Link to this page: https://secure.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/685/12765
Low pay and the housing crisis
Dominic Smith, Winchester
When you tell someone that you're claiming benefits you can be sure that, in many cases, they will initially picture the right-wing tabloid caricature of someone sat at home all day watching TV. While most know better and will quickly shake off that image, its effect is to cast a haze over the reality.
The truth is that many people who claim benefits are already employed - either part-time or, as in my case, full-time but low-paid.
At school we were informed that we would receive money for work that would then allow us to pay all the various bills. Instead, like millions of other low-paid workers, I was to discover that I needed to claim housing benefit to assist with paying my extortionate rent.
When I explain to people that in the Socialist Party we call for building new, quality council housing, I'm often told that it's both unaffordable and would disrupt the so called 'inner workings' of the market.
But how is it cheaper in the long term for the government to spend a staggering £21 billion for the last financial year, subsidising the private renting sector through housing benefit instead of using such sums of money to build new council houses and recouping the money through council rents? This would also create much needed jobs.
This massive subsidy allows the housing profiteers to keep bleeding us dry and does not compel prices to come down to more affordable levels.
The Jarrow march
Youth Fight for Jobs and the Jarrow marchers oppose all cuts in benefits, including the housing benefit cuts which will directly impact on me. I'm also affected by the main focus of the campaign - youth unemployment.
Many young low-paid workers understand that bosses see increases in unemployment as an opportunity to drive down wages and attack working conditions.
Management at my workplace has already raised the sinister threat of the millions of young people out there who would 'kill for my job' in attempts to silence me from making any criticism of them.
To show my opposition to job and benefit cuts in the most direct way I can, I have taken a week's holiday from work in order to march over 100 miles on the Jarrow march in October with the official support of my union branch, Southampton Unite, whose recent dispute with the council has been reported several times in the pages of the Socialist.
March for jobs
75 years ago 200 unemployed men from Jarrow marched from their home in the North East to London to demand jobs and an end to their poverty conditions.
This October Youth Fight for Jobs is marching their route again to demand:
- A massive government scheme to create jobs which are socially useful and apprenticeships which offer guaranteed jobs at the end - both paying at least the minimum wage, with no youth exemptions.
- The immediate reinstatement of EMA payments, expanding them to be available to all 16-19 year olds.
- The immediate re-opening of all youth services that have been closed, including reinstating sacked staff.
- The scrapping of 'workfare' schemes - benefits should be based on need not forced slave labour.
- A massive building programme of environmentally sound, cheap social housing.
In The Socialist 14 September 2011:
Socialist Party features
Socialist Party youth and students
Stop attacks on pensions
Socialist Party workplace news
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party review
Socialist Party reports and campaigns