Tory welfare cuts and administrative errors are pushing people into poverty and driving homelessness, leading housing charity Shelter will today (Wednesday) warn Holyrood.
In evidence submitted to the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government Committee, Shelter warned that “the ongoing roll out of Universal Credit, the benefit cap reduction and the capping of housing benefit” by the UK government all “directly threaten tenancies and risk pushing more people into homelessness”.
The National Audit Office this month confirmed that the 60% rise in the number of homeless families in England since 2010 is “likely to have been driven” by welfare cuts.
In a written submission to the Local Government and Communities committee, Shelter Scotland warned: “Shelter Scotland emphasises that our current housing system pushes too many people into homelessness, and recent welfare reforms are pushing more people further into poverty.
“The ongoing roll out of Universal Credit, the benefit cap reduction and the capping of housing benefit for social sector rents to Local Housing Allowance (LHA) levels directly threaten tenancies and risk pushing more people into homelessness. It is unlikely that the Scottish Government will be able to sustainably mitigate all of these changes.
“There remain challenges around relationships with social work and the preparedness of young people exiting care settings to manage their own tenancies.
“This is especially pertinent given the ongoing welfare reform changes such as the capping of housing benefit at LHA levels, and the removal of automatic entitlement to help with housing costs for 18-21 year olds.
“Welfare reform and cuts to temporary accommodation funding in particular are making temporary accommodation providers less inclined to innovate or branch out in the services they offer to homelessness people with multiple and complex needs.
“Simply put, homelessness is a product of our current housing system and recent and ongoing welfare reforms are exacerbating this problem.
“The way that the current social security system is set up and the direction of ongoing change means that many parents cease to receive support for children once they are 18 and therefore many feel the need to ask older children to leave the family home.
“However, once they do this, the household can in some cases in the social sector become liable for the bedroom tax due to “under-occupying” the property, thus putting both the parents and children at financial disadvantage.
“Social security problems are a significant source of difficulty to household tenancy sustainment through delays, admin errors, reducing periods in which to claim backdated payments, spot checks and suspension of payments during random investigations.”
Commenting, SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson said: “This is a serious intervention that exposes just how disastrous Tory cuts to welfare have been.
“The SNP in government wants to end rough sleeping, and have reformed the private rented sector to provide tenants with greater security and give councils the power to tackle rip-off rents.
“But the UK government shouldn’t be let off the hook – the Tories need to urgently call a halt to their cuts and stop driving families into poverty and homelessness.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a £50 million fund to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping in this month’s Programme for Government.