1) Rise in number of homeless families with children in B&Bs
The number of homeless families with children in B&Bs is at it’s highest in nearly ten years. There are around 2090 families currently in this sort of temporary/emergency accommodation – an increase of 8% on last year, according to research from the homeless charity – Shelter.
Homlessness legislation asks that B&Bs are avoided when placing families. If they are used, families should be there no longer than six weeks. However, there has been an increase in the number of families being placed in this emergency accommodation since 2009, and 760 of the 2090 families had lived there longer than six weeks at the end of June.
The research also found that there were around 43,000 other families in other forms of temporary accommodation, most often short-term private rent flats which can be extremely expensive.
Shelter interviewed 25 families who had stayed in B&B’s and found that many felt “unsafe” with problems including overcrowding, exposure to drugs, threats of violence and sexual offences, lack of facilities including fridges, cooking equipment and tables for children to eat or do homework.
“I try to cook because it’s cheaper, but I can’t put stuff in the fridge because it’s too small so I can’t use fresh stuff. I’m using stuff in tins all the time,” said one mother.
Shelter’s Chief Executive, Campbell Robb, said; “Our shocking findings have uncovered the shameful conditions homeless children will be living in this Christmas. Parents and children sharing beds, children forced to eat on the floor and being threatened with violence in the place they live. This shouldn’t be happening in 21st-century Britain.”
Kris Hopkins, the housing minister commented that councils had been given £1bn “to tackle homelessness and to support people affected by the welfare reforms,” and to meet “legal requirements” in helping the homeless. He added that families should not be placed in B&B’s and never for more than six weeks, and with the extra funding provided “there is no excuse for councils to breach this.”
However, Shelter also believe that more and more homeless people are at threat of being ignored with the government’s plans of removing the right to judicial review. A judicial review allows people the right to challenge authorities and organisations on decisions, and is being scrapped by the government under the veil of reducing legal aid costs. Shelter say:
“The government points again and again to the need to reduce costs, but in limiting judicial review their own figures show they expect to save £3m at most; a tiny 0.03% of the Ministry of Justice’s total £8.6 billion annual budget. In fact,recent research by Matrix Chambers suggests these cuts could well be a false economy, ending up costing the government far more than they want to save.
“The proposed changes mean that rather than negotiating a settlement with the council, when we can, to get a family housed quickly, we would have to pursue every case to its final conclusion through the courts. This would give greater uncertainty to the family who would have to wait longer for an outcome, clog up the courts time with cases that may otherwise have settled, and increase council’s legal costs.”
2) Affordable homes risk demolition due to bedroom tax
Despite there being a national affordable property shortage, and despite stories such as the above where families are desperate to find housing, some three bedroom houses and flats are being condemned by housing associations because the bedroom tax has made them too expensive for tenants to live in.
Magenta Living, a housing provider in Liverpool, commented that “with changes to welfare benefits, there is very little prospect of letting upper three-bedroom maisonettes in the current climate”. Several other housing associations, with thousands of homes, have come forward to concur that demolition is becoming feasible as they struggle to fill up their blocks, sell up or maintain costs whilst they are empty.
The news is likely to turn up the pressure on the Commons debate on the bedroom tax on Tuesday, where Labour are expected to support an immediate repeal of the policy. Some Lib Dems have also raised they concerns over the controversial spare room subsidy, which has been in place since April this year, affecting over 600,000 people.
But while the government claim the policy was meant to make the best use of the housing stock in the UK, the idea of demolishing affordable housing, whilst the rate of building is slowing against population growth, is counterproductive. The Joseph Rowntree foundation found that Britain would face a housing shortage of 1 million by 2022 unless building was significantly increased.
3) Ed Miliband says energy price freeze would save services £100m
Ed Miliband has confirmed his party will freeze energy bills until 2017, in order to “reset the broken energy market” if Labour win the election in 2015.
Speaking to a crowd in Crouch End in North London, the Labour leader said:
“Labour’s price freeze will save families an average £120 and an average small business user would benefit by over £5,000. It’s not just Britain’s families and businesses that would benefit from this price freeze, it’s our vital public services too. New figures today show that if David Cameron put in place our freeze today, public services would save £100m.”
He said the savings for the NHS were the equivalent of 1300 nurses’ salaries, and for schools it could pay for 700 teachers.
The coalition continued to slam the policy as a “con” calling the price freeze unworkable, and suggesting that companies could raise their prices before and after the freeze.
4) Esther McVey silent on possible resignation over Independent Living Fund win
Esther McVey, the former disability minister, has remained silent over her possible resignation from her new post in the same department, after her decision to close the Independent Living Fund was overturned in the court of appeal.
Campaigners were told that three senior court of appeal judges unanimously upheld an appeal against McVey’s decision to close the Independent Living Fund in 2015.
The judges criticised McVey’s decision with one commenting that there was no evidence that McVey “directed her mind to the need to advance equality of opportunity.” Another said that McVey “was sufficiently aware of the very real adverse consequences which closing the fund would have on the lives of many of the more severely disabled.”
The case was brought to the courts by five disabled people, who believed that the removal of the Independent Living Fund could remove independence for thousands of disabled people with the highest support needs.
MIke Penning, the new disability minister, must now decide if he wants to appeal the decision against McVey, announce a fresh closure against the fund or admit defeat and allow it to continue.
5) Worldwide protests ignored by mainstream news
The Bonfire of Austerity and the Million Mask March were largely ignored by the mainstream media, despite numbers reaching the thousands.
As some burnt eviction and debt letters on Westminster Bridge, crowds of people donning the familiar Guy Fawkes masks gathered in Parliament square.
The BBC reported there were several hundred people at the demonstration, and hence this is why it did not make their main broadcasts. However, pictures from the protest show there were significantly more. Additionally, the Million Mask March was successful in creating a global protest, with marches taking place in 477 countries worldwide.
Anonymous members, a group behind the march against austerity, poverty and the wealth gap, and other protesters took to Twitter to voice their opinion on the bypass of their demonstrations.
by Kam Sandhu – @KamBass