of how Clarion left a flat and its an absolutely disgrace. Kwajo, will you be advising this tenant to go to the ombudsman and wait a year to get redress; or will you be persuading the tenant to go get a lawyer? QED!

A decade of bedroom tax and benefit cap means we will never end the housing / homeless / rough sleeping crises due to NO DSS in social housing

The Bedroom Tax austerity policy is ten years old on the 1st April 2023 and one of two key austerity policies directly developed to cut Housing Benefit.  The other is the Overall Benefit Cap, also approaching its tenth anniversary but applies to social AND private tenants unlike the Bedroom Tax which applies only to social housing tenants.

The Bedroom Tax is not a tax.  It also only applies to a room deemed a bedroom, rightly or wrongly by the social landlord, so the Spare Room Subsidy label is also a misnomer. 

It also applies where a household fully occupy a social housing property (see the Hockley Court of Appeal case) so it is also incorrect to call it the under-occupancy charge as it was first called in both Houses of Parliament before Lord Best dubbed it the bedroom tax.

Far more important than nomenclature is the fact that the bedroom tax policy has killed off the social in social housing – aka the housing safety net of the Welfare State – which is now replete with what we still call NO DSS and which worsens by the year.  Below I explain how it manifests in affordability terms.

In Hockley, the Court of Appeal decided that a bedroom for bedroom tax purposes is any of the possible bedrooms for any possible occupant.  A cot room is a bedroom they decided.  A property with 3 cot rooms is thus a 3 bedroom property for bedroom tax purposes even though none of these claimed ‘bedrooms’ are large enough to accommodate an adult single bed.

The Hockley case also proved the bedroom tax is nothing to do with under occupying as a couple with their two teenage boys rented a property whose tenancy agreement said was a 3 bedroom / 4 person maximum occupancy property.  That housing association property in Nuneaton was fully occupied yet the Court of Appeal ruled the bedroom tax was payable despite both of the 2 single ‘bedrooms’ had been proven incapable of storing 2 single beds or a set of bunk beds.  A ‘bedroom’ they ruled was a proxy for ANY possible bedroom for any possible occupant ergo a cot room was a bedroom.

The fact this perverse reasoning meant that HB regulations were given a legal priority over the legally binding tenancy agreement or primary contract law which gave a maximum occupancy.  This craven decision saw the Court of Appeal maintaining that the bedroom tax judged a property when empty and without its current occupants overruled the Supreme Court bedroom tax decision in Carmichael which based its decision on the property when occupied by the Carmichael household and NOT when it was empty.  The Court of Appeal decision is perverse irrational and craven and imposed a 14% cut in the Housing Benefit of the fully occupying Hockley family.

The Bedroom Tax also kills off the social in social housing as it had forced housing allocation on immediate-only presenting terms.  In brief the newly married couple who in the entire post-war period would have been allocated a family-sized council or HA property can only ever receive a 1-bed SRS property due to the bedroom tax policy so they have to move if they start a family.  The bedroom tax impact on community and stability or ‘putting down roots’ has been dead as the Dodo for the last decade.

However the bedroom tax is best seen in overall terms and what it has done to the benefit claiming household in the social rented sector by the percentage of tenants getting full housing benefit – that is enough in housing benefit to cover the social housing rent.

Immediately prior to the bedroom tax beginning official DWP data (SHBE) for February 2013 revealed 69% of all social housing tenants received FULL housing benefit.  That fell to just 36% by 2019/20 official EHS data.  Adding in those who received partial housing benefit saw 87% of all social housing tenants get HB in 2013 which fell to 61% by 2019/20.

One of the many critical impacts of this dramatic fall in housing benefit receipt is the specious and errant narrative that building more new social housing will remove the “Housing Crisis” and an argument that is put forward by all SRS housing lobbies and also advanced as solution to the “Homelessness Crisis” by Shelter, Crisis and all other homeless lobbies.

Is there any point in building new social housing when it is not affordable by the benefit households and council and housing associations will refuse to allocate properties to the benefit households?

Note well this is all perfectly legal for councils and housing associations to refuse to accommodate on affordability grounds even though we still call this NO DSS.

Shortly after the bedroom tax began I did a presentation at a CIH conference in London which said that SRS landlords will have to refuse to accommodate benefit households on affordability grounds when I posited the systemic flaw in the OBC policy.  The SRS audience were not pleased with this argument even though they fully accepted the figures and the systemic flaw in the OBC.  My argument went down like the proverbial lead balloon with the audience all asserting that ‘we are social landlords, we will always house those most in housing need’ and variants of this line of argument. 

Almost 4 years later the CIH commissioned research from the University of Sheffield which proved I was right AND led to a thinly-veiled SRS landlord euphemism for NO DSS in LETWA – Limited Entitlement To Welfare Assistance – aka NO DSS and also found that 56% of housing associations refused LA homeless nominations on these LETWA grounds.  In short housing benefit would not meet the rent aka NO DSS.

Only a few weeks ago did the JRF think tank release yet another report on housing which assumed that all of the rent is paid in housing benefit in social housing even though 64% of social housing tenants do not receive full housing benefit and that figure being a 2019/20 one is likely to have increased too. 

Every week if not every day we see Shelter and other homeless and social housing lobbies state the errant nonsense that we can end the housing crisis, end the homeless crisis and end rough sleeping by building new social housing. 

Every day of every week we see Shelter and Generation Rent and a myriad of other lobbies assert that unfreezing LHA – the private rented version of housing benefit – is the ONLY housing benefit / housing affordability issue and which assumes that full housing benefit is paid to social housing tenants when 2 in every 3 do not get full housing benefit and largely due to bedroom tax and the OBC policy.

All of the these usual suspects are ignorant of the fact that at least 64% of existing social housing tenants and households do NOT get enough in housing benefit to cover their social housing rent.

The Overall Benefit Cap policy (OBC)

In 2013 when the OBC began it limited all households (note not individuals) to a maximum of £26,000pa in a range of benefits.  This OBC limit has NEVER been uprated with inflation and if it had it would be £33,000 in FY202223. 

