UK minister slammed for not understanding impact of housing benefit cuts on Scottish homeless people
15 February 2011
Housing charity Shelter Scotland has accused Lord Freud the UK Minister for Welfare Reform of ignorance over the impact of housing benefit cuts on homeless people in Scotland.
The criticism follows a letter from Lord Freud in response to a Scottish Government report - backed by the charity and other welfare campaigners - in which he fails to address the negative impact of his reforms on 10 years of progressive homelessness legislation in Scotland.(1)
Shelter Scotland is concerned that the cuts to housing benefit will make it impossible for low income families to pay rent and undermine progress to the internationally-acclaimed 2012 commitment on homelessness.
Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said:
“This is just wrong and is completely unacceptable from a UK Government minister who has failed to grasp the very real difference between Scotland and England in respect of housing policy.
“Many of the proposed changes to housing benefit apply across the board in the UK, so we have been working with our UK colleagues to define exactly what the impact will be.
“However, some changes have a much more serious impact in Scotland. This is due to the different ways in which rights for homeless people are being changed. While Scotland has been extending rights, the direction of travel in England has been to reduce the number of people entitled to help.
“If these changes to housing benefit go through then they will undermine almost a decade of improvement in services to homeless people in Scotland. In his letter, worryingly, the minister appears not to understand what is happening in Scotland.”
Impact of Housing Benefit Cuts in Scotland - What the Minister Fails to Understand
(1) By ignoring the fact that increasing numbers of people in Scotland are entitled to permanent accommodation, Lord Freud fails to address the negative impact of the proposed reforms.
Shelter Scotland has outlined three areas of concern which are distinctively Scottish:
• Extension of the ‘shared room rate’ of housing benefit from single under-25s to all single people aged up to 35. This will dramatically reduce the amount of housing benefit available to that group and seriously threaten the ability of private landlords to offer settled accommodation to statutorily homeless people.
• Reductions in the subsidy available through housing benefit for temporary accommodation. While England has had a target to reduce temporary accommodation use, in Scotland, since 2002, the approach has been to allow more homeless people to get at least temporary accommodation when they previously got nothing.
• Changes to housing benefit to penalise social tenants who live in homes that are deemed too big for them. The direction of homelessness policy in Scotland is to give more single people rights to permanent accommodation. However, since there is a dearth of one-bedroom homes in the social rented sector, many of these single people will be housed in two-bedroom homes, which will attract a housing benefit penalty.
General Notes to Editors:
1. Shelter Scotland, the housing and homelessness charity. Shelter Scotland believes that everyone should have a home. We help people find and keep a home. We campaign for decent housing for all.
2. Spokespeople are available for interview, telephone the media office on 0844 515 2442. An ISDN line number is available for broadcast interviews.
3. For more information about Shelter Scotland visit www.shelter.org.uk