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Welfare reform and the affect in Norwich

Dozens of charities and organisations came together for a seminar in Norwich City Council over the weekend to discuss the potential impact of the Welfare Reform Bill.

Top on the agenda was the fear that thousands of people in Norwich would end up worse off because of proposed changes to housing benefit, disability allowances, council tax benefit and child maintenance. In particular, there was alarm that under proposals of bringing all benefits together under the Universal Credit, benefits would be capped and housing benefit cut for people who had “spare” rooms.

Labour Peer Baroness Hollis recognised that they now needed to go on the offensive. Baronness Hollis recognised that the principles of the Universal Credit was good but the problem was that it was part of a turf war between the Department forWork and Pensions and Department for Communities and Local Government. The impact would be severest on the poorest people in the community.

Shelter also had serious misgivings;

Lesley Burdett, Shelter’s service manager in Norwich, said: “These welfare reforms are a big concern for Shelter. We see it is undermining housing need for lots of individuals, particularly in Norwich.

Particular concerns included plans to cut housing benefit to people in social housing who live in homes which are “too big” for them.

An estimated 2,820 council tenants in Norwich could be affected by these proposals. Tenants with one spare room who decide not to move are set to lose up to 15 per cent of their housing benefit and those with two or more could lose 25per cent from April 2013.

The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham James, was one of 18 Church of England Bishops who signed an open letter calling for the government to think again over the shake-up, which includes a planned £500-a-week benefits cap for families.

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HomeSwap Direct scheme launched

HomeSwap Direct scheme launched

 

A new national scheme has been launched by Housing Minister Grant Shapps, which will allow social housing tenants wanting to swap their home to see every available property in the country.

This may enable tenants to move house in order to find a new job, or move to a property which is better suited to their needs and that of their family. Allowing tenants to see a much wider selection of properties than ever before provides greater choice for potential swaps

 

 

The scheme will be online, and so this will make advertised swaps much more accessible for tenants and the possibility of moving house ‘just a click away’.

Improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the home swap system is expected to not only bring economic benefit for tenants and their families by putting them in a position to take up more opportunities, but could also help provide overcrowded families with new opportunities to move into a larger home, swapping with other tenants whose children have moved on and now need a smaller property easier to heat and maintain.

Grant Shapps said:

“It’s crazy that some people don’t want council tenants to have the same life opportunities as everyone else. At the moment tenants who live in social homes might be able to move nearby, but there’s almost no chance of a longer-distance move to take up a new job offer or move closer to their family.

“I’m not content to restrict opportunities for the eight million social tenants in this country – that’s why we are determined to shake up the lazy consensus that traps people in this system. HomeSwap Direct will give tenants access to a wider range of properties than ever before, and the chance to move anywhere in the country.

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Website: Communities and Local Government

 

Amanda Frewin

Research & Project Support

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Government announces recipients of innovative projects to support Housing Benefit reforms

 

The Minister for Welfare Reform announced ten recipients who will share a total of a £4 million fund to “provide innovative support by working with voluntary organisations, providing free advice to landlords and tenants, creating a digital service to match landlords with tenants”.

This £4 million is part of an extra £190 million additional funding to ease the situation over the current spending review period, and is designed to allow, for example Local Authorities network with local charities and other community groups to offer help to claimants to create a data base that would match landlords with tenants.

Lord Freud announcing the successful bids said:

 

It’s absolutely vital that we take urgent steps to manage Housing Benefit expenditure, which has been spiralling out of control for more than a decade….

 

We want families on benefits to make the same choices as working families about where they live – but there’s no reason for anyone to be made homeless ….”

Comment

Any additional assistance from the government must be welcomed however some questions need to be asked. Are these measures going to be enough to prevent homelessness? Equally important, will it prevent the proliferation of  areas of deprivation consisting of low quality, high density housing, with the resulting social problems like crime, long term health problems and educational needs.

Furthermore, it can be argued that it is pointless having a data base of landlords who are offering tenants rents that are outside their ability to afford, or that tenants are being treated illegally when they are unable to seek legal redress owing to the changes in legal aid.

