Monday, 19 September 2011

No Riot

I’ve written before about those horrible and invidious Condem housing benefit changes, but can’t believe it’s going ahead. I say changes: this is not a change, it is an abolition. Housing Benefit, and Local Housing Allowance, its evil twin – are going. Wiped out.

Nobody is angry. There have been no riots, no protests.

Years ago, thanks to Edwina Curry, changes were made in the allowances paid to people condemned to live temporarily in B&B accommodation. This was (and is) only ever a temporary measure, which happens when people are genuinely homeless and there is absolutely nowhere else to go.

Currie had proposed the cuts by stating that claimants were: ‘frolicking on the beaches of Brighton’ as if the state was paying for a little trip to the seaside, rather than condemning people to exist in hovels. Full English breakfast? Hardly: no cooking or washing facilities and appalling overcrowding were the norm. The system was being abused, not by claimants, but by landlords and B&B ‘farms’ who crammed people into dingy shacks and charged the state a fortune, much as certain landlords are profiteering from inflated rents. Again, the abuse was stopped not by punishing the landlords, but by penalising hapless tenants.

When actioned, nobody was sure what would happen. First all, it was imagined that there would be riots, as masses of angry people slept in the hot summer parks, and that the decision would be reversed. They didn’t and it wasn’t.

But that was nearly thirty years ago, and ask anyone old enough, they won’t remember the changes being announced perhaps, but they might recall a different world, one that seems miraculous to us now.

There were far fewer beggars, and pan-handlers, or whatever is the acceptable phrase now. Yes, I know that not all beggars are genuine, but numbers were lower. That is because there were not as many homeless people.

Imagine: no Big Issue. Fewer wraiths and shades wandering around in the twilight, shuffling for somewhere to sleep. Even Grant Shapps is aware (and it’s the only sensible thing he’s ever said in his life, ever) that the official roofless, street-living homeless figure is way below the genuine number.

I don’t predict a riot. A predict a world where there is even more overcrowding, and more people begging to make up the difference between their income and rent.

There is an equation for the amount of beggars and for want of an acceptably descriptive phrase, ranting, visibly mentally ill people per square mile that society will tolerate, before demanding that something must be done. When will we reach that limit, because these cuts are going to push things to the max.

Don’t imagine people care. They don’t care. People want to enjoy their latte without being prodded by some Herbert who asks for change, and if it happens too many times on the way to the gym, they demand action.

That’s not to mention the separated parents under the age of thirty-five who will have nowhere for their visiting kids to stay. Nice work from the self-proclaimed family party. Nice work.

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