Johnny Void is my Christmas inspiration. A government report has revealed – just in time for Christmas –that homelessness has rocketed 106% in one year according to government statistics just published The main reason, not of course revealed by the figures,.is private landlord evictions due to failure to pay rent. Why? The Benefit cap. Johnny Void goes on to point out that these are only the official figures of families accepted by local authorities as homeless, which charities have immediately said underestimates the scale of the problem. The full statistics can be found here.
Meanwhile, Finland is in the news for proposing a Basic Income at the rate of 800 Euros, per month, approximately £135 per week. My suggested rate here would be £175.
But the Benefit cap is popular among almost everyone who does not receive benefits. Many may doubt or deny the link Johnny Void and I think is responsible, and may salve their consciences with the thought that most homeless families must have brought it on themselves. The benefit cap is right , isn’t it?
The answer would be yes if you have not spotted the central role of means testing in all this – a massive tax on the poorest. What upsets me most is that this role was spotted in 2009 by the Centre for Social Justice, a Think Tank set up by, of all people, Iain Duncan Smith. Click ‘Publications’, go to September 2009, and you will find Dynamic Benefits: towards Welfare that works (Download the full report). Its main recommendation was the Universal Credit, a version of a Basic Income that would cost taxpayers as little as possible. But as Johnny Void also points out, even if the UC became a reality, due to its meanness it would do little or nothing to reduce the evictions.
Here we are at Christmas 2015, and Caroline Lucas and Jeremy Corbyn could have been ramming Dynamic Benefits down Iain Duncan Smith’s throat ever since the 2010 election as the case for the full Basic, Citizens’ Income, complete with graphs showing the withdrawal of means tested benefits as though they were real taxes. We did not need to wait for Finland to have the vision to blaze the Basic Income trail.