When David Cameron announced the abolition of housing benefit to the under 25s last month, it was clear that the Tories are badging themselves as the nasty party again.
Some 80,000 young people become homeless every year including, recently, two of my patients. Both had broken relations with their family, had to leave home and had nowhere to go. One then had to drop out of college, and the other ended up in a hostel. Staying at home would have resulted in someone being injured.
What a contrast to when I was medical student and then a young doctor in Tower Hamlets! That was at a time when there were council houses being built and we got a hard to let flat on the tenth floor of a tower block. But there’s no chance of that now. David Cameron will cut off housing and housing benefit from the under 25s forcing people back into dysfunctional families.
He talks of £2 billion being spent on housing benefit for the under-25s – interesting, that one. My first flat as a student cost me £6 a week. Prices were kept low by the rent tribunal, council flats had affordable lets and there was no need to go to the (expensive) private sector.
But successive governments have stopped the building of new council homes dead in their tracks. Our borough is handing over its housing stock to housing associations increasingly run as for profit corporations with a few notable exceptions. The vast amount of money being spent on housing benefit is not the fault of the under-25s, but of the high rents they have to face.
Then another headline caught my eye: The Observer reported that Barclays are being fined £290m for falsely reporting low Libor interest rates.
Later on in the same article it was estimated that the under-reporting of Libor had a £45 billion effect on the market after borrowers (banks) failed to pay investors who bought their products. So who were those who lost the money to the banks? Well, certainly the pension funds did – an interesting aside on our recent pensions industrial action. And, to a certain extent, local authorities now have less money to spend on housing, so rents and housing benefits will go up more.
So why do the bankers get away with it? Their fine was 0.5% of what they stole. Why are my patients left homeless, and why is Cameron slashing housing benefit for the poor and young?
My young patients tell me they can see the connections. Cameron should pray for the rain to last all summer, and hope not to see riots on the city streets again.
Dr Kambiz Boomla is a GP in Tower Hamlets and City & East London LMC Chair