As a result of the government's benefit cap which limits welfare payments to £500 a week later this year, around 2,817 people will be affected in the capital due to the Department for Work and Pensions' view that 'it is not right that benefit claimants can receive higher incomes than families in work'. Due to the high rental cost, 761 families in Camden, North London in temporary accommodation, council housing or private rented sector who receive housing allowance or housing benefit may have to move from Camden as the welfare changes require families needing a further £91 for rent.
Low-income families who live in council housing who are still able to afford to live in Camden will however not be affected. In a period of grave economic downturn, why is the current government making everyday life more difficult for poorer families? Despite Camden having average levels of prosperity in the region, there is serious deprivation in the borough, with 44% of its deprived quota in the bottom 30%. It is yet another example of the Tory Party's inability to understand the common struggles of the working man and appears to have a limited capacity for strategically visioning the country.
Camden Council has blamed lack of available housing and high private rents, with the Labour-stronghold borough viewing areas as far up north as Bradford, Leicester and Birmingham with lower housing rents. Councillor Sarah Hayward, leader of Camden Council has stated 'The scale of the cuts and the lack of provision by this government for high living costs in the capital mean that some will have to look outside London. It will be impossible for families to continue to live in their current accommodation'.
The media depict benefit claimers as lying, cheating, and alcoholic dependents on the state but being a resident in Camden, I am aware of the financial struggles of single working mothers as well as families living on the bread line. Pick up any daily copy of the Daily Mail and emblazoned headlines such as 'getting £1000 a week on benefits...why should I work?' creates uproar, hysteria and resentment towards benefit-claimers who view them as unfair to people who work. Yes, there are benefit claimers that are fit to work and choose not to and yes this shouldn't occur, but at the same time we cannot discriminate against those who desperately need it to feed their children and survive in a period of severe economic decline. Additionally, many benefit claimers do work but do not earn the required amount needed to provide for their families. Regardless of political affiliation, people cannot defend a policy which results in families being evicted and sent hundreds of miles away. Rents are far too high, and wages are lower and these areas need tackling. Benefits cannot be based on subjective formula; they need to be calculated in terms of the needs of the individuals.
Camden has an excellent history in supporting communities within the borough and has had to set aside £1.1 million next year as a result of the government benefit caps. Other boroughs have instead proposed to remove people and rehouse them further away. April 2012 witnessed Newham's council, East London, attempting to find homes for families 160 miles away despite Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith stating that there had been "thousands of houses" within the five mile district. Westminster council is also considering a similar scheme, with an estimated 2,372 households affected.
In a society which claims to be founded on equality, it appears that 'social cleansing' appears to becoming more and more institutionalised. Camden Council is attempting to work with the families who will be affected yet the Tories appear to be looking in another direction, unconcerned at the difficulties faced by everyday workers. Society should be collaborating together to end this social apartheid that the Tories are implementing yet nothing is being done against the constant victimisation of the poor in contemporary society. What else needs to happen for society to realise that the government's cuts are simply not acceptable?
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