In 2016/17 government cut the OBC limit to £23,000pa in London and to £20,000pa in the rest of the country and that is still the maximum today. 

In real terms the benefit household in London has had a £10,000 per year cut in benefit and in the provinces it’s a £13,000 per year cut in benefit.  Note especially well that the first and often the only benefit that has been cut is Housing Benefit as that is the way the OBC policy works and is purposely designed.

This deliberate targeting of housing benefit is an even greater reason for social landlords to choose to adopt NO DSS and to refuse prospective tenants who are benefit households.  I will leave the reader to work out for themselves where such households can possibly live when they are refused the cheapest possible ‘social’ housing on affordability grounds …!

How the OBC works & systemically creates NO DSS in social housing

The OBC works by subtracting ‘other’ benefit from the cap limit leaving a maximum residual amount that can be paid in housing benefit.  The policy works directly and purposely to cut housing benefit. 

A worked example using the lone parent 3 child household in a 3 bed SRS property at today’s figures (FY2223] using the average 3 bed social housing rent level in the provinces of £466 per calendar month using UC terms for ease of illustration

The £20,000 pa cap figure in the provinces is £1666.67 pcm and all other benefits are expressed in pcm terms.

UC standard allowance          £334.91

UC child elements                   £779.16

Child Benefit                           £220.30

Total per calendar month      £1334.37

Total cap is £1666.67 minus ‘other’ benefit of £1334.37 = max HB of £332.30

Given the average 3 bed social housing rent outside London is £469.00 per month the lone parent three child household gets £136.30 less in housing benefit (now called UC housing cost element) than the monthly rent to become the NO DSS household that social landlord call LETWA and thus refused council or housing association housing. 

  • How many lone parent and three child households have fled to domestic violence and abuse refuges and found they cannot move from there as they have a Limited Entitlement To Welfare Assistance
  • How many reside in unsuitable dingy hotels and bed and breakfasts and cannot move on from this local authority arranged temporary homeless accommodation because they too are a LETWA household?

In many parts of the UK especially the South East and East of England regions this same LETWA / NO DSS applies to lone parent 2 child households in a 2bed social housing property. This latter scenario will be a universal one across all social households for the lone parent two child household by April 2024 in a 2bed social rent level property in every UK region.

As 2 bed and larger sized properties comprise 76% of all social housing it means in April 2024 that 76% of all social housing becomes the NO DSS property for those of working age.

And you thought the ‘welfare (sic) reforms (sic)’ only affected those who under occupied social housing?

Each social (sic) landlord is allowed to develop their own affordability testing matrix and as long as they are applied to all applicants then refusal on grounds of NO DSS / LETWA are 100% lawful.  Have these matrices been amended by social landlords to reflect the 157% increase in energy inflation and the 17% increase in food inflation?  Yes. Affordability testing is not just an issue of will housing benefit cover the rent but can the prospective tenant afford to heat the property given the risk of frozen burst pipes and property damage when they can’t afford to!

The Bedroom Tax and the Overall Benefit Cap combine with other smaller measures to overtly target cuts to housing benefit such as Non Dependant Deductions to eviscerate the social housing model and the Welfare State housing safety net.  What we call ‘social housing’ is in fact NO JOB NO HOUSE due overwhelmingly to the Conservatives austerity policies and the bedroom tax and OBC are a far greater threat to it than Right to Buy ever was or still is.

These same welfare reforms also see other policies which indirectly affect housing benefit receipt.  The introduction of PIP as the replacement for DLA – the principle disability benefit saw the government impact assessment overtly state the aim was to remove disability benefit from 500,000 households in the move from DLA to PIP and by 2015. 

The impact assessment from 2012

The receipt of PIP was and still is an exemption from the OBC policy but once a decision is made to stop PIP or DLA which is still paid for children then the household exemption ends.  It can take 16 months for a PIP or DLA decision to come to a first-tier tribunal when 72% of decisions are overturned in the claimant favour – yet by that time the household has long been evicted due to rent arrears caused by OBC cuts.

The same happens with incapacity benefit as was that became ESA and then became UC LCW – the exemption from the OBC goes on day 1 of the first decision and can take 16 months to be corrected by which time the arrears to eviction to homeless pathway has well kicked in for the now former SRS tenant.

In the English social rented sector 56% of SRS households include a disability when only 19% do in the private rented sector (another EHS piece of official data) so this plays a significant part on LETWA decisions by council and housing association allocations officers to refuse benefit households social housing and especially as the target of taking disability benefit of 500,000 households was exceeded.

Just as Shelter assumes that housing benefit is paid in full to SRS tenants when the facts prove two thirds do not get full housing benefit they also fail to see the very high level of SRS households with disabilities who lost those benefits and thus became non-exempt for OBC purposes.  It is true that housing benefit shortfalls are more common in the PRS as 78% of tenants do not get full housing benefit yet 64% of SRS tenants do not.  To assert, infer or allude that shortfalls are only an issue in private renting is fundamentally wrong yet this is what Shelter and many others do by solely focusing on PRS LHA shortfalls which is the norm.

Maybe the analyst and policy wonks in Shelter do not know the facts and data I highlight above?  I can’t and don’t accept that.  Yet Shelter discussing them would mean that Shelter has to accept that their just build more social housing mantra will solve or end the housing or homeless or rough sleeping crises is bunkum.  A classic error of commission or in lay terms a known lie and deceit.

That same deceit and negligence can be seen by the current MP with the most celebrated knowledge of the benefit system in Sir Stephen Timms the Labour MP for East Ham and current Chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee.  He never mentions the NO DSS / LETWA situation in social housing directly created by the Bedroom Tax and OBC and has proven time and again that he has integrity by not parroting the party position but speaking out with facts such as the ones here.  He is rightly respected cross party for such rare integrity and has far more knowledge of DWP benefit manifestations than Frank Field ever had, he of the just take a sledgehammer to knock down bedroom walls as a bedroom tax solution!