The logical solution in dealing with a situation where demand exceeds supply – creating a whole generation unable to afford decent housing – is to build more affordable homes. Like the massive rebuilding boom after the war, the benefits were very clear to see. Poverty and deprivation decreased markedly; overall general educational standards increased thus fuelling the overall economic recovery.

The successful applicants were:

Cambridge City Council
Cambridge City Council on behalf of the Northgate Benefits Product Group will allow up to 168 local authorities across the UK highlight tenants who may be affected by the changes using special software.

North London Housing Partnership
Led by the London Borough of Haringey with voluntary organisation Islington People’s Rights, two hubs in North London will provide monetary advice, support with rent negotiations and practical assistance to help households across six local authority areas.

East London Housing Partnership.
A new Social Lettings Agency will provide free services to landlords across eight local authorities in East London to avoid management costs and reduce rents, as well as support for tenants who may have to move.

London Borough of Lambeth.
The London Borough of Lambeth, working in partnership with local voluntary groups, will launch a tenancy support service to target and support people who will be affected by the changes.

London Borough of Brent.
The London Borough of Brent will be working with the voluntary sector to provide advice for Housing Benefit claimants.

Cardiff City Council.
A website for all of Wales run by Cardiff City Council will provide information and support for people affected by the changes to housing benefit.

Kirklees Council.
A new digital service which could help up to 50,000 households by matching landlords and tenants who want to rent at Local Housing Allowance rates across five local authority areas in West Yorkshire.

Bristol City Council.
A partnership between Bristol City Council, Bristol Credit Union, three neighbouring local authorities, the West of England Partnership and the National Landlords Association will establish services for landlords and tenants.

Association of Greater Manchester Authorities.
Tenants in 13 local authorities in the North West will be given help in negotiating rents as well as general money advice from the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities. Advice and support for landlords will also be provided.

Edinburgh Council.
A one-stop shop will be established with local voluntary groups to target those affected in Edinburgh.

David Healey

Project Support Officer

http://www.dwp.gov.uk/newsroom/press-releases/2011/aug-2011/dwp095-11.shtml

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Read about it and visit

S.W.A.T Press Release

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The government is to face a legal challenge to its welfare reforms after Child Poverty Action Group announced it has issued proceedings for judicial review.

The charity has argued that changes to housing benefit due to come into force next month, will make large areas off limits to the poor; restrictions include;

  • Restriction of maximum household size to four bedrooms,
  • Caps on the amount of housing benefit a household can receive: capped at £400 a week for a four-bedroom home and £340 for a three-bedroom property.

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Duncan-Smith reveals housing benefit “Adjustmemt”

Unemployed people will not face a 10% cut in housing benefit, it was disclosed today.  The Welfare Reform Bill, published today, was amended to ensure those out of work for more than a year will not be penalised.  The cut had been proposed by the Chancellor, George Osborne, during the government’s emergency budget in June.  The omission of this proposed sanction has been deemed the second U-Turn of the week for the government as the coalition was forced to repeal its plans to sell-off forests in England.

yesMinister sees this as evidence that the Government is really listening!

Mr. Duncan Smith explained on the Today Programme:

“You won’t see this (10% housing benefit cut) in the bill for one very good reason – the more we looked at this, the more we reviewed the interplay between that reduction at 12 months and the Universal Credit and the Work Programme, it meant that all of those people were going to move on to the Work Programme anyway, so they would be having intensive help to get them back to work.”

The Guardian has reported that the housing benefit cuts were withdrawn under the insistence of the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg MP, who, along with his Liberal Democrat colleague was concerned the proposal would hit the poor twice.  There were also doubts as to whether private landlords would consider renting to those claiming jobseekers allowance, a provision that would be dramatically reduced had the original government proposal gone through.  However, Mr. Duncan-Smith has refuted the suggestion that the cuts were omitted due to opposition from his coalition colleagues, stating “I am fully at one with Nick on this.”

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Liam Byrne commented:

“Labour has consistently called on the Tory-led government to abandon this change so we welcome their U-turn.  They need a Plan B for the economy and a bigger welfare to work programme. At the moment they have neither.”

Not sure that the opposition has much credibility in this area as many see the current abuse of the benefit system as being  caused by their very relaxed approach to welfare.

 

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