What exactly is the planned endgame for people in poverty? Permanent homelessness? Debtors’ jail?

I wonder.

The letter that you see on the page below is a demand for rent arrears money received recently by a very young Stratford woman I know. This young woman has been through the wringer on the emotional and domestic fronts this year. I’m not giving details here, but her situation has been very difficult. She’s had an experience that nobody would envy.

Financially, things are in tatters. Earlier this year, her benefits were stopped for a while and then reduced. Her housing benefit doesn’t cover her whole rent, there were payment problems a while back that nobody at this end entirely understands (I’ve looked through the relevant papers and I don’t get it), and she falls further behind in her payments each week. She will be evicted and made homeless unless her council and landlord can be talked around.


It seems unlikely that the council and her landlord will be talked around at this stage. You can see from the letter that her landlord wants £66 a week in payments towards her rent shortfall and arrears, and that eviction and homelessness are very much on the cards. That £66 is an impossible amount for someone whose weekly benefit payment is not much more than that. There’s more, too. Apparently, this young woman just heard that the DWP will start deducting money from her benefit each week for a loan repayment. She recently had a bailiff threat hand-delivered through the door for £746 for an old travel fine that she says wasn’t hers (you can see that demand below). It never stops – demand after demand for money, costs and god knows what else.

Needless to say, this young woman stopped coping with this situation a long time ago. She can’t respond to the torrent of mail, so she ends up responding to none of it. I see this time and time again. The problems get so big that people try to ignore them. The endless post goes unopened, calls are ignored and people fall further behind each day. I don’t know what the planned end game is for people in these situations. Permanent homelessness? Debtors’ jail? The workhouse? Can’t be anything good:


The point of this post? – to remind the world that people in these situations exist, even though government insists that they shouldn’t. Doesn’t matter if the electorate – or parts of it – voted for austerity and against social security. Doesn’t matter if government and the so-called opposition insist that people simply need to pull themselves together to get out of holes. Here people are all the same. Debts pile up, the bailiffs are always circling, court action is always on the horizon, and threatening letters cascade through the door. You either have the money, or the means, or even the mental health, I guess, to drag yourself out of breakdown, or you don’t. If you don’t, you sink. I suppose that’s the idea.

20 thoughts on “What exactly is the planned endgame for people in poverty? Permanent homelessness? Debtors’ jail?

  1. How I sadly agree Kate, on both a personal level and as someone who works with other people on benefits; This is the Tip of the Iceberg and soon there will be a crash of Titanic proportions

  2. Talking to people on Monday night in London – I think this is one reason why the Corbyn show appeals to many. People can see that there are just no answers down the other road. If there were answers down the other road, we’d have a different situation. I just think a growing number can see what’s right in front of them. Government and Labour’s neoliberal cabal can insist and insist that all answers lie in work and in being tough on people with problems, but none of that changes the fact that people are ending up in serious shit anyway. That’s the main reason that I can’t accept austerity. It’s not because I’m a great socialist, because I’m not. I’m too interested in money myself. It’s because I see things worsening for people, not improving. Can’t hang about denying that. It amazes me that any politician thinks that such a truth will be possible to deny forever. It’s clear that the current direction of travel is not sustainable.

  3. I know this to be true,not just for the past things I have been through,but for people now,and I agree that I do not know what the the answer is when the standard cap does not fit all?They want people to work and pay,even though your work may not pay everything,all they do is put the fear tactics on you and threaten you.You are doing what you can and coping through all sorts of personal struggles but they are trying to make everyone conform with a ‘do this or else game’,even though for many it is impossible.This is why I will not support this government and the way it treats people and puts money before humanity.

  4. Austerity and it’s so-called justification, is all part of a carefully planned strategy
    to take us back to a modern version of the Victorian Age.
    A society run by and for a wealthy minority. The vast mass of people fed media propaganda, and controlled by ever stricter and more intrusive laws.
    Even while those aspects of society that they need, medical care, decent jobs and housing are ruthlessly stripped from them.

  5. I’m a columnist for The Morning Star writing on issues re: disability and benefits and can see the situation for those in poverty is getting increasingly harsh and life threatening. I hope the lady concerned has been or written to her MP. Even if they are Conservative – they need to know what’s happening. Also, campaigners need to find ways of letting the public know what’s happening and in different unusual ways. I wrote a novel The Single Feather which has a storyline about the benefits debate, acting as a Trojan Horse and am looking for other ways to get these stories to the general public, including those who aren’t sympathetic towards those in poverty,

    • I reside in Australia, and I am absolutely appalled by the draconian, punitive system re folk on welfare, and the working poor barely scraping by on a subsistence existence. I commend you for getting word out there via your writings. Keep up the good work.

  6. My only caveat is the idea that ending engagement with these structures, letters etc. is ‘not coping’. It actually can be argued that it is ‘coping’, especially if the planned endgame is existential annihilation.

