When you think of welfare and poverty, what comes to mind? Do you think of people down on their luck? Perhaps job losses? Caring for the disabled? Human rights? Keeping “hard-working families” afloat?
Or do your thoughts turn to words like “chav”, “dole-bludger” or “benefit cheats”? Do you have visions of a large group of clinically obese, lager-swilling blimps clad in football strips, gathered around the 50″ plasma telly?
As with most things, the truth is a strange admixture of the two, with the notional idea of dole-bludging being a lot less prevalent than the Daily Mail likes to make out and the idea of keeping families afloat much more common than most people think. But for all that I say this, my personal experience is that I know more people who are blatant dole-bludgers than I know families kept afloat by welfare, probably because those being kept afloat by welfare are not proud of that situation and don’t brag about it.
My total ignorance about the welfare system was a point of pride for me, but the outrage over Mr Osborne’s proposed cuts and caps to the welfare system have, to a small extent, lifted the scales from my eyes.
The “social housing” scam of allowing people on benefits to rent the home of their choice from the market has created a secondary market where people on benefits can live in homes that are far superior to the homes of the people paying them to do so.
Because “social housing” doesn’t cover a deposit, the landlords jack up the price by enough to cover the deposit in a single contract term. After that, they’re making a profit over and above the market rate. Having people who aren’t working living in a given area also pushed the rates up for working people in that area.
George Osborne has decreed that from now on, housing benefits will be capped. Claims in the Independent and the Guardian of “exporting poverty” out of London.
There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth about the “draconian” cap of Â£400 a week or Â£20,800 a year. And this was the point at which my head threatened to explode.
I now live in a reasonable four bedroom home. I have mortgaged it quite heavily, although I’ve managed to stay “equity positive” all the way. And my mortgage payments are less than this housing benefit cap!
Â£20,800 a year is a pretty penny, it’s certainly way above the breadline. I pay my mortgage, as I paid rent before I got on the property ladder, out of my post-tax income. At no point have I ever been fortunate enough to live in a place that cost me Â£400 a week. If I was able to pay my mortgage off at Â£20,800 a year, I’d be able to pay it off within a decade, rather than around the time I retire.
And yet I am supposed, out of the goodness of my heart, help subsidise millions of people who do not and have not ever contributed to the common weal, to live in place better than I can afford?