Sunday, 29 January 2012

what's dysfunctional about living in social housing?

click to go to The Week websiteThank goodness for The Week. In its function as a catch-up on what has appeared about current issues in national and international papers, it carries content from organisations you might not want to give any money to directly in case it encourages them.

read Leunig's original articleTake, for instance, The Guardian. In the current issue, The Week summarises an article by the paper’s Tim Leuning (left) who refers to families who "by and large, are sufficiently dysfunctional to be in social housing, and so will not be hit" by the housing benefit cap.

You can easily bend the meaning of a small excerpt, so here’s the context in Leuning’s article, called Housing benefit cap: can you live on 62p a day? (When it was published it was on p22, so not many people will have read it.)

The cap doesn't even hit the families the Daily Mail so dislikes – single parents with many children and many fathers who have never worked. Those families, by and large, are sufficiently dysfunctional to be in social housing, and so will not be hit – at least not much – by the reforms. Instead the people hit hardest are stable families previously in work on low to middle incomes – the really squeezed middle, if you like. They were not rich enough to buy a house, and not poor enough to qualify for social housing.

Without wishing to deny that there are people trapped in private rented accommodation who will be hit hard by the putative cap, Leuning’s prejudices are showing. The many feckless mothers on housing estates have high-visibility on the data-gathering processes incorporated into benefits systems. Richer women with children by multiple fathers, like Mel B, Ulrika Johnsson and Sinead O'Connor, escape the questionnaires and contumely.

I’m not trying to minimise the often traumatic circumstances that can both cause and result from quick-fire partner change for the families involved and those who have to live around them. I merely wish that Tim Leuning would scan housing estates to celebrate stable families with the gusto he presently reserves for vilifying easier targets like single mothers.

So I’d like to invite him round to my housing-association house for dinner where my wife, daughters and I can give him a piece of our dysfunctional minds. I will even fork out on an issue of The Guardian, as we'll need something to wrap the chips in.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words (not including quote)

1 comment:

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