For all those wondering about causes of homelessness and housing problems in Manchester, Oldham, etc…
Below is another example of fallout from government’s brilliant (not) decision to pay rent money directly to tenants rather than landlords when people claim Universal Credit. I’m working through a collection of recordings I’ve made this year with people who have benefit and rent problems. Thought I’d post this one, because it’s an example of the sort of silent fall that people in the real world continue to take while elections rumble on and online factions scream at each other:
A couple of weeks ago, I visited one of the Oldham lunchrooms which is attended people who have benefits, housing, addiction and money problems. A charity gives out a free lunch at this location every week. I go along to talk with people as they have their lunch. I’m being vague about the location and charity on this occasion, because the woman I recorded the conversation with below said that she already had problems with people in the area following her and targeting her:
“I’ve had every Tom, Dick and Harry in my flat… They’ve robbed phones, robbed money and they even took the food out of my cupboard… it’s me own fault with my head being a bit…”
This woman was small, frail-looking and cold – as in not dressed warmly enough. She’d come to see if there was a winter coat among the free clothes that the charity sometimes hands out. I took some pictures of her in a coat she found. I might pixelate and post them another time.
Anyway. This woman – let’s call her Kelly – was 49. Kelly was in trouble with rent arrears. She said that she her debt was £400 and counting. She also said that she had a letter which told her that eviction was on the cards. Her conversation was hard to follow in places. Kelly was confused, under the influence and obviously unwell. She was struggling to cope, she said, after a recent bereavement.
Kelly said that her rent situation started to become a problem when she was moved onto Universal Credit. She’s paid a lump sum of benefit money directly each month and must pay her rent out of that.
Kelly said that she was finding this level of management too hard:
“What they have done is they have changed my benefit. They put me on Universal Credit. [I’m] struggling. I got to pay the rent and I’m in arrears. They pay me every month.”
I asked Kelly why money management was difficult for her. She kept saying, “because of my bereavement… It’s my head… because of my bereavement this year…
“My rent is about £380 a month. I need to talk about a repayment plan… with my bereavement and that, my head’s all… I haven’t got children.”
The conversation was hard to follow, as I say. These conversations often are.
“Chaos” is the word often used to describe the way that lives are lived in these instances – as in people in Kelly’s situations live “chaotic” lives. Whatever. The point is that government provides a smaller and smaller buffer against fallout from that chaos. In our brave world, government insists that all anyone needs to leave chaos behind is a kick up the arse and an old-fashioned lesson in Taking Personal Responsibility. Pay people their benefit money directly and they’ll soon learn to prioritise their rent, and find work to keep afloat. Or so the logic goes.
The problem is this logic doesn’t work for everyone. Government might scream that it should, but it just doesn’t for some people. Government can scream all it likes. I know there is provision to pay rent money to landlords in cases where Universal Credit recipients can’t organise their money. I just wonder from this and other conversations how rigorously this is implemented.
There’s another problem, too – getting other people to take notice while keeping it real. Mainstream and alt media are so obsessed with elections, clicks, fantasy political narratives and each other that the realities of life on planet earth are being left behind altogether. Poverty is neither exciting, nor pretty. It’s grey. It’s hard to get the greyness across to political and media worlds which insist on extreme descriptions. I know that sounds a little vague. I’ll get back to it.