Posted by HSMP Forum at 10/4/2013 1:40 PM |
The current state of affairs and the rising cost of living is evidence of the government’s mismanagement. Despite a stagnant minimum wage, the constant rise in rent, travel fares and everything else have left ordinary citizens struggling for economic survival. The government’s policy on housing is exerting pressure due to lack of rent control which in turn is making housing in general unaffordable for hard working people, and is also contributing towards rise in housing benefit budget. The rents in London have gone up by 40% in the last two years according to the National Housing Federation and in other cities around in England they went up by 10% at least. The days may not be far enough when people will be living in micro apartments while paying exorbitant amounts of rent.
The current day Rachmanism by some landlords who notoriously exploit and intimidate tenants need to raise some eyebrows. Some unethical landlords will resort to everything possible to make their little profit at the cost of exploiting and harassing the tenant. The government’s failure to bring in rent control measures gives most of these landlords license to abuse and exploit tenants.
Instead of bringing in measures to control rent and taking care of the working class, the government decided to bring in measures to enable landlords to question tenants about their immigration status. Which seems to be meant to reward landlords to take further control of their tenants, this sub agency of the Home Office sort of environment is just going to cause more hardship for tenants and / or migrants in general. Some landlords are going to just misuse the power they have been awarded to exploit and abuse, just the way some employers treat migrants with temporary leave to remain in the work places by not paying overtime and expecting them to work longer hours for too little wages. This type of arrangement, no doubt, will lead to further abuse of migrants in the UK where landlords may seek exorbitant rents due to the tenant’s status.
There has been an on-going hue and cry by the government about the tax payer footing the Housing Benefit bill of more than £ 20 billion in Britain. In this current economic downturn such huge spending does matter. Most developing countries do not offer any such facility for their citizens, for e.g. there are more than 96 million homeless people in India, a tax paying citizen will find himself / herself left in the lurch during old age after retirement with little pension money or for medical facility or during unemployment in a difficult economic climate. Unlike, in the more civilised countries the government is not just expected to tax its citizens but also to take care of them when they have problems, thus benefit system is a sign of a civilised country which does not leave its citizens in the lurch. But the recent school boy howler type of Rhetoric from the UK Chancellor, who seemingly sounds like a badly brought up child who lacks consideration for those outside his rich circle of friends, who shouts his lungs off to divide people further by branding them shirkers and strivers is not at all helpful. This stigmatisation further creates discord in the community and is used as an abuse by others in the community causing further divisions. While, leaving those genuinely left with no recourse but to take benefits with embarrassment and humiliation thus defeating the very purpose of a civilised country. There is a need for policies which are concerned for the real development of Britain and the divisive policies are no way of going forward.
Whilst all sections of the community are affected by these changes but ethnic minorities and migrants are more negatively impacted. This negative impact is increased by recent statements and policy shifts. For example, the Prime Minister in March 2013 spoke about curbing benefits for European migrants who have not contributed to the economy but this topic was splashed in extreme right wing media like Daily Mail and by the parties like British National Party alleging that in some areas 68% of housing benefit claimants are foreigners. Most of these right wing media and parties brand all non-white individuals as foreigners, majority of those referred as foreigners, the Asian and African origin residents are British citizens. It is also important to keep reminding the general public that non-European nationals, except asylum seekers, are not entitled to benefits. Unfortunately, the proportion of those seeking benefits among ethnic minorities, mostly citizens, may be higher than the proportion of their white counterparts but this can be attributed to the vast inequality which largely exists in the society and not because of their own doing. It is a fact which has been reported widely, based on survey and research outcomes, on how difficult it is for African and Asian origin people to get into employment or grow in organisations.
There are a large number of employers out there who will deny a job offer or even an interview just because of the person’s skin colour, religion and / or age. Most of them may not even receive an interview call even though their academic and professional achievements are far better and their CV stands out. But, you may still witness that someone with lesser grades and experience being chosen for the position and not you. Frustrating? It may be an understatement, and you will be left with the curse of keep trying and overlooking your eternal failures which is not your doing. It may all seem strange at first instance but a bit of googling and you will know that some people are resorting to extreme measures by changing their names to sound English so to get job interviews and into employment. Ironically what the government does about addressing such issues is by cutting down its budget for the already weak equality monitoring body like Equality and Human Rights Commission and in other words depriving it of its crutches and making it more difficult to bring cases of employment discrimination. Not surprisingly, there is more discrimination in government jobs and legal profession than other professions, and there were recent accusations of institutional racism against the Solicitors Regulation Authority. It just shows how utter failure equal opportunity is in the country.
Let’s hope the government will wake up some day and considers taking long term steps in order to ensure its overinflated budget on benefits is reduced by following some basic steps driven by common sense and not political motivation. Some suggestions to tackle the root cause are:
– Need for creating more employment opportunities.
– Empower and increase funds for race equality bodies and watch dogs. Ensure implementation of legislations concerned with equality and tougher sanctions against organisations which do not employ ethnic minorities at all or in management positions.
– Introduce rent control measures which takes into consideration yearly increase in rent when interpreting the fair market rent. This will ensure more affordability by those on lower incomes and less reliance on benefits.
– Invest more in affordable housing than airports and encourage first time buyers. Discourage buy to let investments.
Author: Amit Kapadia
Amit is the Executive Director of the HSMP Forum. He campaigns against issues such as – unfairness, inequality and abuse of human rights.