Much discussion at the moment about megatwat rich landlords Fergus and Judith Wilson asking their housing benefit tenants to leave their lets because, as Fergus tells us: “”All the landlords will tell you that there is so much default now with housing benefit tenants that you are just simply better off with somebody working.”
Says the charming Fergus to the Guardian today:
“If I am heartless all the other landlords are heartless, because we’re all doing the same.”
And yeah – Fergus is right about being heartless. He sounds heartless. He sounds quite the heartless prick. The point I want to make here, though, is that he’s an accurate prick. He’s right when he says he’s not the only one who is at it.
The shocking truth (probably not that shocking tbh – I wasn’t surprised) is that even people who are supposed to provide social housing for people with no money are at it.
For example – Newham council is at it. Newham council is seriously at it. Readers of this site will know that I’ve been writing in details about a group of young Newham mothers who are on benefits and live in this rathole. But they’re struggling to get anything better and one of the reasons for that is Newham council recently changed its housing allocation policy to prioritise people who are in work over people who are not.
Which I’m sure you’d agree is all very Fergus.
The council decribes this change as its groundbreaking “resilience approach” – which is another way, I guess, of saying “tough shit if you’re on benefits.” Said Robin Wales, Newham’s glorious mayor:
“Our resilience approach is all about supporting residents to help develop the skills they need to live independent and successful lives. The housing allocations policy has been reviewed with this in mind. Our scheme is about giving something for something.”
Eat your heart out, Fergus.
Said the council to me:
“The way social housing been allocated previously has created a race to the bottom where people are encouraged to emphasise their vulnerability.” Nothing much there about helping people who are ARE vulnerable and in need of housing. Just that, you know “we don’t really do vulnerability anymore.”
So. Fergus is not just telling us where the market is at. He’s telling us where the political class is at. Nobody wants people who are out of work. Even councils are eliminating people who aren’t in work from their considerations. That means we’re heading towards a point where people on benefits simply won’t be housed. And remember – you might be one of those people one day. I might be. Anyone might be. We’re in a very insecure jobs market at the moment and have a fast-disappearing social security safety net. I certainly talk to people who have worked, then found themselves out of work, then found that they were not eligible for benefits. Take Clifford Poole here, a man who worked for years in the Liverpool shipyards before having to leave with an industrial injury. He was only entitled to a year’s contributions-based employment and support allowance – that 365-day eligibility limit was only recently introduced. So now, he and his wife must live off the small salary she makes at her job in a betting shop.
So you know… if you had some idea that you’d be housed and fed, even in a basic way, if you were knocked out of work – well, you need to start thinking again.