“The SFHA campaign raises some important issues about the impact of welfare reform on social housing in Scotland,” said SNP candidate for Paisley & Renfrewshire South, Mhairi Black, commenting on the five-point plan raised by the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA).
The SFHA said welfare reforms have increased the vulnerability of tenants and impacted on the ability of housing associations to support tenants, increased the incidence of homelessness and reduced rental income to housing associations.
Given that welfare payments remain reserved to Westminster but are a key source of sustainable finance to social housing in Scotland – social security is the central focus of what the SFHA is asking the political parties to transform to make the social housing world a better place.
The five-point plan is as follows:
- Alleviate the poverty resulting from the seven-day waiting period for new claimants of Universal Credit
- Abolish the two-child policy for access to Working Tax Credits and Universal Credit – which would also redress the injustice of the ‘rape clause’
- Restore protection for the youngest, older and most vulnerable in communities by removing arbitrary caps on rent in social housing
- Defer the roll-out of Universal Credit until it can be shown to be working safely
- Reduce the risk of destitution for benefits claimants by reforming the punitive sanctions regime
The SFHA say that almost two-thirds of tenants of housing associations rely on Housing Benefit to pay even modest rents, including tenants who work. Recent reforms are having a damaging impact on housing associations and their tenants.
Under the existing system for Job Seekers Allowance there is a seven-day waiting period, it does not prevent tenants claiming housing benefit from day one. But with Universal Credit, a seven-day waiting period is in place. To help prevent claimants from falling into debt, this cut urgently needs to be reversed.
“Recent social security policies have discriminated against the young, with the removal of entitlement to 18-21-year-olds and the shared accommodation rate to single under-35s. SFHA believes these measures should be scrapped. In addition, the protection provided by social security’s safety net should be restored by reversing caps to entitlement for younger people and large families.
Mhairi Black added:
“The five-point plan from the SFHA highlights the impact of Tory austerity cuts on social housing in Scotland.
“As a former member of the Select Committee on Works and Pensions I’m aware of the impact that the Tories welfare reforms are having on individuals but this campaign also outlines the impact these changes have on social housing providers.
“I attempted to bring forward legislation via a private member’s bill to limit the impact of benefit sanctions, but unfortunately due to a lack of Labour MPs backing the Bill and the Tory Government using parliamentary procedures to waste time, my Bill never got past the first stage.
“I am happy to support the SFHA’s campaign and to fight for constituents and everyone else who has been affected by the cruel Tory agenda of targeting cuts at the most vulnerable in society.”