Struggling with the #bedroomtax and worried about kids being removed: “it’s a danger game.”

Posted on November 2, 2013

Joe Halewood has posted a very interesting article: it’s about a letter from the Knowsley Housing Trust which says that the recipient may be considered to have intentionally made themselves homeless if they’re evicted because of rent arrears. The letter also says that social services will be advised if there are children in the home:

People have read this as “pay your rent, or we’ll come for your kids,” as well they might.

As Joe says:

“Knowsley Housing Trust (KHT) are sending out a standard letter which tenants are reading as “pay your rent or social services will come and take your children off you”..and you thought social landlords couldn’t get any more incompetent!

“The prior paragraph sees KHT assume that any tenant evicted for arrears will be declared intentionally homeless by the council – that not paying your rent means you WILL be found intentionally homeless and that is a huge assumption and an overt scare tactic in itself by KHT and this predicates the threat of your children being taken into care. Councils have to look at the individual circumstances of each case under homeless legislation and eviction for arrears does NOT equate with being found intentionally homeless as KHT strongly allude it does.”

So.

I’m posting this, because I know that this fear of losing your kids if you can’t pay the bedroom tax looms large in many minds. I know this because people have told me about it. They certainly told me about it when I was travelling around in the northwest for this recent article about the bedroom tax. I wrote then:

“The other concern people have is that social services will remove children from parents who are found to be struggling due to the extra cost. People say this a lot. “Nobody wants social services butting their noses into people’s business, because it’s a danger game when a mother hasn’t got enough money to feed her kids properly,” Jill says [at the West Everton Community Centre]. “She’s going to starve herself to make sure her kids are fed. You’re hearing about kids being taken away when they shouldn’t be.””

A similar point was raised on at least two more occasions by people I met at the bedroom tax campaign meetings I attended during that trip. One man I was speaking with said that the campaign groups wanted to get more young people involved. “They’re probably worried about social services coming round,” a woman at our table said. I had a similar conversation with two women after a meeting in central Liverpool.

This all put me in mind of a conversation I had a couple of years ago with a Wisconsin woman called Pat Gowens. I’d rung Pat in the first instance to talk about Wisconsin’s appalling workfare programme, which she had some experience of. She and other women had set up Welfare Warriors – a member-led campaign made up of people who were directly affected by that punitive W2 workfare scheme. We talked about that for some time and then our conversation moved onto other work the group was involved in. That work, it transpired, included representing women whose children had been removed by social services. “They come into your homes,” Pat said, “usually on an anonymous call, or [a call from] your husband. They decide you’re a bit crazy, or your house isn’t clean enough – a mother didn’t vacuum her carpets, or just swept them [or something like that]. Then, they take your kids away. You used to get them back in six months. Now it can be six years. If you want them back you have to do parenting classes, therapy, anger management, domestic violence therapy.”

The group is still active – you can see their facebook page here – and they’re still running articles with titles like Give Us Back Our Children.

The fear of losing your children is an appalling one. Most people ought to know that. And it is very bad to know that people fear losing their children because they can’t pay a tax that they should never have had to pay in the first place.

Joe Halewood is absolutely right when he says:

“Social landlords are in a position of authority when it comes to housing matters. Tenants assume that landlords know housing law and good practice therein and tenants in large part have to trust social landlords.”

He’s also right when he says that anybody who is abusing that power needs to be named and shamed. There is something very unpleasant going on here. Talk about a nasty way to keep people who don’t have money in line. Pure evil.

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