DRAFT regulations on benefit changes being introduced by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) will be impractical for many vulnerable tenants, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) said today (Tuesday 31st July 2012).
Says a spokesperson: “The SFHA has outlined several concerns about the proposed new regulations, as it submitted evidence to inform the Social Security Advisory Committee’s scrutiny of Draft Regulations for Universal Credit and Housing Benefit (Benefit Cap) Regulations.”
Maureen Watson, SFHA policy director, said: “SFHA has many concerns about the draft regulations that have been issued by the Department of Work and Pensions, outlining in detail how Universal Credit is to operate and how the new household benefit cap will impact on Housing Benefit.
“Our main concern is that vulnerable people will face a range of difficulties in accessing benefits and in coping with the payment method and cycle. As yet, there is no definition of ‘vulnerable’ in the regulations. A comprehensive definition is needed to ensure that people with literacy, numeracy and confidence challenges are not disadvantaged.
“Online claiming may prove difficult for many people who do not have internet access and are not familiar with communicating electronically. Digital support will be required and this will place additional pressures on already constrained housing association budgets.
“The impact of the benefit cap will hit households who need larger accommodation, at a time when jobs are difficult to get. This will serve only to increase child poverty and homelessness.
“The regulations as currently drafted imply that many of the service charges that were previously eligible for Housing Benefit will not be eligible under Universal Credit. Many of these services are vital for people living in supported and sheltered housing.
“If they are not eligible for benefit, housing associations will either have to bear the cost themselves or cease to provide these vital services. DWP has told us recently that they want to replicate the existing treatment of service charges in Universal Credit, but the draft regulations do not achieve this.”
Ms Watson concluded:
“The DWP is making big changes to the benefits that people are entitled to, and at the same time, how they are administered. Some of these changes, such as the on-line claiming, and the confusion created over the benefit eligibility of charges for essential services, are highly impractical.
“The government needs to work with social landlords to help support tenants who will face difficulties in coping with these changes, if we are to prevent chaos and confusion.”
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1) The SFHA evidence to the Social Security Advisory Committee’s Scrutiny of Draft Regulations for Universal Credit and Housing Benefit (Benefit Cap) Regulations is available on our website http://www.sfha.co.uk/component/option,com_docman/Itemid,82/gid,2374/task,doc_download/
2) The SFHA was established in 1975 and has around 170 members providing affordable housing and wider community services in Scotland, as well as a further 200 commercial members. The SFHA is owned by its membership and exists to support the work of housing associations and co-operatives in Scotland by providing services, advice and good practice guidance.
3) The SFHA is the voice of the principal builders and managers of new affordable housing for rent in Scotland. Housing Associations own and manage around 40 per cent of the country’s affordable rented housing stock, over a quarter of a million homes across Scotland.
4) Housing associations and co-operatives are not-for-profit bodies regulated by the Scottish Housing Regulator.
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Contact: Claire Munro