It is way past time that the DWP select committee looked at NO DSS in the social rented sector and even the usually objective House of Commons Library only chose to look at NO DSS in the PRS as recently as the summer of 2022 and failed to discuss whether it occurred in the SRS!

I don’t have any naïve view that DWP select committee will ever change government decision making and abandon the bedroom tax and the overall benefit cap policies. Even Lord Freud the architect of the OBC as far back as November 2021 admitted that the OBC policy does not save the public purse a penny.

What is undoubtedly true is that the housing / homeless / rough sleeping crises can NEVER be ended whilst those policies remain.  Their continuance will also ensure that the social housing model is unfit for purpose and more new social housing will NEVER solve these crises either. It really is that simple.  There is no point building any new social housing if those it is intended for can’t afford it and won’t be allocated it is there!

Any committee and any member of the public who can design a basic spreadsheet can tell you how much each household type receives in ‘other’ benefit and therefore what is the maximum in housing benefit each household type can receive and readily compare these irrefutable figures with the average rents in social housing which are in the public domain.  These figures are the same across the country.

It is simple arithmetic and basic irrefutable numeric fact and the most simple of analyses.  Yet instead we see social housing lobbies, homeless lobbies, politicians and even ‘woke’ housing and homeless activists all hanging on to the longstanding myth that social housing tenants get their rent fully paid by housing benefit.  Those housing, homeless and poverty actors and think tanks may well not like the figures they see but those figures are irrefutable numeric facts for which you only need basic arithmetic skills and not A level Mathematics as the Prime Minister infamously wants for all.

None of the above demerits or downplays the arguments against unfreezing LHA for PRS tenants which are very valid and most of them fail to mention the government reduced LHA from the 50th percentile back in 2012 and focus on a return to the 30th percentile bizarrely.  The arguments merely prove that the current narratives and their extensions such as build more bloody social housing are fatuous specious assertions that are bunkum.

The payment of rent is not essential says JRF …!!??

Did you know that 64% of tenants in social housing do NOT get their rent covered in full by housing benefit? 

The authoritative English Housing Survey 2019/20 and charted above reveals that just 36% of tenants in council and housing association properties receive full housing benefit, now mostly UC housing cost element for those below pension age.  This takes on a whole new meaning when over the weekend a collection of charities said, and in fact significant understated, that the standard allowance of Universal Credit falls £35 per week short of being enough for basic subsistence for a single person at £120 per week.

As you can see from the graphic above from the Guardian article on this the £120 per week minimum basic subsistence benefit level includes nothing for the payment of rent yet 64% of social housing tenants pay some or all of their rent on top of any housing benefit (UC-HCE) they receive. 

Put another way the report assumed that full rent was paid by SRS households when the facts reveal almost two-thirds of social tenants do not get enough in housing benefit to meet their council of housing association rent.

Being pedantic this £35 per week shortfall is not the £140pcm benefit shortfall as the Guardian article says but £152 per month as there are 4.435 weeks in the average calendar month.

(IF the average shortfall is £10pw in rent the monthly shortfall in UC standard allowance becomes £196pcm!)

That said, the real issue is the errant assumption that full rent is paid to benefit households by excluding rent from the calculation of the penury that the UC standard allowance dictates.  The typical narrative is rent is covered in social housing and yet the facts reveal this to be a very false assumption.  That typical narrative of all the supposed think tanks says the private tenant doesn’t get full housing benefit (LHA) but the social tenant does yet the facts reveal the vast majority of tenants in council and housing association properties do not get full housing benefit (HB or UC-HCE.) 

The same errant narrative is seen in Shelter, Crisis and all other homeless lobbies assuming the same which they do by focusing almost exclusively on shortfalls in LHA – a genuine issue – yet wholly ignoring that two thirds of social tenants do not get full housing benefit and with devastating ignores of this fact and other related housing affordability facts such as the average SRS household income is half that of average private renting household income which means as I said here that private renting is more affordable than social renting as a higher percentage of income goes on SRS than PRS rent.

Go figure JRF et al

Social housing kidology over qualifications

Does a bad landlord become a good one if they get a qualification?

To combat the appalling disrepair that led to a 2 year old tenant dying Michael Gove is now demanding that all managers in social housing must receive a qualification.  Overnight and magically according to Housing Minister Gove, disrepair will vanish by achieving this Knowledge In Disrepair (KID) certificate from the CIH. 

A qualification from the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) the professional body for social housing means the KID will be a professional qualification so all housing managers in councils and housing associations can then be called professional kidologists …

Michael Gove is effusive in his belief that a bad landlord becomes a good one when they have a qualification.  From the CIH announcement of this he says:

“The Grenfell Tower tragedy and, more recently, the death of Awaab Ishak showed the devastating consequences of residents inexcusably being let down by poor performing landlords. “We know that many social housing residents are not receiving the service or respect they deserve.”

How many Fellows of the Chartered Institute of Housing were involved in Grenfell or Lakanal or by staff involved in the death of Awaab Ishak?  How many FCIH professionals are there in Clarion Housing Group the principal villains in the ITV News broadcasts of Daniel Hewitt which showed the country sights of appalling disrepair they can never unsee? That is, the appalling disrepair that the Regulator of Social Housing said wasn’t there because they, as the regulator and official scrutiny body, didn’t have the powers to even speak with tenants?  How many FCIH members on the staff of the RSH regulator? 

The vast majority of social housing ‘professionals’ already have these CIH housing qualifications so I wonder how there has ever been any disrepair at all ever in social housing given the hyperbolic zeal with which CIH members are promoting this alleged panacea part of Awaab’s Law. 

“The changes we are delivering today will make sure social housing managers across the country have the right skills and experience to deliver an excellent service and drive up standards across the board.”

What planet are you on Michael Gove? It must be Cloud Cuckoo Land along with the CIH and the NHF who lobbied government to introduce these qualifications in their abject allusion and delusion that Grenfell and Awaab Ishak and all other incidents only happened because social housing staff didn’t have a piece of paper qualification.  Indeed does this make all current CIH qualifications meaningless because holding them certainly didn’t stop the abuse and deaths of tenants or disrepair? 

