More than half of homeless families in England are in work!

More than half of homeless families in England are in work, figures show that tens of thousands of working households are in temporary accommodation because they are unable to pay ‘hideously unaffordable’ rents, warns Shelter.

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More than half of homeless families across England are in work but soaring rent and a lack of social housing is pushing more households into temporary accommodation, a charity has warned.

Data obtained by Shelter shows that more than 33,000 families in temporary accommodation are holding down a job despite having nowhere stable to live – a figure that has increased by 73 per cent since 2013, when it was 19,000 families.

One single mother, Mary Smith, who works full-time in a shoe shop, told The Independent she and her three sons had been stuck in a “vicious cycle” of unstable temporary accommodation for two years after being evicted from their private rented property. They have been unable to afford to rent somewhere else.

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They are among thousands of working households in low-paid, part-time or contract jobs that are no longer able to afford rents and are therefore being forced into poor and overcrowded temporary accommodation, according to Shelter.

The charity said losing a tenancy was now the single biggest cause of homelessness in the country, accounting for more than a quarter (27 per cent) of all households accepted as homeless in the last year.

It comes after analysis revealed at least 310,500 households in England have been waiting to be moved into social homes for more than half a decade, with more than 100,000 stuck on waiting lists for more than 10 years and some waiting for as many as 18 years.

Separate research by Heriot-Watt University in May showed the country had a backlog of 3.91 million homes, meaning 340,000 new homes need to be built each year until 2031 – a figure significantly higher than the government’s current target of 300,000 homes annually.

Ms Smith and her three sons, now aged 18, 19 and 21, had lived in a private rented property in Watford for 13 years when the landlord evicted them two years ago, forcing them to move into a hostel.

“We were stuck in an absolute hobble of a rat-infested hostel. Food would get stolen. I nearly lost my job when we first became homeless because transport links to work were so bad,” said Ms Smith.

The family spent three months in the hostel before being moved into temporary accommodation, and they have since been moved to two other temporary properties, which Ms Smith said was destabilising for both her and her sons.

Despite working full-time and recently getting a pay rise, her salary is not enough to rent a property. “I feel like we’re in a vicious cycle. We’ve been in properties that are freezing and have mould crawling up the walls. And we’re still uncertain of our future. The boys have gone through a lot. It’s meant they haven’t reached their potential. There’s just no safety net for us,” she said.

“I love my job and have worked there for four and a half years. I’ve just accepted a 40 hour a week temporary to cover the manager, which meant I got a pay rise, but I don’t see any benefit from the salary.

“Higher pay doesn’t seem to make you better off because it just means you get less support. I’ve struggled to put food on the table. As a proud person, I don’t like asking for help, but it’s from the kindness of friends we got through. It’s heartbreaking.”

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said it was “disgraceful” that even when families were working every hour they could, they were still being forced to live through the “grim reality of homelessness”.

“In many cases, these are parents who work all day or night before returning to a cramped hostel or B&B where their whole family is forced to share a room. A room with no space for normal family life like cooking, playing or doing homework,” she added.

“We cannot allow struggling families to slip through the cracks created by our housing crisis – the government must urgently come up with a new plan for social housing that delivers the genuinely affordable homes we desperately need.

“Our commission on the future of social housing will be calling for bold solutions, because more of the same is simply not good enough”

A Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesperson said: “Everyone deserves a safe and decent place to live and we are providing more than £1.2bn so all those left homeless get the support they need.

“Councils have a duty to provide suitable temporary accommodation to those who need it, and families with children get priority. So families can get a permanent home, we are investing £9bn in affordable properties, including £2bn for social rent housing.”

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Universal credit driving social housing tenants into debt and hardship

‘Flawed’ universal credit driving social housing tenants into debt and hardship
Housing federations join forces to warn that the Universal Credit system is “flawed” and causing debt, suffering and hardship.

The National Housing Federation, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, Community Housing Cymru and the Northern Irish Federation of Housing Associations, are joining together to warn that the Universal Credit system is “flawed” and causing debt, suffering and hardship for the families they house.

Together these organisations represent more than 1,000 housing associations housing over 6.9m people, and they are urgently calling on the Government to change their flagship benefit policy before it is rolled out to all parts of the country this year.

