Since the Coalition Government came into power in 2010, the Conservative Party has worked hard to push through damaging austerity and slashed benefits for the majority of recipients. The latter has been done under the guise of an old Cameron/Osborne mantra of “making work pay”, yet according to a new report by homeless and housing charity Shelter (through data obtained via the Freedom of Information Act), Theresa May’s oft-repeated claim that ‘work is the best route out of poverty‘ is now entirely baseless.
Shelter’s research showed that in 2017 a staggering 55% of homeless families living in temporary accommodation were actually in employment. This figure represents over 33,000 families across Britain who were holding down a job despite having nowhere stable to live.
Shelter’s utterly damning report added that:
“With so many families in work but out of a home, it’s clear that our current housing and benefit system does not adequately support all hard-working families.”
“Making work pay” was intended to combat alleged benefit fraud, make the economy more dynamic and limit the hysteresis effect. In any sense, it fit perfectly well into the Conservative ideology which encourages the rolling back of the public and cynically emphasises the private.
Yet as many have known for decades (especially since the Thatcher era), the ‘dream’ of the individual working hard to gain their prosperity is little more than a myth. One doesn’t need to be an Economist to admit that generational wealth, a lack of adequate education or public services, and an economy favouring the wealthy severely curtails the rewards of individual hard work. Combine this with institutional discrimination based on race, gender and other factors, and “making work pay” reveals its true intentions as simply a slogan – a dishonest pipe dream as opposed to an incentive.
Shelter’s report only strengthens this assertion. The report is both ethically and economically critical, noting that the Tory leadership cannot simply blame the past Labour Government for the dire situation (as they tend to do during most Prime Minister’s Questions), as it was a blend of David Cameron and Theresa May that have ensured “high private rents, the on-going freeze on housing benefit and a chronic lack of social homes“.
This has, worryingly but even more sadly, led to a direct worsening of the homelessness situation. The report goes on to read:
“The proportion of families working whilst living in temporary accommodation has increased over time – from 44% in 2013 to 55% in 2017. Alongside the increase in the total population of families living in temporary accommodation (43,750 in 2013 to 60,8520 in 2017), we see that this represents a substantial increase (73%) in the number of working homeless families, from over 19,000 in 2013 to over 33,000 in 2017.”
It is not just the left that has claimed housing as a human right. Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states the right to “adequate” living conditions. Yet Conservative leaders in the UK (and indeed, across the world) have not only refused housing as a basic right, but continued to make it more difficult for families who are actively in work.
Homelessness is no longer a (rather unethical) punishment for those out of work – something abhorrent enough in itself – but acts as a blanket sanction for the working class.
Greg Beates, the director of policy for Shelter, summed it up perfectly on BBC Breakfast this morning:
“The link between an income and a job, which used to be enough to secure a home, is just completely breaking down in the housing market.”
If you only read one thing today make it this pic.twitter.com/uoJHc6k2SU
— Peter Stefanovic (@PeterStefanovi2) September 16, 2017
This report acts as a damning indictment on past and present Tory leadership. In all, just as Brexit, privatised industries and the glue holding the divided Cabinet together continue to unravel, so does Conservative ideology as a whole.