Will this qualification stop social housing tenants receiving the abuse they get?  If so how Michael Gove, Gavin Smart and Kate Henderson? I along with millions of SRS tenants are keen to know how a piece of paper qualification will stop such deaths and abuses and make disrepair history as you all are suggesting in this truly offensive deflection narrative that you are running. 

Is this really the best you can do after the death of a 2 year old child by SRS landlord neglect? 

Do you seriously believe SRS tenants will fall for this propagandist bullshit and deflection narrative?

Who knew Chamberlain was a social housing ‘professional?’

Banning the abhorrent no fault eviction is gesture politics. Rent rises and massively increased homelessness inevitably results.

Four years and four Prime Ministers ago Theresa May announced the government intention to outlaw no fault evictions.  On the day it was announced 14 April 2019 I argued here the policy would massively increase homelessness and it would be dangerously worse for all renters.  My view has only hardened on those points. 

No fault eviction (NFE) is abhorrent and offensive even when the possibility exists and regardless of whether 1% or 100% of tenants suffer NFE. It should not be allowed at all that tenants can be evicted into homelessness when they are not at fault in any way.  While NFE should be outlawed, to do so would be catastrophic for homelessness and for all renters and here I restate why. 

Banning NFE is gesture politics at its worst. It is the classic political case of being seen to do something rather than actually doing anything of substance or betterment.  NFE is amoral and truly offensive yet outlawing it in statute will make the lot of every renter worse.  It will reduce supply and increase rents, increase homelessness, increase rough sleeping and increase domestic violence and abuse – as just some of its inevitable adverse consequences.  Getting rid of one amoral issue that will directly create far more amoral consequences is even more amoral?  

Single Homelessness is the easiest explanation

In 2017 Crisis published the Moving On report saying England has 200,000 single homeless households each year yet social landlords provided just 13,000 of the 1 bed homeless-escape properties they needed.  Social landlords provided 6.5% of the housing part of the homeless-escape leaving 93.5% of homeless-escape properties provided by the private landlord who all use the Assured Shorthold Tenancy tenure with its NFE option.

The 200,000 single homeless estimate per year of Crisis was a considerable understatement for numerous reasons, most notably it included a 71,400 estimate for single homeless sofa surfers and in July 2020 official EHS date revealed this to be 386,000 per year (and a further 155,000 homeless families sofa surfing too) here and over 300,000 more single homeless households each year than the Crisis estimate.  The latest CORE official data also reveals social landlords re-housed just 11k single homeless households (11,106) and they re-house just 2.2% of all single homeless households leaving almost 98% to the private landlord.

ALL landlords are financially risk averse and preventing the use of s21 NFE means landlord costs of eviction increase which means landlords take less risk with the tenant groups they allocate to.  In short, the re-housing of a single homeless person becomes a financial risk too far for private landlords and they will change target tenant to lower perceived risk cohorts such as the student, hence the banning of NFE would see a huge rise in single homeless persons and numbers.

Hostels and domestic abuse refuges (around 40% are single and childless women who are entitled to the same 1 bedded ‘move-on’ property) would increasingly become bed-blocked and the if you can’t move ‘em out then you can’t move ‘em in principle applies leading to more rough sleepers on the streets and more women unable to flee domestic violence and abuse as a direct consequence of banning the ‘no-fault eviction’ section 21 notices.

Why NFE banning is worse for all PRS renters

The same risk aversion process due to the higher cost of eviction should NFE be outlawed applies to all private renters not just single homeless cohorts which is why the banning of NFE makes renting worse for all private renters.  The single homeless illustration is used because the irrefutable facts reveal that over 95% or more than 19 in every 20 single homeless persons are re-housed and make their homeless-escape via the PRS.

When landlords perceive or believe their risk increases which in cost terms it will with the proposed NFE ban they increase their reward.  Greater risk equals greater reward as it does in any business sector when perceived and thus the reward here is increased rent. When the costs, likely or perceived of doing business increase the cost of the product and/or service increases to reflect that.  That will happen with banning NFE unless government brings in PRS rent controls which it will never do and therefore the banning of NFE does undoubtedly mean higher PRS rent for all renters.

The banning of NFE is political pandering and tinkering with the existing system.  Politicians of any party can pander to moral outrage with knee-jerk responses such as banning NFE yet barely scratch the surface and banning the undoubtedly amoral NFE will make the lot of all renters worse.  The rented housing system, both PRS and SRS, do not need tinkering with, it needs major surgery such as building 150,000 new 1-bed SRS properties at the social rent level which I say why below.

The structural problem of the SRS ‘Housing Supply Crisis’

The 1-bedded property is in acutely short supply in the social rented sector which largely saw councils build or develop family-sized properties in the post-war book decades of the fifties, sixties and seventies to meet subjective housing-need.  A newly married couple who are now entitled to and only receive a 1-bed property would routinely be allocated a family-sized council property so they could start a family and put down roots.  The bedroom tax policy put paid to that in 2013 and ever since other austerity policies especially the overall benefit cap has made social landlords increasingly risk averse which is borne out by just 36% of SRS households received full housing benefit to cover all of their rent by 2020 in official EHS figures that also reveals the myopic focus on LHA shortfalls is misguided.

Just a quarter of existing SRS properties (24%) is the 1 bedded property and circa 1 million in total and half of them are restricted for sheltered housing older person use.  With the 7% churn or turnover rate it means circa 35,000 1-bedded non-sheltered properties become available in social housing each year. 

IF all of them were ring-fenced for single homeless households the available yearly SRS supply can only meet 7% of the yearly single homeless household demand for re-housing that would still leave 93% of the single homeless-escape property supply needing to be met by the private landlord.  That reveals the extent of the structural problem and chronic undersupply of 1-bedded properties for those of working-age in council and housing association housing stock and why England can never end homelessness. 

You can’t end homelessness if you can’t end single homelessness.  You can’t end homelessness without the homeless-escape property and today ending homelessness is impossible.  Ban the use of NFE and ending homelessness becomes miraculous.