Public Accounts Committee Oral evidence on Universal Credit

 This includes scrapping the “two child policy” where families only receive benefits to cover the cost of their first two children.

Surveys of 118 housing associations in England, Wales, and Scotland reveal that their Universal Credit tenants are in £24m of rent arrears. This figure is only a snapshot of what’s happening to social housing tenants across the country on Universal Credit and it’s likely there are many more people struggling financially.

According to the surveys, a total of 65 English housing associations revealed that tenants were dealing with £21.6m of debt. A sample of 29 housing associations in Wales had £1.1m worth of arrears, while 24 housing associations in Scotland had well over £1.2m of arrears debt from tenants on Universal Credit.

New Tory housing chief says rough sleepers are ‘too comfortable’ on the streets

The amount of accumulated debt is highest in England because Universal Credit was rolled out there first and has far more people on Universal Credit. In England, in December 2017, there were 155,669 households in the social rented sector who were reliant on Universal Credit to help pay their rent; the figures for Wales and Scotland were 5,339 and 24,368 households respectively.

While tenants may have existing arrears before moving on to Universal Credit, the survey of English housing associations found that tenants on Universal Credit are more than twice as likely to be in debt compared to all other tenants. Nearly three quarters (73%) of Universal Credit tenants are in debt, compared to less than a third (29%) of all other tenants.

This is also the case in Scotland, where two thirds (65%) of Universal Credit tenants are in arrears, compared to less than a third (32%) for all other tenants.

Social tenants on Universal Credit in over £1m rent arrear debt

Moreover, the English survey found there has been a significant increase in demand for support services from housing associations as more people are moved on to the new system. More than half (51%) of housing associations in England have reported an increase in food bank vouchers issued to people struggling to pay for food, while nearly two thirds (59%) reported an increase in demand for welfare advice needed to help tenants say in their homes.

Universal Credit is merging six existing benefits into one and is being introduced gradually across the UK. To date it has been rolled out to around 10% of potential claimants in Great Britain, approximately 920,000 people.

 The number of people in receipt of Universal Credit is set to double this year and it is estimated that around 6.7m working age people will be registered by 2023.

The “two child policy” has been blamed for pushing families into poverty because families will no longer receive benefits to cover the cost of feeding and clothing more than two children. So too has the overall benefit cap, which is applied regardless of how high a families’ rent is or the number of children they need to support.

Moreover, under Universal Credit housing association staff have to go through a separate consent process every time they try and sort out a problem with the Department for Work and Pensions on behalf of vulnerable tenants.

This makes it significantly harder for housing associations to sort out issues, causing unnecessary delays and stress and hardship for people.

The UK Government addressed some of Universal Credit’s flaws in the last budget in October 2017 and has already committed to making some changes to prevent severely disabled people losing out.

However, the four housing federations say these changes aren’t enough, and are now urging Government to make five vital changes before hundreds of thousands more people move on to Universal Credit.

The housing federations are calling on the UK Government to:

  • Allow housing association staff and agencies, such as Citizens Advice, to sort out problems with Universal Credit as advocates for tenants. This will help solve problems earlier and minimise rent arrears.
  • Scrap the “two child policy” and “benefit cap limit” pushing families into poverty.
    Ensure Universal Credit is paid to people and their landlords on time, at the same timeThe DWP has set up a system of Alternative Payment Arrangements so that in some circumstances people’s housing costs can be paid direct to their landlord. At the moment, landlords receive this money in arrears on varied and unpredictable dates which causes confusion. Landlords should be paid rent at the same time it is deducted from the tenants benefit.
  • The Department for Work and Pensions agreed to put in place Universal Support to provide advice, assistance and support to tenants. They must adapt it to cope with greater numbers and more complex cases, and provide the funding to support more tenants.
  • Government needs to restore the in-work allowances and revise the rules so that the self-employed, those working in the gig economy with fluctuating pay packets or those who are not paid monthly do not lose out. Present policies mean people are losing money as a consequence of moving onto Universal Credit now.

David Orr, Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation said: “Today’s findings show that the Government urgently needs to fix the fundamental flaws in Universal Credit.

“There are some very simple changes they need to make, like ensuring payments are made on time and allowing housing associations to easily negotiate on behalf of vulnerable tenants, so tenants get their money when they need it. If people aren’t receiving money on time, of course they’re being pushed in to debt. People depend on these vital payments.

