Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Barnet's five circles of housing hell

Barnet council is abandoning its largely fictional waiting list for social housing - as one example of how useless it has been, one woman bid 1,000 times for a home, but she did not have sufficient points, yet no one told her she was wasting her time.

Instead, the council wants to bring in a scheme of five bands with those in most need most likely to be housed - although they will only get a limited number of offers of accommodation. People who can demonstrate they do good works in the borough will be moved to a band further in, closer to the desired object: a decent, affordable home.

If you are deemed badly behaved, you will be stuck in an outer band.

To me, this band system doesn't sound very different from the old system; surely those in an outer band have damn all chance of getting a home?

It also reinforces the censorious character that has crept into the welfare state: the right of the powerful to allocate services on the basis of whether the poor are deserving or undeserving. Look, everyone needs somewhere decent to live, that's all you need to know!

There is a Barnet Press report of the changes here. The Labour group has called the new policy in for scrutiny on 12 July. These meetings are open to the public, although few attend usually. However, it would be good, if people are worried about the decisions being taken by the council, to come and show they do care.

The band system brought to my mind Dante's nine circles of hell. There is a reminder of what they are on Wikipedia here, in case your Wednesday afternoon needs enlivening. It is interesting to note that the inner, ergo most punishing, circles of hell are reserved for fraudsters and the treacherous. Actually, it is more like the seven terraces of Purgatory, where the sinful purge their sins in order to come a little nearer to Paradise. A council flat in Barnet, Paradise. Well, it's all relative.

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