Thursday, 26 March 2015

Groups united in opposition to benefit cuts

The government’s proposed cuts to housing benefit have come under fire from all sides, with charities, industry bodies and trade unions all voicing their opposition to the plans.

What's the benefit logo

In a submission to the work and pensions select committee inquiry into the changes, charity body Homeless Link says the government will not save money through the cuts.

It warns that the plan to dock housing benefit by 10 per cent from claimants who have been on Jobseeker’s Allowance for more than a year will cost the state £3.3 billion annually, rather than producing a saving.

The charity used figures from the National Housing Federation warning that 202,000 people will be at risk of homelessness if the coalition government’s plans to cut the housing benefit bill go ahead.

Its submission says that even if only half of those at risk of homelessness from the changes ended up on the streets, the knock-on effects would still cost the state £1.7 billion annually.

‘There is no logical or moral justification for linking a person’s housing costs to the price of sausages and net curtains.’

Ian Fletcher, director of policy, BPF

The Trades Union Congress warned the changes to jobseeker’s allowance would cost 200,000 unemployed people £500 a year, in its submission to the inquiry.

The British Property Federation’s submission warns the cuts are a ‘recipe for destitution’, and could force hundreds of thousands of people to leave their homes and jobs.

It says families on local housing allowance may be priced out of areas with the most employment opportunities once government caps to the amount of housing benefit payable come into force from next April.

The federation estimates there are more than 400,000 new claimants who will be hit by the changes, and that a further 400,000 people already in work and claiming the benefit will be priced out of their homes.

Ian Fletcher, director of policy, said: ‘Reform is needed, but yet more piecemeal changes to local housing allowance are just making a flawed system worse.’

The BPF also criticises the plan to link housing benefit to the consumer price index, rather than the higher retail price index. Its submission points to evidence from the Treasury which shows rents grow at a higher rate than CPI.

Earlier this week housing charity Shelter published research commissioned from the University of Cambridge showing the housing benefit cuts will push an extra 27,000 families into poverty.

The charity questioned how the policy was compatible with the government’s aim of ending child poverty by 2020. Chief executive Campbell Robb said: ‘It’s hard to see how the government plans to lift children out of poverty when one of its first big reforms threatens the futures of thousands of children who are already living on a knife edge.’

Inside Housing is running a campaign calling on the government to find a fairer way to reduce housing benefit costs. Our petition on the subject has been signed by 1,159 people.

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