“But the Government also needs to make bold decisions like amending the two child policy. Families across Great Britain with more than two children are finding themselves with the same amount of money whilst trying to provide the basics for more children.

“Although the Government has made some positive changes to Universal Credit that will make a difference to families, serious challenges remain and they urgently need to be sorted out.”

Sally Thomas, Chief Executive of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations said: “We have worked with the Government and made significant strides in making Universal Credit fit for purpose.

“We would like to see the UK Government accept our five asks as they will allow for further vital changes that will facilitate better administration of Universal Credit and reduce its negative effects on tenants.

“Housing associations are doing everything they can to support tenants through the system but huge challenges remain. To date barely 12% of the total number of claimants have moved over to Universal Credit.”

Stuart Ropke, Chief Executive of Community Housing Cymru said: “The recent changes to Universal Credit are welcome, but as it stands, the system is still not fully fit for purpose.

“Implementing our five asks will improve the mechanisms of the policy while empowering tenants to take responsibility for their finances. However, to do this, it’s crucial more support is offered around budgeting to improve financial and digital literacy among the most vulnerable in our society.”

Ben Collins, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations said: “A number of important points are raised in these five asks, which we support. In Northern Ireland the UC roll out is at an earlier stage than the rest of the UK and therefore we do not think a pause is necessary for the region.

“Working closely with the Department for Communities we have secured some important changes. The housing element is paid direct to landlords by default. Joint claims can have the personal element split between both claimants. The personal element can be paid twice monthly instead of once a month as in the rest of the UK.

“Over the coming months housing associations will continue to work closely with their tenants to help ensure that the UC rollout is as smooth a process as possible. “NIFHA will also work in partnership on an ongoing basis with the other UK housing federations, Department for Communities and other stakeholders.”

Disclaimer: This is an official press release from the National Housing Federation.

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New Tory Housing Minister hates the homeless

Kit Malthouse was named today as the eighth Housing Minister since 2010 – taking on Theresa May’s pledge to “fix the broken market”

Kit Malthouse openly admitted making homeless people’s lives “uncomfortable”

The new Tory Housing Minister openly admitted he made life “uncomfortable” for the homeless as part of a zero-tolerance crackdown. Kit Malthouse was named today as the eighth Tory Housing Minister in eight years – taking on Theresa May’s stalled pledge to “fix the broken market”.

But he can expect scrutiny over his previous approach to homelessness when he was deputy leader of Westminster City Council, which he left in 2006. Under his watch, the council was accused by one London Assembly member of adopting a “ruthless” policy towards homeless people that included “hosing them out of doorways”.

Asked in 2008 if he was behind such a “hosing” policy, Mr Malthouse replied: “We certainly instituted a policy of making life – it sounds counterintuitive and cruel – more uncomfortable; that is absolutely right.”

He added during the 2008 hearing: “One of the targets [I was] set was to more than halve the number in Westminster. “Working with a number of charities and groups across Westminster we analysed the problem, and one of the issues was that in many ways – it sounds counterintuitive – life was too comfortable on the street.

“I know that sounds an awful thing to say but let me finish the argument, OK? “There were, at the time, plenty, well-funded – we managed to get quite a lot of funding – night shelters and night centres; we managed to extract a cheque for £130,000 for St. Martin’s so it could stay open all night.

“The difficulty was getting rough sleepers into those centres so that they could be interacted with, their needs could be met.”

In 2004, after 27 homeless people were arrested in a joint operation between the council and police, Mr Malthouse suggested the “zero tolerance” policy could be adopted by other areas.

The Independent quoted him as saying: “The idea that everyone begging is down on their luck is a fantasy.” At the time of the 2008 accusations, by then-London Assembly member Jenny Jones, Mr Malthouse strongly defended his record and flatly denied being ruthless.

“The work we did in Westminster was welcomed by almost all the charities,” he said.

But a Labour local government spokesman said today: “In her desperation, Theresa May has appointed a new Housing Minister whose callous disregard for the lives of homeless people should immediately rule him out of the job.

“We desperately need a Government prepared to tackle this crisis, but with a divided and shambolic Government this country is at a standstill. The Prime Minister has zero authority left.”

