Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Surveys reveal housing professionals are already taking the hit following benefit reform

Welfare cuts spark assaults rise fears

Front line housing workers increasingly fear for their safety because of the government’s welfare reforms, research by Inside Housing has revealed.

The results of an online survey, completed by 113 individuals from across the UK last month, showed that 83 per cent of housing officers and managers believe the welfare reforms may increase their risk of being verbally and physically assaulted. Forty-one per cent of respondents stated they already feel less safe than they did 12 months ago.

A number of front line workers provided details of incidents directly related to welfare changes, particularly the introduction of the controversial bedroom tax, which came into force on 1 April and penalises tenants on benefit who have a spare room.

One housing officer from Wales said: ‘[I have been assaulted] numerous times by tenants wanting to vent their frustration at the unfairness of the bedroom tax. As we are on the front line, housing staff are bearing the brunt of their anger.’

The news emerged as separate research by Inside Housing revealed verbal attacks against front line staff jumped by 12 per cent and physical assaults rose by 2 per cent between 2011 and 2012.

The research reveals that 11 incidents are being recorded every day by social landlords. During the first three months of this year, front line workers reported 1,064 assaults to their employers. If verbal and physical attacks continue at this rate more than 4,250 incidents would be recorded in 2013. This would be a 12 per cent rise on 2012 when 3,812 incidents were logged.

John Gray, housing association branch secretary at union Unison, said: ‘Housing officers are going to be expected to evict model tenants who have never caused any problems, who due to austerity and welfare reforms [are unable to pay their rent]. It is expected that tenants and their relatives are going to get angry.’

Responding to the findings, Jack Dromey, shadow housing minister said: ‘As the bedroom tax pushes people into dire poverty, housing staff are being blamed by desperate tenants who are wrongly taking it out on people who are there to support them.’

A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said: ‘Attacks on front line workers are utterly unacceptable.’ She added the DWP has communicated benefit changes well in advance of implementation.

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