Tuesday, 16 August 2011

A sickness in society – I blame the politicians (and their parents).

The knee-jerk call to remove social housing from people who were involved in recent rioting may be populist but is a great example of why the poorest continue to get poorer and are badly served by politicians. A further call to remove benefits from rioters has not been implemented - yet - but is receiving a sympathetic ear from government

The plan has many obvious flaws. Should the innocent brothers and sisters be made homeless because of the actions of one member of their family? Should the sins of the son really be visited upon the father (or even the single parent)? But the truly discriminatory aspect is that this extra punishment is meeted out only to those in social housing, by definition some of the poorest in society. Should you own your own house you are exempt.

There are two ways to live securely in one house indefinitely; a mortgage or a social tenancy. Both involve keeping up regular monthly payments for a prolonged period. The difference is if you have a good credit rating and enough money for a deposit (for 4 out of 5 new house buyers this means having parents wealthy enough to give them the cash) you can buy a house using a mortgage with the massive advantage of only needing to pay for a limited amount of time and having an asset to sell at the end. If you can’t get a deposit or have a poor credit rating then if you are very lucky you might get an indefinite social tenancy. You will have to pay every month indefinitely and you won’t have an asset to sell – but at least you will be secure.

Removal of a social tenancy is the equivalent of forcing a person with a mortgage to sell their house and smearing their credit rating such that they will never get a mortgage again. Will such equal punishments be dealt to both rich and poor – Not a chance.

To make matters worse the government plans to stop new secure social tenancies next year - so if you lose yours now you will probably never have a secure home again.

A society which taxes the poor more than it taxes the rich – is sick. A society which responds to having the lowest social mobility in the developed world by stigmatising the poor and cutting their support and benefits – is sick, and a society which punishes the poor more than the rich – is sick.

Why do I blame the politicians? The “sick” level of economic injustice in the UK requires that thousands of small discriminatory decisions such as this one be taken. Most politicians don’t come from these communities and are able to make these thoughtless decisions because they lack any real understanding of this entire sectire section of society. Nor do they make effective efforts to bring them into decision making processes either as politicians or as community representatives. Until every community is listened to the sickness will continue.