Cost of living: Our asks to Welsh and UK Government 2023
In November 2023 we published a report looking at how housing associations and their tenants in Wales continue to be severely affected two years into the cost of living crisis.
Our report, which provides vital insights into the key areas tenants need increased financial support with, will be sent to Welsh Government and MPs, along with information on how they can ease the financial pressures which people living in social housing continue to face.
To ensure the recommendations in our report are heard, our policy leads will meet with key Welsh Government figures and work collaboratively with partner organisations and housing associations to ensure the recommendations accurately reflect the needs of tenants and the sector.
Read our full statement and Ends Won’t Meet report below.
Our new report looks at the impact the rising cost of living continues to have on housing associations and their tenants in Wales two years into the crisis.
In our report, we are calling for UK and Welsh governments to take urgent steps to financially protect housing association tenants against ongoing price increases, and ensure they can afford to heat their homes, without going into debt, this winter.
As the cost of basic essentials including food and energy have continued to increase this year, this has added increased financial pressures to tenants’ already stretched budgets.
Social housing tenants had already been struggling significantly with increasing living costs, with a large part of their money already going towards paying for basic essentials.
However, now they are dealing with the cumulative impact from months and months of financial pressures and it’s vital that they receive urgent support.
Added to this, financial support including the UK Government Energy Bill Discount Scheme and Welsh Government Winter Fuel Support Scheme, which helped people with energy costs last winter, will not be provided this year meaning that people will struggle even more to heat their homes as the weather gets colder.
During the first six months of this year, housing associations worked with over 14,000 tenants to help them access financial support, with 74% of those surveyed saying that this was an increase from the previous six month period.
While housing associations are doing all they can to help tenants facing increased financial pressures at this incredibly challenging time, including providing financial support, working with partner organisations, and signposting to additional help, they are now facing increasing demand for their services, from a more diverse range of people.
Housing associations are now struggling to keep up with this demand and frontline services are at capacity.
“(We are) seeing a trend of people asking for help/support when their benefits are already maximised.”
“(There is) limited support available at present and short resources so we have to pick up the gap.”
We’re urging UK and Welsh governments to take forward the following actions immediately:
UK Government should:
Confirm that benefits will be increased in line with inflation from April.
Prioritise the creation of an energy social tariff and provide affordable repayment options for those in energy debt, taking forward calls made by National Energy Action (NEA) Cymru, and endorsed by many other charities and consumer organisations.
Ensure that the forced installation of prepayment meters does not resume for financially vulnerable households.
Commit to review and increase Universal Credit to ensure that the minimum level of support guarantees that people can pay for essentials, implementing calls made by Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Trussell Trust for an Essentials Guarantee.
Protect existing emergency funds and ensure that routes to support are accessible and targeted to those who most need it.
Continue to fund vital initiatives that target fuel and food poverty, and that support higher rates of benefit take up.
The devastating impacts of the cost of living crisis and the urgent need for additional financial support must be addressed before tenants are pushed into further hardship.
Previous asks and related research in full
In October 2022, we published a report looking at the impact of the cost of living crisis on housing association tenants in Wales - read it in full here.
All housing associations in Wales deliver homes and services with a clear social purpose.
Over the past two years, housing associations have been becoming increasingly concerned about the impact that increases in the cost of living are having on their communities, in particular, for households on lower incomes.
Our Time to Act report produced last year points to the hardship faced by tenants as they began experiencing the impact of the cost of living crisis. The report included recommendations for UK and Welsh governments to address the strain felt by tenants.
One year on, little progress has been made, and many social housing tenants are in a desperate situation as high inflation has continued. Housing associations told us that they are at the breaking point of what they can achieve to support tenants, and that only fundamental changes to the support and services available to social housing tenants would help them weather the crisis.
CHC commissioned a survey of housing associations in August 2023 to identify the difficulties faced by tenants and the range of support being offered by housing associations. The survey findings and feedback from associations has led to the development of a set of recommendations to UK and Welsh governments, and the creation of this report.
We would like to extend our thanks to the members of our cost of living focus group, made up of housing association representatives across Wales, for their contribution to the final report and recommendations.
We are continuing to engage with partners from the voluntary, business and public sectors across Wales, together with Welsh Government, UK Government and Ofgem. We are also continuing to monitor the impact of the cost of living crisis on social housing in Wales, and the effectiveness of government interventions, highlighting where more can, and should, be done to support people during these challenging times.