Tuesday, 07 July 2015

Further welfare cuts risk ‘serious unrest’

Social housing tenants and the communities where they live could be ‘pushed over the edge’ by further welfare cuts, according to analysis of tenants’ incomes.

A Human City Institute study being published tomorrow says tenants have lost 10 per cent of their purchasing power since the start of the credit crunch, totalling £3 billion since 2008.

Current welfare reforms are set to cut a further £2 billion from the incomes of social tenants by 2015, and the think tank warns of ‘serious unrest’ if chancellor George Osborne pushes ahead with a further £10 billion of welfare cuts when he announces his autumn statement tomorrow.

Kevin Gulliver, director of HCI and author of the report, said: ‘Already poor tenants are getting poorer and struggling to cope before the majority of welfare reforms have even come into effect.

‘That the chancellor is rumoured to be seeking a further £10 billion cut in the welfare budget brings into question the viability of social housing communities, will have negative effects on the health and well-being of tenants and the life chances of their children.’

The report presents the findings of a research project that analysed data and research, and conducted nine focus groups with tenants. It found the median income of social tenants increased 9.3 per cent between 2005/06 and 2011/12, to £8,996, but inflation increased between 18.2 and 20.8 per cent – depending on which measure is used – resulting in a net loss in income of between 8.9 and 11.5 per cent.

It found a combination of universal credit, penalties for under-occupation of social housing, and localisation of council tax benefit will add to this by removing ‘at least £2 billion from tenants’ pockets’ by 2015.

The report highlights the work social landlords are doing to support tenants affected by welfare cuts, providing advice on benefits and budgeting, addressing fuel poverty, and running employment schemes.

Grainia Long, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, wrote the foreword to the report.

She said: ‘The Chartered Institute of Housing is very concerned that the combined effects of austerity and welfare reform run counter to the government’s fairness principle, and this report demonstrates clearly that tenants are among those who are disproportionately taking the strain of deficit reduction.’

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