The government is running out of social homes. Instead of building new houses, they’re using the riots as an excuse to kick out vulnerable tenants and mitigate their responsibility to provide more social housing.
Under Thatcher, right-to-buy scheme created a surge in the demand for social housing which the Labour government failed to deliver. In October 2010 George Osborne outlined the Governments comprehensive spending review, in response to housing, Shelter (the housing charity) said, “The government is denying responsibility for an entire generation’s ability to access affordable housing” It’s clear that the coalition Government look to continue this.
Already, there are more than two million people who find their rent or mortgage a constant struggle or are falling behind with payments. 7.4 million homes in England fall short of the Government’s Decent Homes Standard. Whilst the risk of repossession has increased, the waiting list for social housing is still on the increase with over 1.7 million households currently waiting for a home. At the end of September 2010, 49,000 households were living in temporary accommodation arranged by local authorities. Just over 38,000 of these households had dependent children.
This has already had detrimental effects on families. Take for example this family of four, where a twelve year old child was involved in stealing a £7.49 bottle of wine – Manchester council have indicated that they are moving to evict that family. The mother described losing their home as her “biggest fear”.
Outside the courts, the Government has taken to a Victorian style of social punishment – creating a hostile environment for vulnerable families. Targeting families in social homes clearly demonstrates that the Government has identified that those involved in the riots are largely from less well-off backgrounds who have no alternative but social housing. Whilst that isn’t exonerating their actions – it does broaden the argument from ableist ‘mindless criminality’ to social issues linked with poverty that have deeper roots.
Ask yourself, do the petty actions of one twelve year old boy genuinely equate to a whole family of four losing their home?
Stories like the twelve year old boy and his family are creeping up all over the media, however – there is a worrying trend of accepting this type of social ‘punishment’ for those involved and their families. The Government has created a ‘them and us’ mentality polarising society against entire families where one (usually young) vulnerable person thought looting was ‘worth it’. Many agree that the issues here are wider than ‘mindless criminality’ – the Government have identified the link between poverty and the riots through their ‘big society’ punishment but not in the debate of why this has all happened. Why?