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11 December 2013

Welsh Housing Associations working to mitigate the impacts of welfare reform

Welsh Housing Associations are doing all they can to mitigate the negative impacts of the 'bedroom tax' and other welfare reforms on their tenants. That is the clear message from Nick Bennett, Community Housing Cymru's Chief Executive, in light of an attack on housing associations by the Welsh Liberal Democrats.

Ahead of a debate in the Assembly on the cost of living, the Welsh Liberal Democrats have tabled an amendment criticising Welsh housing associations and Welsh Government for failing to prepare for changes to the benefit system.

Community Housing Cymru – the membership body for housing associations – highlighted the Your Benefits Are Changing campaign, which is set up to advise tenants on the benefits changes. The campaign has distributed over 130,000 pieces of literature and merchandise across Wales, with the team attending over 40 events with partner organisations including Welsh Tenants, TPAS and Shelter Cymru. To date, the campaign, which is supported by over 70 different charitable and housing organisations, has advised over 2500 clients in the past 12 months, helping them to claim an additional £770,000 in unclaimed benefits, and at the same time helping them with solutions to long standing debt problems and identifying savings on utility and water bills.

Meanwhile, research carried out by CHC found that 89% of housing associations have changed their policy to allow tenants with arrears to downsize and alleviate the problems caused by the policy, and that nearly 700 tenants had successfully downsized since the policy was introduced.

Commenting on the amendment, Mr. Bennett said:

“It’s very sad that any party should attack the work of the not for profit sector in mitigating the impact of pernicious government policies. We’ve deliberately attacked the policy, and not the ConDem coalition, but this amendment smacks of ignorance and hypocrisy. The first six months of this UK Government policy have caused misery, and left tenants over £1m in arrears.

People know that it is this Conservative-Lib Dem government that introduced the 'bedroom tax', and this attack from the Lib Dems is the moral equivalent of an arsonist blaming the fire brigade for failing to put out their fire. Our members could not have done more to prepare for this socially divisive policy, and this unnecessary amendment to a serious debate adds insult to injury for our members who are left to pick up the pieces.”

Community Housing Cymru members have been working in a number of creative and innovative ways to mitigate the impact of the 'bedroom tax', even prior to the passage of the legislation in 2012. As well as increasing resources and giving face-to-face advice to tenants affected, they have invested in services such as Homeswapper and Houseswap Wales to help tenants downsize, and many have offered incentives and assistance to tenants in moving to different properties where this is appropriate.

For further information, or case studies of the work being carried out by housing associations to mitigate these impacts, please contact Community Housing Cymru's Head of Communications, Edwina O’Hart: [email protected] // 029 2067 4808