Build more social housing (repeat as mantra)

England needs at least 150,000 new 1-bedded properties each year just for those below sheltered housing age and at the social rent level to address and prevent single homeless household numbers from increasing. 

YET all of the demands and calls for more social housing are in the 90,000 to 130,000 range per year AND that is for new SRS properties of ALL bedroom sizes!  Indeed all of these ‘demands’ never even bother to break down their aggregate demands of 90,000 to 130,000 pa into bedroom sizes at all and reveal a callous disregard for objective or real housing-need. 


Put simply yet validly, England cannot ban ‘no fault evictions’ until it builds 150,000 one bedded social housing properties at the cheapest social rent level each year as the consequences of banning NFE can ONLY make homelessness and all renting worse for every renter.


A number of more involved arguments relating to the above chronic yet structural undersupply exist, some of which I bullet point below. 

  • In focusing on the 1-bed chronic structural shortage it does not infer that in many parts of the country there is a need to more 4 and 5-bed properties. There is evidential need for larger properties in some areas.
  • The focus on the chronic lack of 1-bed SRS properties is illustrative yet a compelling and substantiated argument.
  • The 2nd highest reason for LA homeless presentations is loss of a PRS tenancy which reveals that repeat homelessness amongst single households is endemic and systemic.  In short as well over 95% of single homeless ‘cases’ are ended by PRS homeless-escape due to SRS shortages it guarantees repeat single homelessness.
  • 46% and some 529,000 households are on LA waiting lists for the 1-bedded property which also reveals the chronic undersupply
  • The Housing First model and theory is 100% dependent on the 1-bed property being available for the HF model to operate.  They simply do not exist and have many competing and less risk averse options for these ‘unicorn’ properties which under the HF theory need to be supplied unconditionally and then operated unconditionally (that is no eviction whatsoever) by the landlord – aka Cloud Cuckoo land theory.  The wide scale HF pilot in Scotland revealed it took 149 days and nights just to find a property.  Many of them were PRS properties which cannot ever be HF compliant nor have fidelity to the HF model of unconditional tenancies.  The 3 large-scale HF pilots in England do not even report how long it takes to find each1-bedded property or where the HF client resided until those properties were found!
  • Does the acute unwillingness of SRS and related lobbies failing to break down the number of 1-bedded properties needed each year reveal a callous and SRS cultural indifference to re-housing single homeless households?  Yes can be the only answer to that so what is the point / social purpose of social housing when it refuses to re-house those by definition who are most in objective housing need in homeless households!? 
  • England does not even count its yearly homeless households and only issues purposeless point-in-time data so nobody knows how many homeless-escape properties are needed each year to begin the ending of homelessness as I detailed here.
  • How long can Shelter continue with its mono-focus on LHA shortfalls or its absurd homelessness estimates which infer that 52% of homeless hostel beds lay empty on any given night (occupancy rates are >95%) and is THE most dangerous nonsense ever seen in my 30 years of working in this sector?
  • How much longer can Crisis zealously promote the Housing First model when it can’t ever work in England due to the systemic undersupply of the 1 bed SRS property?  Its own estimate in the Moving On report yet Crisis wants to ignore even its own estimates and research!
  • How much longer can any of the numerous homeless lobbies and activists insist that England CAN end homelessness when every known fact deduces that homeless numbers can only increase and not decrease?
  • Does the fact that England has 270,000 foreign students each year and who all reside in 1 bed properties mean 270,000 fewer 1-bed homeless-escape properties for our own indigenous single homeless?  It does yet the far-right political undertones of this make such an argument impossible to make even before we look at the impacts banning foreign students would have!  The point is raised only as it reveals just how radically we need to rethink how England addresses homelessness. 

The above are just a minority of the many related issues of the homelessness, re-housing, social housing contexts that any banning of NFE will adversely affect.  There is no defence of the abhorrence of tenants being evicted into homeless when those tenants are not in any way at fault, yet be very careful what you wish for in demanding NFE is banned as out of the frying pan into the fire is guaranteed for all renters in reduced supply, higher rents and a surge in homelessness of all forms. 

The above can ‘seem’ like an argument for keeping the amoral NFE which is not the intention.  The real intention is to show that knee-jerk moral political arguments throw the baby out with the bathwater by not looking at the impacts of such piecemeal policies.  Clamouring to ban NFE may well increase homeless lobby donations or PRS tenant lobbies such as Generation Rent yet such arguments are superficial and reduced to mere clickbait and promoting a dangerous lie that will make the lot of ALL renters so much worse. 

The same clamour for banning NFE also masks the factual reality that the social rented sector with its landlords asserting they are imbued with social purpose are and can only be a tiny bit-part player in addressing all forms of homelessness including domestic violence and abuse.  Setting up numerous campaign groups such as Cathy Come Home, Make A Stand and other SRS campaigns are, regrettably, fur cost and no knickers in terms of practical benefits to homeless or domestic abuse reduction or any other social purpose addressing objective housing need. 

This coming year the impacts of the cost of living crisis will expose the SRS landlord charade that they are imbued with social purpose, the we will always house those most in need assertions they repeat as mantra as homeless pressures and numbers will rise sharply due to high interest rates and high inflations.

Banning NFE in the current cost of living crises – note the plural – is akin to pouring petrol on a fire and while calls to outlaw NFE are morally right doing so would be a dangerous folly. 

Hurrah for the Black(mould and damp)shirts – aka ‘social’ landlords

Did you know that housing associations have done such a wonderfully social job that they have reduced severe damp and black mould in their properties by at least 60% in the last 20 months!  72,000 housing associations properties in England have magically had their mould and damp removed in just 20 months …. According to the official Regulator of Social Housing that is!

Hurrah for the black (mould) shirts aka housing associations!

Keeping this very brief on 24 June 2021 Kate Henderson, chief executive of the National Housing Federation the umbrella body for housing associations in England in response to her Truss-like inept performance on the ITV News broadcasts into SRS housing quality by Daniel Hewitt said in a follow-up news release (that is now removed from the NHF website by the way!) that ‘only’ 5% of our 2.4m properties had problems with damp and mould.  Below is a screenshot I captured and blogged about at the time.

