Wandsworth’s poorest residents will soon face even deeper financial hardship after the majority Conservative Group at Wandsworth Council voted to remove the hardship payments available to some of those unable to pay their rent.
On Tuesday this week, Wandsworth Council’s Finance Committee voted to remove emergency financial help with housing costs from residents in Wandsworth without children who are hit by the benefit cap.
The government recently lowered the benefit cap for people without children living in London to £23,000 per year.
Councillor Simon Hogg, Wandsworth Labour leader, said: “Wandsworth’s Tory council is pulling away the safety net just as families need it the most”
“This is such a cruel and foolish decision. For dozens of our most vulnerable local households, this support the only thing saving them from homelessness.”
According to councillor Peter Carpenter, Labour’s Speaker on Finance: “These policies make no financial sense; the lowering of the benefit cap is meant to save £350,000, however it is clear that it will result in more people, up to 144 in Wandsworth, presenting as homeless. Accommodating 144 homeless households is going to cost the Council a lot more than the £350,000 it proposes to save”.
“Moreover, in each of the previous two years the Council underspent the budget is has to help these households by far more than this amount so there’s no financial need to change the policy.”
He added: “Wandsworth will say that people will still be able to apply for these hardship payments if they are in dire need. If this is so then clearly the estimated £350,000 won’t be saved, making these changes even more nonsensical. They make no sense for the tax payer or for the individuals concerned”.
Tooting resident, Nigel McCann, who was hit by the benefit cap last year, is one of these 144.
Nigel currently receives the maximum entitlement of £296.35 per week plus £30 per week in DHP to help pay for his weekly rent of £252, leaving him £73 per week.
Nigel estimates that he can survive on £50 per week for food and water and £20 per week for energy costs (as long as he doesn’t use the heating). In addition, he spends £1.75 per week on bus fares to attend the Job Centre and the same on bus fares to attend his work programme.
According to Nigel: “if the £30 hardship payment I currently receive to help me pay my rent is removed, that will leave me with £43.10 per week – roughly half of what I need just to survive. If these cuts go ahead there will be people who have to sacrifice medical care and vital mental health care support because they have no money for the bus. They won’t even be able to afford to look for work”.