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02 April 2014

CHC urges Government to act on committee report

The 'bedroom tax' is a ‘blunt instrument’ in achieving the efficient use of social housing stock, and reforms such as the 'Bedroom Tax' and the Benefit Cap are causing financial hardship to vulnerable people, says the Work and Pensions Committee in a report published today.

Commenting, Amanda Oliver, Head of Policy and Research said:

‘Community Housing Cymru welcomes the recognition from Work & Pensions Committee that many of the coalition government’s welfare reforms are severely flawed, and urges the government to act quickly upon the committee’s recommendations.

The 'bedroom tax' has already led to over £2m worth of arrears in Wales, and it is clear from the evidence presented to the committee that it is having a disastrous effect for many of the most vulnerable people in Wales, in particular those with disabilities. We fully support the recommendation to exempt anyone with a disability from this pernicious tax.

CHC agrees wholeheartedly with the constructive recommendations made to improve the distribution of discretionary housing payments, which are helping some of the most vulnerable groups. We echo Dame Anne Begg’s remarks that access to DHPs should depend on need, not somebody’s postcode.

We also welcome the recommendation from the committee that vulnerable Universal Credit claimants should be allowed to opt in for the direct payment of their housing costs to the landlord. This should be a key consideration in DWP’s ongoing discussions around personal budgeting support and alternative payment arrangements.

The suggested exemptions to the benefit cap can also be welcomed, but the fact remains that this policy is tackling an issue that is caused by a lack of supply of affordable homes, something this policy fails to address.

The breadth of the Committee’s report once again highlights the staggering number of changes happening to our welfare system – the safety net for some of our poorest and most vulnerable people – and yet, the UK Government are still failing to communicate these complex changes to claimants, leaving the housing and charity sector in Wales to pick up the pieces. As well as adopting the recommendations in the report, DWP must now act to offer clear information and advice to all claimants about the changes being made.’

The Your Benefits are Changing campaign has set up a petition to call on the DWP to fund a national communication campaign to raise awareness about welfare reform.

The DWP will spend £8.1m on a celebrity endorsed ‘We’re all in’ campaign around pension automatic enrolment. The TV element ran for a month and cost £3.5 million. The Pension Minister admitted at the time: “People should know that all they need to do is look out for a letter from their employer.”

However, since the introduction of the benefit changes, housing organisations have been leading the way in communicating the changes to those affected.

The DWP needs to take responsibility and fund a national communications campaign to make sure people know about the complex changes.

Our call to the DWP is as follows: I call on the DWP to fund a national communications campaign to raise awareness about Welfare Reform.

You can sign the petition here.

Please use the #yourbenefits hashtag when tweeting about the petition.