I know that Scottish Housing News may not be everyone’s constant study, but they’ve been covering an interesting dispute about housing support. The Director of Angus Housing Association, Bruce Forbes, had talked to the Dundee Evening Telegraph, expressing some criticism of the coming introduction of Local Housing Allowances in social housing, and particularly the ‘horrendous’ effect on younger single people. The DWP replied with a general justification of the policy:
These changes are about restoring fairness to the system and ensuring that those on benefits face the same choices as everyone else. The reality is, nothing will change until April 2019, and existing tenancies signed before April 1 2016 will be unaffected.
That prompted a furious public response from Mr Forbes. The DWP statement was irresponsible, “blatantly untrue” and “totally false”. The DWP were “peddling lies and misleading the public”. Since then, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations has expressed concern about the inaccurate information. (I should declare an interest here; I have previously been a consultant with SFHA and have worked with them on issues about benefits.)
There’s a point at which propaganda tips over into misinformation, and the DWP statement has done that – claiming that existing tenants won’t be affected. This is not right – everyone coming onto Universal Credit will be subject to the new rules, and in due course that should be everyone of working age. The main problem here is, of course, that people with very limited resources are suffering further cuts. The same cuts also threaten the financial security of social landlords, which is another reason that the housing associations are worried about it. Having said that, it is also worth remarking on the secondary issue. The DWP has to make sure that the information it gives out to claimants is reliable, and that has to be more important than scoring political points in the local papers.