Mr Malthouse, who was a Work and Pensions Minister, was named the new Housing Minister today after Dominic Raab was promoted to Brexit Secretary by crisis-hit Theresa May. The Prime Minister has vowed to completely eliminate rough sleeping by 2027 – despite it more than doubling since the Tories took power.


The DWP: more bad news

On Monday 9 July, the DWP released the latest statistics for the time it took new “full service” Universal Credit claimants to get their first payment. The figures for February this year show [pdf, p2] that, of new claims:

  • 83% got their full payment on time, with 90% getting “some” payment on time.
  • 94% got full payment within four weeks of the “payment due date”.
  • 97% got full payment within eight weeks of the due date.

Compared with the last set of DWP figures, this is an improvement in statistical terms. In the week commencing 2 January 2017, only 54% of new claimants got their full payment on time [pdf, p13]. By the week commencing 19 June 2017, this had increased to 77% [pdf, p13].

So yes, the statistics have improved. But the ‘real-world’ impact of 17% of Universal Credit claimants not getting their full payment on time is somewhat different. source

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More private high-rises with flammable cladding than expected

Government criticised for not knowing how many of the towers are in private hands

Image result for grenfell tower memes

The number of people living in privately owned high-rise flats with combustible cladding similar to that used on Grenfell Tower is much higher than previously believed, the Guardian understands.

Ministers are planning to launch a taskforce to help councils identify the type of cladding in use on private tower blocks higher than 18 metres (60ft) amid growing concern that, more than a year since the Grenfell Tower disaster, officials still do not know.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) ordered councils to identify all private high-rise residential buildings with aluminium composite cladding by the end of May and the results are set to be announced.

Sources familiar with the work said it is expected to show a significant increase on the current number of 138. Ministers have voiced frustration that private landlords have not come forward in sufficient numbers to declare whether their buildings are clad in combustible materials that have failed fire tests.

A leading member of the survivors group Grenfell United, Ed Daffarn, warned that “Grenfell two is in the post” unless urgent action is taken to remove combustible cladding across the country.

Some 159 council and social housing blocks have already been identified as containing combustible cladding. The government has pledged to take £400m from the current affordable housing budget to help fund repairs.

Progress on private buildings is proving slower because some freeholders are arguing that leaseholders should foot the bill. Ministers have insisted freeholders should pay, but have no enforcement powers.

Discussions are under way to create a multi-disciplinary team made up of experts from building control, the fire brigade and environmental health to support local authorities working with private high-rise residential building owners to resolve the problem.

A spokesman for MHCLG declined to comment on the plans for the taskforce.

Labour said the cladding issue underlined how “ministers have been off the pace at every stage in response” to the fire, which killed 72 people.

“Over a year on, it’s shameful that the government still doesn’t know how many tower blocks are covered in Grenfell-style cladding,” said John Healey, the shadow housing secretary. “Ministers must now publish in full the location, ownership and testing status of all high-rise blocks, and set a deadline for all blocks to be identified and made safe.”

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Number of new social homes has plummeted by almost 90% under Tories

Labour say “it’s clear Ministers are still not building the homes the country needs”.

The number of new homes built for social rent has plummeted by almost 90% since the Tories entered power with the Liberal Democrats in 2010, according to official figures.

Official data reveals that only 1,409 social homes were started in England in 2017/18, compared to 39,402 in 2009/10, with the actual number of social homes predicted to fall by 230,000 by 2020.

This comes after the Government opted to divert funding for social housing into so-called “affordable homes”, that can be rented out at up to 80% of local market value.
Genuine social housing is far cheaper to rent, with average rents capped at around 50% of local market value. The dramatic drop in the completion of new social homes over the last decade means that low-income families are being pushed into the more expensive private rental sector.

Council ignored medical evidence when deciding man’s housing application

More social homes were built last year than during the previous year, after the Government reacted to the Grenfell Tower tragedy, but Labour say the Government still aren’t investing enough money in genuinely affordable homes (i.e homes for social rent)

John Healey MP, Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary, said: “A year since Theresa May admitted that the Conservatives haven’t given enough attention to social housing, it’s clear Ministers are still not building the homes the country needs.“After 8 years of failure on housing, the Conservatives should back Labour’s long-term plan for a million new genuinely affordable homes.”

