Protest tomorrow outside Downing St – why you should come…
December 14, 2010
The new Housing Emergency Coalition has called a protest outside Downing St on Wednesday December 15th at 12 30 (or if you want to go en group – there is one setting off from Trafalgar Sq at 12 15) – they want people to take cardboard boxes and sleeping bags and after the Downing St protest disabled people will move to Trafalgar Square for an alternative Nativity scene at 3pm. (free mince pies while they last and bring your borough name on a placard to be turned away by the inn keeper)
The Housing Emergency Coalition against the Housing Benefit cap and social cleansing start to demonstrate outside Downing Street at about 12.30. They want people to take sleeping bags and cardboard boxes emblazoned with Housing Emergency on them as props to show the consequences of the coalition’s plans.
Why is it important for you to come –
The future prognosis for housing following June’s budget and CSR is grim
• Already 30% of disabled people live below the poverty line and 1 in 4 families with disabled children can’t afford heating.
• The Chartered Institute of Housing has calculated that the cumulative effects of the coalition’s proposals mean that by 2020 every tenants’ Housing Benefit will be too low to cover their rent.
Proposed changes to Housing Benefits from April 2011
The size criteria will be adjusted to provide for an additional bedroom for a non-resident carer ( ie not a member of your family who shares your home) where a disabled customer has an established need for overnight care. This must be claimed for and will not be awarded automatically.
While this is a very small positive change it still totally fails to address Lack of an extra room for disabled children who need an extra bedroom, pensioner and other couples who need an extra room due to their medical needs, and a wide range of other disability related factors which mean disabled people need extra housing space including the need for space for dialysis, room to store equipment, room to use a wheelchair, ground-floor and level access accommodation. The recent DWP Select committee into LHA said that these factors were posing considerable barriers to independent living and should be addressed urgently but still have not been. In essence the overall proposed changes to LHA will simply increase these barriers.
Anyone under 35 years of age who is disabled but not in receipt of middle or higher rate DLA care component will not be able to claim for more than a shared room rate.
From October 2011
The Local Housing Allowance will be set at the 30th percentile rent in each Broad Market Rental Area, rather then the 50th percentile as now. Disabled people will only be able to afford to rent in the cheapest properties in an area, which are more than likely to be inaccessible.
This will also increase the difficulties disabled people face in finding suitable accommodation to live independently , increase homelessness amongst disabled people and push disabled people further into poverty especially if DLA recipients are cut by one-fifth as planned by DWP.
The proposed changes to the 30th percentile, rather then the median, rent being used to calculate LHA from October next year will only make these matters worse than they already are and will constitute serious breaches of UNCRPD particularly article 28, article 19,and article 7. New changes to our legislation should not be allowed to contravene these convention rights.
Longer term reforms
These will require primary legislation
from 2013-14 Local Housing Allowance and Housing Benefit rates will be upgraded in line with CPI ( Consumer Price Index) rather than on the basis of local rents. CPI does not include any account being taken of housing costs so this will result in the amount of money people can get to help pay their rents being even lower. At the same time this will apply to increases in other benefit rates and an estimate I have seen is that disabled people will be £300 per month worse off because of this.
Social Rented Sector
There are plans to remove any security of tenure from social housing tenants and to increase rents to 80% of market values. Together with the caps on Housing Benefits this will make renting in the social housing sector unaffordable in many higher priced areas of the country.
From 2013 housing benefit for working age social rented sector customers will be restricted for those who are occupying a larger property than their household size would warrant. This is something that the Labour government and DWP tried to introduce in Welfare Reform bill 2007 but were forced to drop by pressure from Housing Associations. It means that if you are living in an adapted property which may have cost thousands of pounds to adapt then if you also have an extra bedroom you have no apparent need for you will only get HB paid at the one bedroom rate.
Time limiting Housing Benefit customers who are claiming Job seekers allowance will only receive their full Housing Benefit award for a period of 12 months. After that their benefit will be reduced by 10% and they will continue to be ineligible for the full out of work Housing Benefit rate until after they have left the benefit system and been in work for a period.
This needs to be understood in conjunction with the work capability assessment for ESA which is designed to get as many disabled people as possible off Incapacity Benefit and into non-existent jobs which should be completed by 2013. therefore this will probably affect a lot of disabled people too.
Discretionary Housing Payments
Recognising the chaos their HB reforms are going to make the sum allocated by government has increased by £10 million in 2011 and by £40 million in 2012. This will apparently give more flexibility to local authorities but DHPs are not supposed to cover long term housing costs and have to be applied for every 13 weeks. There is no right of appeal if they are refused although you can seek a Judicial Review. Leicester for example has now introduced a policy where they will only pay for a maximum of 13 weeks during which time disabled people getting a DHP are harrassed to move to a cheaper property, regardless of their independent living needs.
Less important changes for disabled people who live outside of London, but disastrous for anyone living in London.
Local Housing Allowance levels will be restricted to the 4 bedroom rate. The 5 bedroom rate has been scrapped.
A new upper limit will be introduced
£250 a week for a one bedroom property
£290 a week for a2 bedroom property
£340 a week for a 3 bedroom property
£420 a week for a 4 bedroom property
According to government figures about 3-3,500 disabled people rent privately in central London. DPOs in London however have raised concerns that as the centre of London becomes unaffordable to most disabled people then there will be additional pressures on local councils for example in Brent where there is already a 10 year waiting list for re-housing as more people are forced to move.
Mortgage Interest changes
Changes to the amounts paid to mortgage interest for disabled claimants have been estimated to potentially lead to an additional 64,000 disabled people becoming homeless.