The DWP misleads tenants about benefit changes

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.

2 comments

  1. Alan Parker

    As much as I agree this will pose a problem that housing associations will struggle , it must be said as I am one of them , these social landlords have kept older stock mainly transferred from the council that are not fit for purpose.

    They are keeping mainly vulnerable tenants in homes that are just substandard , yet rents are close to that of private landlords , we also have a situation were social landlords spend rent money on work tenants already pay for via council tax , they also open second hand shops next to other second hand shops and charity shops again subsidised by rents , rather than spend rents on home upgrades

    Scotland needs a full rent revaluation as majority of social landlord homes with inter war tenements and other older property’s are keeping tenants in fuel poverty and charging private rent prices for the privilege , plus as I said landlords are more interested in doing work my council tax already pays for etc rather than use products like Aerotherm . Ask your social landlord that you need pipes boxed in , it’s lets plywood it as we need your rent to subsidise the shops we open !

    I have a current complaint with toothless SPSO against council / housing and I doubt it will get anywhere as the SPSO are impotent and the system is rigged against tenants. I should have went legal route as I now have to wait until complaint complete and I would advise others go legal as social landlords would rather look good than do good and are backed up by councils who transferred the crap housing stock to them in the first place. A tag team keep tenants down !

    So as much as I agree it could be a mess, a simple rent revaluation would give a truer reflection of worth and ask anyone staying in there crapshack , they are not worth it !

    At the last count the number of homes in Scotland in fuel poverty was 748,000 number in extreme fuel poverty 203, 000 , I bet you anything the majority will be housing stock social landlords decided to keep and in many cases against the majority tenant view , yet and still social landlords will spend hundreds of thousands of our rents on doing work my council tax already pays for and open second hand shops !

    Rent revaluation would alleviate the problem to a great extent !

  2. Joe Kaliszczak

    Stock transfers to social landlords have always worried me; I am aware of two, one in Sale, I think to Irwell Valley, and the other in Bolton, to Bolton at Home, both went through on a miserly turn out, equating, if I remember correctly, to much less than 20% of the tenants. Thanks for the article, Linda.

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