Sunday, 31 August 2014

A helping hand

Some people have accused Wandsworth Council of applying a double whammy for new council tenants… lose your job and you lose your home. This isn’t the case. What we intend to do, as part of a pilot project, is to use fixed-term tenancies to provide support for people to get into work. In return, we expect them to take up opportunities available. If, after two years, people are still unemployed and there is evidence they have refused to take up opportunities, I think it is fair to give that home to someone who is prepared to work. Just like any good pilot, we are committed to reviewing it and learning lessons before deciding to roll it out further.

We need to reset our parameters on housing policy away from tick-box qualification towards one which is focused on progression, reward for effort and mobility. Social housing should be a starting point, not an end point. We want people to get on in life, ideally moving out of social housing and freeing up stock for other people or buying the property they are in so assets can be reinvested and recycled - a dynamic housing sector, rather than a static one. We want to refocus social housing so its primary aim is to provide our low-income working residents with a local housing option. Social housing is a scarce commodity and should be used to inspire and help people to improve their lives.

If you live in communities where unemployment is seen as the norm, it is hard to break the habit. We want our estates to be thriving, mixed communities. So do the vast majority of people living on them.

Around 30 per cent of working age people on our estates claim full housing benefit, while unemployment levels stand at around 3 per cent. This picture is not unrepresentative of the rest of the country. In September there were 1,522 local job vacancies and 22,000 available in inner London. Times are hard, but opportunities are there.

How will this be applied? Let me give some examples. If people are made redundant, of course we are not going to take their home away. They will have time and support to get back on their feet. If they are trying their best to find a job, and those supporting them can evidence this, we will give them time to find work. The new policy will only be applied in the small minority of cases where there is clear evidence that people are foregoing opportunities. Those opportunities could even include taking on voluntary work where there are clear skills benefits.

Sitting on the sofa all day waiting for your benefits cheque should never be an option. Here in Wandsworth, we want to offer diverse and transformative housing solutions that support individual achievement and use social housing to give a hand-up rather than a handout.

Paul Ellis is cabinet member for housing at Wandsworth Council

Readers' comments (2)

  • F451

    I see you neglect to mention how you are going to fund the extra checks, or where those you evict will end up housed and at what cost.

    PR gestures and competing to be the biggests bully are not good government. Deminising tenants is not being a good landlord.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Duplicity........ you must prove that you actively seeking work to get JSA. Mr Ellis should heed the growing unemployment queue. The "jobs" mentioned are temporary / minimum wage paid by unscrupulous employers expecting you to work like a dog for next to nothing. The problems appear when Mr Ellis with his comfy council "expenses" - tax-free £thousands decides whether you are actively seeking work in his opinion.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

sign in register

Related

Articles

  • Queen's speech: Same old story

    06/06/2014

    After the upheaval of last week’s European elections there was a return to the norm this week in the Queen’s Speech.

  • Council uses s106 to require developer to build PRS

    04/07/2014

    Council requires Bellway to develop private as well as affordable housing

  • DWP reveals nearly 500,000 households affected by bedroom tax

    19 February 2014

    The Department for Work and Pensions has today released statistics breaking down the number of households affected by the bedroom tax and the average amount deducted from housing benefit.

  • Never the same again

    3 July 2014

    The promotional material for the Nine Elms regeneration makes grand claims, but it overlooks the shockingly low number of affordable homes

  • Critical mass

    14/03/2014

    The constant influx of people into London presents a huge housing problem, which could be solved by making the capital a more high-density city

Resources

  • Connect found

    31/01/2014

    A mobile phone health and well-being ‘app’ is transforming the lives of Bristol residents. Alex Turner reports

  • Life lessons

    13/12/2013

    By offering a course in financial responsibility, Hyde Group is successfully preparing young people for life in their own home. Simon Brandon reports

  • Back on the front line

    15/11/2013

    WM Housing chief executive Pat Brandum went back to the shop floor to experience first-hand how her organisation helps vulnerable young people. Alex Turner finds out what she learned

  • Fighting back

    01//11/2013

    As the private rented sector continues to grow, so does the number of problematic landlords. Michael Pooler finds out how tenants are taking matters into their own hands to fight for better conditions

  • Getting connected

    10/01/2014

    Student@Home has discovered the mutual benefits of one-to-one IT training for social tenants. Kate Youde investigates

IH Subscription