Yet this week and 2 February 2023 the Regulator of Social Housing said only 2% of social housing properties had mould and damp wiping at least 72,000 properties off the need to be repaired SRS black mould and damp property number!

Let’s cut to the chase shall we? 

The official Regulator of Social Housing is talking out of its arse in trying to protect the arses of landlords who profess to be ‘social’ yet who are more than happy to let tenants live in properties they charge full rent for that are unfit for human habitation, properties you wouldn’t let your worst enemy’s feral dog live in and of a standard that a coroners court ruled directly killed a 2 year old child in Awaab Ishak.

This is the same RSH who concluded the outrageous conditions ITV News broadcast into our living rooms with Clarion that everyone could not or ever unsee were acceptable because … the RSH had no powers or remit it claimed to speak with tenants and therefore chose to believe Clarion

Social housing has a regulator who doesn’t regulate, won’t regulate and refuses to believe what anyone can see and saw with their own eyes on national TV news broadcasts. 

Some of those damn pesky numerical facts

  • 5% of 2.4 million English HA properties is 120,000 properties typically with 2.4 residents in each thus 288,000 men, women and children exposed – a point which is shamefully ‘justified’ by the chief executive of the National Housing Federation as it is claimed to be less than in council or PRs properties!
  • 5% of the 4m total English SRS properties is 200,000 containing 480,000 men, woman and children.
  • Yet the RSH says just 0.2% of the 4m total SRS properties (HA and council) and only 8,000 properties fail the Decent Home Standard and less than 20,000 men, women and children (19,200) are affected by these shit hole properties of purportedly social landlords!!

Even the death of a child directly caused by social landlord contempt for tenants hasn’t changed the Old Boys and Girls Network who claim to regulate social housing conditions!  No tenant or politician can possibly have any faith in the official Regulator of Social Housing.

Private renting is MORE affordable than SRS renting? You what!!

Housing benefit does NOT cover the full social housing rent in 64% of cases.  2 in 3 tenants in council and housing association properties pay some or all of their rent without housing benefit.

Ten years ago 3.4 million SRS tenants received housing benefit. By March 2020 this had fallen by almost 750,000 to 2.68m. Three quarters of a million FEWER council and housing association tenants received Housing Benefit (or its UC equivalent UC-HCE) in 2020 than they did in 2013

The 201920 English Housing Survey (EHS) says 36% were getting full HB, 25% getting partial HB and 39% not getting a penny in housing benefit (HB or UC-HCE) at March 2020. DWP SHBE exact data for February 2013 said 3.401,023 SRS households received Housing Benefit which was 83%

These official figures will take the housing sector and industry by surprise yet official facts such as these are largely ignored by the housing ‘sector’ who tend to reaffirm their beliefs in myth and shibboleth and especially when it comes to THE biggest issue in the social rented sector which is AFFORDABILITY which is far greater than undersupply of social housing.  Try another piece of data from the EHS which says the average (mean) household income in the social rented sector as below in Chart 1.

Chart 1 – Household income by tenure (EHS)

The figures are for the principal person and /or partner. They also reveal the average (mean) housiehold income in the PRS is DOUBLE that of the average (mean) SRS household income.

Official housing data also tells us the average (mean) weekly rent is:

  • £107.24 in the SRS which is 26.35% of the mean HA household income
  • £170.76 in the PRS which is 22.44% of the mean PRS household income

AFTER rent:

  • The mean HA household income is £300pw for all other household expenditure
  • The mean PRS household income is £590pw for all other household expenditure

All other household expenditure cost whether energy, food, council tax, water rates, insurances, travel costs are the same across tenures so the average (mean) PRS household has DOUBLE the income AFTER paying rent than the SRS household mean.  In short, and despite average PRS rent being almost 60% higher than HA rent the PRS rent is MORE affordable than the SRS rent.

I have been researching the housing state of play in early 2013 to look at the impact of the first decade of austerity policies as it is 10 years on 1 April 2023 (a very apt date!) when the bedroom tax began. 

Official housing data says the total number of SRS properties in GB was 4.1m in 2013 and the very exact DWP SHBE data says for February 2013 that HB was received by 3,401.023 SRS households.  Housing Benefit was received by 83% of all SRS households in GB and that had been broadly the same since HB was introduced in 1987 – a generation of very broad proxy between HB receipt and rent affordability. 

Scrutinising the SHBE data from 2013 is complex and has to be inexact as it wasn’t broken down by full or partial HB receipt like EHS data yet it is possible to assess within 1 or at most 2 percentage points a comparator for the EHS 201920 data of 36% full HB, 25% partial and 39% zero HB receipt.  I have presented this in Chart 2 below and it is a huge change of seismic import.

Chart 2 – SRS HB receipt prior to austerity and by 2020/21

In overview comparing SRS HB receipt in 2013 and 2021 we see those getting full HB to cover all their SRS rent has HALVED and those who are ‘self-payers’ in housing jargon and get nothing in housing benefit has more than DOUBLED! 

These are staggering and at first glance incredulous.  I have checked, double-checked and checked again my figures and they are ‘reliable ballpark’ figures  and over an 8 year period they see full HB reducing by 3% of SRS tenants per year and 2% more SRS tenants each year getting zero housing benefit.  The austerity policies of bedroom tax (reducing HB for 13% of all SRS tenants in HB receipt alone) and overall benefit cap and increases in NDDs can explain this alone. We have also had a consistent increase in EET activities by SRS landlords over the period as well (seeking to get more tenants into part or full time employment) which also factors in and makes sense of these dramatic changes.

What we can say with absolute certainty is the use of HB receipt as proxy for SRS rent affordability became defunct on April Fools’ Day 2013.  Any business or researcher or think tank that still uses HB receipt as any form of proxy for SRS rent affordability needs to rid themselves of that absurd notion. 