  7. I hope that you can help her in any way. I thought of perhaps ‘crowd funding’ to raise money to pay off her debts; I would certainly donate, and my friends would too. We have to find innovative ways of practically helping people. Could you possibly set this up for her Kate and provide a link? Look what happened with the fellow who was attacked; he ended up with enough to buy a house!

    I’m not sure where the DWP stands in this regard, but if she used the money entirely to settle her debts (along with the DWP debt) I don’t think that there will be any problem. Some people have paid for special wheelchairs this way, so it seems to be ok.

    I realise that it’s not an ultimate solution. She still won’t be able to afford to rent anywhere or have enough money to live on, but we have to do something. I sponsor children abroad but I’m looking to help out here in the UK. There must be so many people like me, even my daughter says that she wants to help families here. Sometimes the foodbanks aren’t enough; people need more.

    People trust and respect you Kate, so they would know that it’s a genuine cause. I hope that this woman will seriously consider it; it may be her only hope.

    • It’s interesting that a lot of people do want to help out when people get into trouble. Sometimes, I think a lot of people are a lot more humane and decent than our leaders would have us believe. xx

  8. We are heading for the situation I saw in America where so many mentally ill and disabled people are street homeless, and find themselves criminalised and frequently jailed …

  9. Thanks, Kate, et al.

    The not coping reminds me of a song by a friend of mine, Carol O’Sullivan, ‘Working At It’.

    “The man at the bank says, ‘You gotta get a job,
    Get your act together and get a few bob.’
    He sends me all these letters that get lost in the mail;
    I’m looking at the envelope and turning quite pale.

    Cho: Oh, oh, I’m working at it! (x4).”
    (c) Little Bear Music

    Maybe that song should be an anthem for demos?

  10. Omg, thanks for informing us about the Criminal Courts Charge: http://www.howardleague.org/criminal-courts-charge/

    This is from the site:

    “Since April, magistrates and judges have been told that they must impose a mandatory Criminal Courts Charge of up to £1,200 on anyone convicted of an offence – whatever the defendant’s circumstances might be – on top of other levies such as fines, compensation orders, victim surcharges and costs. Defendants who fail to find the money risk being sent to prison.”

    I had no idea you could be charged extortionate sums of money simply by being convicted of any petty crime i. e. for stealing ice cream. Or worse, when being convicted for begging or rough sleeping.

    Has the mainstream news covered this new law? Or has it been sneaked up upon us without much scrutiny?

  11. Pingback: DWP takes up to four weeks to decide whether to reduce loan repayments for people in severe hardship? Wtf. | Kate Belgrave

  12. With eviction threats from HAs, recently learned tnts can apply at court for a stay, once eviction notice has been issued – covered by legal aid, and they can get the soliciter to negotiate a much better repayment rate.

  13. Pingback: It can be really hard to get welfare rights advice | Kate Belgrave

  14. Pingback: So again…what exactly is the planned end for people in poverty and serious debt? | Kate Belgrave

  15. I feel for this young woman and i do understand. I’ve just finished paying off a crisis loan from an emotional breakdown in 2009, when the courts were involved and nobody wanted to view me as vulnerable and help. The DWP sat on that for 6 years then hit me when I was liable for the full whack spare room subsidy, which didn’t even exist when I had to take the loan. I am also on JSA. I have been sanctioned previously, via work program and their nastiness (they’d renamed from A4E but same people; still fraudulent) . I have also been employed. I worked for a homeless hostel -it’s a dreadful business, always eye on the money/spending. If they make this young woman street homeless they would then refer here to a hostel like it where housing benefit would pay (in full) almost £300 a week, for the so-called living and support. She would then have to pay half her JSA on compulsory overheads, because she’ll have no cooking facilities of her own/will be reliant on the canteen. It’s not about saving money. If it was they would realize it is cheaper to keep people independent, in their social housing flats at £130 a week. I have also previously been street sleeping, for a winter la few years before I worked within homeless services. It’s complicated. I was at the mercy of a (royal borough) council and social services/CPS/catholic church. I put myself on the streets pre-eviction, because it was headed that way anyway. I fought to keep my flat from the streets/outside of borough. A day centre helped me (although not the catholic one). I did return after 4-5 months and i still live in the same flat. i constantly fight. Once they’ve flagged up your NI number, that’s it. Hassle for life. The unlucky lotto. I don’t know her story but could she be an embarrassment to social services/the council? I know I was. Less so now or maybe I’m just used to it/know how to survive them. Sort of anyway. I wouldn’t want her to go through the same as me via the streets. I know they’ve changed legal aid but is a solicitor on board? Would the stress of the situation get her GP to refer to community mental health; they can sometimes pull strings. It sounds like she needs more help and I’m only sorry I’m not in a position to. The DWP surely is bound by laws, even though it acts as though it isn’t. How to ensure they operate within them. Would the European court help?

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