The UK Government’s move to abolish housing benefit will cause the most suffering among low income families and the disabled in Scotland, warns debt management company Scottish Trust Deeds.
Glasgow, Scotland -- (SBWIRE) -- 09/03/2012 -- A report by the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) claims the move to replace housing benefit with a single payment through universal credit – which is due to begin in April 2013 - will mean social tenants will lose “lose hundreds of millions of pounds”.
The report - The Impact of Welfare Reform on Housing Associations and Housing Co-operatives in Scotland - that was recently published by the SFHA claims that by 2017 between £123m and £228m will be ‘saved’ by the Scottish Government, but at the cost of tenants footing the bill.
Director of policy at the SFHA, Maureen Watson, said: “The findings of our report lay bare the real financial loss to working-age tenants in our sector, who are already on low incomes and many of whom are currently struggling with their finances. The report also makes disturbing reading for our members, housing associations and co-operatives, who are charitable or not-for-profit providers of social housing.”
The new universal credit will see social tenants being expected to contribute towards the rent if they are living in a property that is larger than their needs, a move which has outraged many. Recent estimates suggest SFHA tenants will lose around £33.5m a year in housing benefit, and another £50m due to changes in the base figures used for inflation calculations. A further £50m is expected to be lost to housing associations and co-ops due to tenant arrears.
Concerns about the impact of the proposed plans on the vulnerable in Scotland have led many MSPs to criticize the move. SNP MSP John Wilson said: “The UK government’s welfare reform programme will target the most vulnerable in our communities and will cause further problems for those in receipt of council tax benefits.”
Labour MSP Richard Baker said: “The SFHA is entirely correct to say that these changes are going to be highly destructive to many families in Scotland.”
Some have gone so far as to say the plans will lead to a sharp rise in levels of poverty and homelessness, but the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) insists the changes are needed to stop the spiraling costs of benefits to the UK and suggests caution is needed when interpreting the SFHA report because of some of the assumptions it has been based on.
A spokesperson for Trust Deed Scotland Company; TrustDeeds.net said: “The department of Work and Pensions has said that the welfare reforms will make the system fairer and improve the current use of social housing, some of which is being ‘under-utilised’. I can’t see how placing social tenants in properties larger than they need if that’s all that is available and then demanding extra money from them is very fair at all.”
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