Housing benefit concessions do not go far enough

3 Dec 2010 11:33 AM

On Wednesday the Housing Benefit (Amendment) Regulations 2010 were laid.  They include some concessions to the widespread criticism of the original proposals in the Emergency Budget and Comprehensive Spending Review.  Many organisations working in the field of homelessness feared that the original proposals would cause a rise in homelessness.

Jenny Edwards, Chief Executive of Homeless Link, the national network of frontline homelessness charities working to end homelessness, said,

"We have lobbied on behalf of homelessness charities for a rethink to reduce the risks of homelessness as people have cuts in help to pay their rent. We also raised the impact on the opportunities for people to move out of homelessness into private rented flats. This has been the main route for many single homeless people, who rarely have access to social tenancies. Charities with programmes to link to private landlords have been finding increasing reluctance to let because of worries about people's ability to pay the rent in the future.

"The transitional protection for existing claimants, to give them more time to adjust to the future drop in support, will help mitigate some of the risk of immediate homelessness as a result of the transition. The additional £50 million to support implementation of the measures will also help local authorities ease more households over the change. We also very much welcome the wider discretion for local authorities to make direct payments to the landlord where it will support tenants in retaining or securing a tenancy.

"However, we are still deeply concerned about the overall impact of these proposals on homeless and vulnerable people.  In high demand areas like London and the South East we doubt the capacity of the private rented market to provide affordable accommodation for all the people now expected to live in the lowest 30% of the market. People leaving homelessness risk being at the back of the queue for what is available and we fear hostel accommodation will silt up, just at a time when the increased flow onto the streets needs spaces freed up. With new government proposals to use the private sector for homeless families in future, just where will the accommodation be?

"We look forward to continuing our dialogue with Ministers on this critical issue. It is important all the relevant issues are weighed fully before the profound changes are made. At this time the safety net provision in the voluntary sector homelessness services is also under threat because of public spending cuts so it is vital that proposed reform does not cause homelessness and its economic and social costs."