Tory Housing Minister Dominic Raab said: “It’s good news to see affordable housing starts and completions rising.

“We are ambitious to do much more to build the homes Britain needs, and to make them more affordable for those on low and middle incomes.”

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More housing news

‘Scandal’ of mentally ill rough sleepers left to die on London’s streets

Research shows a substantial rise in number of rough sleepers with mental health issues who have died on London’s streets.

A leading homelessness charity has called on the Prime Minister to take urgent action to prevent further deaths among homeless people, as damning figures reveal a substantial rise in the number of mentally ill rough sleepers who have died on London’s streets.

Shocking research from the homelessness charity St Mungo’s, shows that 80% of rough sleepers who died on London’s streets in 2017 had mental health issues, compared to 29% in 2010.

St Mungo’s says the startling figure should serve as a wake up call for Theresa May’s Government, describing a lack in specialist mental health services as a “scandal” that needs to be recognised and urgently acted upon.

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Petra Salva, director of St Mungo’s rough sleeping services, said: “This is a scandal and something the government needs to recognise and do more about. “There should be more funds and support for these groups but instead they have been cut over the years and that correlates in these people stuck living on the streets.” “These deaths are preventable”, said Salva.

““The rise is because rough sleepers with mental health support needs end up sleeping rough, and the help isn’t there and when it is there it is not quick enough. “Access to help and support is getting harder and so the prevalence of death is increasing.”

St Mungo’s research follows the results of a survey published yesterday by the London-based homelessness charity Evolve Housing + Support, revealing that nearly 9 in 10 homeless people have experienced serious mental health problems.

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The charities’ report ‘Breaking the Cycle of Trauma’ reveals 87% of homeless people in London have suffered from some kind of mental health issue. Debra Ives, Director of Operations at Evolve Housing + Support, said: “Our research shows just how closely experiences of trauma, especially in childhood, are linked to a higher risk of poor mental health and homelessness later in life.

“We must remember that homelessness itself is traumatic and that problems get worse and more complex the longer people go without help. “Counselling is one of the best tools for dealing with trauma but it must be available quickly to have an impact.

“When local authority budgets are so stretched and NHS waiting times so long, we are going to miss opportunities to help people if we’re not able to provide services ourselves – that’s why we’re now appealing to the public to help us break the cycle of homelessness and turn people’s lives around.”

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UNIVERSAL CREDIT:“After my rent is paid, I will have £20 to last me a month”

Universal Credit survey: Author: Liam.Evans@turn2us.org.uk
11/06/2018
uni-cred-protest
“After my rent is paid, I will have £20 to last me a month”

A new survey has revealed that large debts and arrears are building up amongst Universal Credit claimants.

The Department for Work and Pensions has conducted a survey of over 1,400 Universal Credit recipients.

One of the key findings shows that 65% of claimants in arrears only fell into these after they started claiming Universal Credit.

Claimants have told us that the large debts being built up are due to the lengthy waiting times for an initial payment, being paid monthly in arrears and reduced incomes compared to legacy benefits.

This resonates with our own research which shows that:

  1. The minimum five-week waiting period is often leaving the most vulnerable in society with nothing to survive on while they wait
  2. Being paid monthly in arrears is resulting in people struggling to pay bills that are often a month in advance, such as rent
  3. Universal Credit is by and large less generous than the system it is replacing – this reduction in income means people are worse off.

As a result of this, people claiming Universal Credit are contacting us in desperation. One claimant told us: “I am going to be in the position where after my rent is paid, I will have £20 to last me a month.”

Universal Credit survey statistics

  • Over a third are experiencing housing payment arrears
  • Among those who were in arrears, 65% only fell into debt after they made their claim
  • 4 in 10 are struggling to keep up with their bills eight to nine months into their claim
  • Just under half had fallen behind with bills and credit commitments within three months of their claim
  • 71% of those in arrears three months into their claim were still in arrears eight months in – and 44% said their debt had become larger
  • 50% had to obtain additional funds during the three months prior to interview
  • 33% of claimants had received money from friends or family
  • 11% had gained or extended a bank overdraft.

If you are struggling on Universal Credit, find out what else you may be entitled to by using the Turn2us Benefits Calculator.

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