[Andy Shallice of the Roma Support Group examines the Government’s clampdown on access to basic benefits.]
There has been much speculation about the contribution of wealthy non-UK citizens to the current housing price spiral, and the resultant crisis for many people who are unable to live in half decent accommodation. Despite the anti-social impact of this wealth – nearly three quarters of new inner London homes are bought by people living outside the UK – there has been not one change in government policy announced.
Compare this with the seven changes that have been announced since last November affecting EU citizens’ access to benefits: no access to job seekers allowance (JSA) for three months, a more stringent habitual residence test, a three month wait to claim child benefit or child tax credit, a six month limit on JSA – and no housing benefit – for migrants who have not worked in the UK and new discriminatory measures against people who earn less than £150 per week on average.
And even if you have worked for three months and earned enough to escape this test, if you lose your job, you will keep your rights to benefits for six months only. Additionally, people’s English language will now be assessed and all interpreters at Job Centres have been withdrawn.
Staff at the East European Advice centre described these changes as “shocking and worrying. We envisage one major consequence for our Roma users: they will be destitute.”
The Roma Support Group commented: “This is a clear case of the government deciding to further attack those whose lives are already precarious. Denying access to housing costs when rents are spiralling and denying unemployed people benefits is going to lead to misery for some Roma families.”
The government claims that this will save £70 million over the next five years in housing benefits. This compares with the government’s estimate of the increase in payments of housing benefits to private landlords of £3.5 billion over the next five years.
The social security advisory committee to the DWP have said that they want to scrutinise the decision to cut housing benefit for JSA claimants who are defined as EU migrants. They are taking submissions from around the country.