When I first needed to claim housing benefit, the payments were delayed, leaving me in arrears. I had to involve my MP and the town clerk, but the rent arrears were already piling up. When payments are delayed, bills bounce, leaving you with hundreds of pounds in bank charges, on top of your rent arrears. When you go back to work, you need to pay for a month’s fees in advance to secure your child’s nursery place. The money allocated to benefits is for housing, food and bills. But when it is not paid in full, or not paid on time, when you have to wait 11 weeks for it due to “administrative backlog”, the money also has to pay for late payment fees, bank charges and rent arrears.
This mess is not unique to me. According to the Trussell Trust, the most cited reason for referral to food banks is delayed and missed benefit payments. Meaning, yes, Mr Gove, you were half right that food bank use is down to financial mismanagement, but it is the financial mismanagement of the Department for Work and Pensions, and the financial mismanagement of local authorities that administer housing benefit. Not quite the fault of the “feckless poor”.
A major contributor to the destitution of the poor is the incompetence of the State.
Something which is taken as being proof that the State must do more but never quite seems to imply that the State must be more efficient in what it does already.