Would any business in any sector ascribe the context of one third of its customers and project them onto 100% of customers? 

Of course not that would be dangerously perverse yet that is precisely what equating HB receipt as proxy for rent affordability does … and is the regrettable and ignorant norm of many social housing actors.

In summary the importance of data to social housing and especially to homelessness cannot be underestimated.  What the data on tenant composition and affordability clearly tells us it is highly probable more SRS households than PRS households will fall into arrears in 2023 and 2024 and likely that more SRS evictions into homelessness will occur than PRS evictions. 

Why has Shelter become a one-trick pony and only focus on LHA shortfalls in the PRS yet says nothing about SRS shortfalls when two-thirds (64% at 2020) of SRS households do not get enough in housing benefit to cover SRS rent? 

Throw into the mix the EHS data on energy prepayment meters (PPM) and 43% of SRS households had them in 2019/20 when just 19% had them in the PRS.  The weekly average dual fuel bill in March 2022 was £24.56 (£1278pa) yet this is increasing in April 23 to £67.31pw (£3500pa) – and is typically around 5% higher with PPMs. 

Energy costs have gone from 6% of average (mean) SRS household income to 17% whereas in the PRS from 3.2% in March 2022 to 8.8% in April 2023.  Which tenure can better afford this £43 per week increase in gas and electricity – The SRS household or the PRS household? 

A far higher percentage of SRS households will have to prioritise energy due to PPMs over rent to keep the lights on, keep the fridge capable of storing food that cannot afford to heat and to avoid immediate penalty changes should the PPMs run out. 

It is that level of ‘sophistication’ and depth that the SRS ‘sector’ its plethora of lobbies and paid academic research and similar homeless actors need to look at regarding SRS they don’t and never have.  They are all residing in the pre-Austerity period of a decade ago.

In summary I ask a series of questions beginning with a rhetorical one of

Is household income by tenure a far more critical determinant of SRS rent affordability than receipt of housing benefit?  (That one is rhetorical.)

  • Why do Shelter and so many other lobbies focus solely on LHA housing benefit shortfalls in the PRS yet say nothing at all about housing benefit shortfalls in the SRS? 
  • Is the tell a lie often enough and the public (want to) believe it at play when they and politicians and even academics largely believe housing benefit shortfalls only happen in the PRS but not in social housing?
  • Does (a) household income by tenure; (b) the sharp fall in housing benefit receipt, and; (c) the PPM proportion, all combine to logically deduce more SRS tenants than PRS tenants will fall prey to the arrears to eviction to homeless pathway in 2023 and 2024?  (That is also rhetorical.)
  • Have any of the SRS sector landlords factored these critical pieces of primary data into their deliberations for imposing a 7% rent increase in April 23?
  • Is there any purpose in building more social housing when those for whom it is intended and give its social purpose cannot afford it?
  • Is the mantra of just build more bloody social housing which is heavily promoted by the social housing sector and its allies, in fact, specious?

Does the mantra of just build more bloody social housing heavily promoted by Shelter as panacea to ending homelessness have any purpose when homeless households cannot afford social housing?

Food for thought housing sector peeps!? There are dozens more similar questions of critical consequence to the social housing model yet all are based on the social housing ‘sector’ and its advocates and usual sycophantic suspects who consciously choose never to use primary data and fact and rely instead on myth and shibboleth.

Homelessness has fallen in England say Shelter! What dangerous planet is Polly Neate on?

Did you know Shelter assert homeless numbers have fallen in England over the last 4 years? By nearly 6,000 in England Shelter assert too! Ye Gods!

Last week Shelter released their estimate of homeless person numbers in England and gave their 271,000 estimate on any given night to ITV News and Daniel Hewitt to broadcast to the nation.  In 2018 the same Shelter estimate was England had 276,925 homeless persons on any given night. 

Shelter’s own figures show a reduction in homeless person numbers in England, a perverse issue which sees Shelter’s own latest homeless figures have no credibility whatsoever.  Scrutinise Shelter’s figure by barely scratching the surface and we see just how perverse and incredulous they are.

For example Shelter’s latest estimate asserts that England’s single homeless hostel rooms have just a 47.6% occupancy rate and 52.4% and thus the majority of single homeless hostel bed lay empty and unused on any given night! 

England has 32,184 single homeless hostel beds according to Homeless Link and a figure that is official as government funds Homeless Link to produce this data every year with this being the latest release from August 2022.  Shelter however asserts that 15,239 of these (47.6%) are occupied on any given night which means Shelter assert that 16,855 of them lay empty on any given night.

The latest Shelter estimate is not just disingenuous it is downright dangerous as the homeless hostel figures reveal starkly as average occupancy rates there typically exceed 95%,

  • Will local decision makers, councils, councillors, commissioners take these Shelter figures and say the majority of hostel beds lay empty so why the hell are we funding them?  Bet your life they will!
  • Will local decision makers and the zealous Housing First advocates use these Shelter figures to say the hostel model has failed as justification for yet more Housing First initiatives that never have and never can work in English housing conditions?  Bet your life they will!
  • Will all homeless actors including government use these figure to say there are 16,855 homeless hostel beds lay empty every night and we have 2,440 rough sleepers.  Thus, there is enough provision so anyone sleeping rough is rough sleeper choice not a housing supply problem?  You bet they f*cking will!

I could go on but the above are just three main reasons why the Shelter estimate of England’s homeless person numbers is extremely dangerous and not just disingenuous twaddle. 

I could ask on what planet is Polly Neate the chief executive of Shelter residing on? 

I could ask why Daniel Hewitt of ITV News who has done so much credible work on social housing disrepair and social landlord apathy towards tenants decided not to even take the simple comparison between the latest Shelter estimate and previous ones. 

His credibility and that of ITV News is called into question as much as Shelter’s reputation and credibility for these wholly disingenuous and extremely dangerous figures that ITV News chose to report without any journalistic scrutiny as to the validity of them. Indeed ITV News emphasised that homeless numbers have increased by 74% over the last ten years as the screenshot from this ITV News special bulleting reveals…

Instead, I will simply and objectively report the factual data with sources below.

The 2018 Shelter estimate (source here) said

The 2018 estimate of 320k was for Great Britain with England having 276,925 of that figure

The Shelter 2022 report released 2023 here said

Comparing like for like with figures for England only is a near 6,000 reuducti0on in the numbers of homeless persons – according to Shelter’s own figures – from 2018 to 2022!

[NB: Both the 2018 and 2022 Shelter figures said “at least” so its emphasis in its 2022 news release is of no consequence]

The Homeless Link homeless hostel numbers here said in its latest Aug 2022 report

Highlighted is the 32,184 ‘official’ number (and the 26.3% decrease since 201o)

The Shelter 2022 report and its 15,329 single homeless hostel number here

Note well that this category is objective not subjective as the other fout Shelter categories – The number living in single homeless hostels on any given night not who referred them but the objective number of residents

The Shelter 2022 report on rough sleeper numbers as you can see is 2,440 on any given night and alongside the objective number of 15,329 single homeless hostel beds being occupied out of the official number of 32,184. My comments as to will decision-makers or politicians say 2440 rough sleepers and 16,855 empty hostel beds [32,184 minus 15,329 Shelter figure] that we don’t have a shortage!

The more than doubling of rough sleepers under the Housing First model in Finland

Crisis fervently claim that Finland has reduced homelessness (it has) then state Finland operates Housing First (it does) then scream the chronic non sequitur that Housing First works. In Finland and the latest official figures every form of homelessness has fallen EXCEPT for the one area in which the Housing First model is used – what Finland labels those ‘outside’ and what we label as ‘rough sleeper’ in the UK. The official Finnish report and its table relevant to rough sleepers

We can chart this in a much simpler table as below:

In the last two years rough sleeper numbers in Finland who use the Housing First model has increased from 512 to 1210 – an increase of 136% – and the total number is back where it was 10 years ago in Finland and despite all other areas and all other homeless cohorts reducing! I first looked at a Housing First service (and model) in 1995 and followed its efficacy ever since and nowhere in the world has the Housing First model ever worked at scale or sustainably.

The fact that Shelter appears to, like Crisis, push the UK down this unworkable path for single homeless cohorts by its assertion that over half of single homeless hostel beds lay emoty each night is acutely irresponsible and extremely dangerous.

Other related issues

The Homeless Link figures say the 32,184 hostel room / bed number is a 26.3% reduction since 2010.  This means a fall of nearly 8,000 homeless hostel beds since 2010 and however moot the rough sleeper numbers are it is the closure and decommissioning of single homeless hostel beds that has had a much greater role in the increased numbers of rough sleepers than anything else is the only logical deduction. 

Local authority commissioners who have cut support funding to all supported housing services by around 80% since 2003 which includes NIMBY services like hostels are acutely responsible for the increases in single homelessness, increase in rough sleeping numbers and the increase in non-commissioned ‘exempt accommodation’ services of which many accommodate single homeless persons.  (NB: Exempt accommodation services total numbers have fallen from 170k in 2010 to a claimed 159k in 2022 yet the 40,000 non-commissioned in the 170k 2010 estimate has without doubt increased)

The principal issue is the ‘commissioning process’ a part of Localism which sees central government assert that local councils know local needs best is a sham. 

For example Birmingham City Council the leading ‘outraged’ LA in the ‘exempt accommodation’ outrage charade and who freely state 11k of the 22k in exempt accommodation in Birmingham are locals yet they choose to support-fund by commissioning just 2k of them. 

The commissioning process together with no legal right at all to housing-related support allows LAs to ‘commission’ not on the basis of need but on the basis of how much can we not fund housing-related support and how much can we save.  Birmigham City Council chooses to NOT support-fund 9,000 of the 11,000 ‘locals’ in exemot accommodation and is allowed to NOT fund 81% of its admitted and local vulnerable single persons!

The feigned outrage at the increase in non-commissioned ‘exempt accommodation’ is a direct response to LAs cutting 80% of housing related support funding and a natural consequence. The Homeless Link data showing a 39% drop in hostel support providers (those who were commissioned?) has been almost met by the rise in non-commissioned providers in short

In these contexts now factor in and reconsider the extrem danger of Shelter asserting that the majority of homeless hostel beds for single persons lay empty each night! 

WTF are you playing at Polly Neate and Shelter!

Earn less than £150k pa? Your standard of living under numerate Sunak means you are worse off this year than last!

Your number’s up Rishi Sunak and the innumeracy of your policies needs exposing.

In April the average domestic energy bill will be £150 per month higher than it was in April last year.  The average mortgage payment will be £250 per month higher we are told.  The average food bill is over £100 per month higher than a year before. 

Even without factoring in higher council tax, water rates, insurances, transport costs and any other domestic household expenditure inflation this is £500 more per month and £6,000 per year more needed in NET household income just to stand still and maintain the standard of living.

Average wage increases are running at around 6% which means – the numeracy bit – that a 6% pay increase on £100,000 wage is £6,000 per year GROSS.  For a 6% wage increase to be £6,000 per year more NET to stand still a 2022 income of £150,000 is needed. 

These simple but irrefutable numbers mean …

Every mortgage payer on a household income of LESS than £150,000 per year today will be worse off in 2023 than they were this in 2022!

In political terms that is a damning statement yet one which is factually correct if you happen to have basic numeracy Rishi Sunak. 

I have much sympathy with the universal condemnation of the everyone must learn maths until they are 18 pledge of Sunak and the Simon Pegg rant on social media is worth watching as it covers most of the reasons. 

However, the fact that wage income needs to be £150k per year just to stand still is the real elephant in the room that is missing in any of the commentary. 

It means the out of control UK economy – presided over by Rishi Sunak – sees the vast majority of  households – those earning less than £150k per year – will be worse off in 2023 than they were in 2022.

Do you really want a more numerate society Prime Minister!

Just because Rishi Sunak anagrams to Hi Risk Anus doesn’t mean you have to live up to that!