Punitive and unreasonable benefit sanctions are causing “significant levels of hardship” among social housing tenants, The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) say.
The SFHA say benefit sanctions are ‘compounding the impact of welfare reform’, because vulnerable tenants are having their Housing Benefit suspended, leaving them destitute with no money to pay bills, heat their homes or buy food, and in risk of homelessness.
According to the SFHA, housing associations are seeing an increasing number of vulnerable tenants falling through the social security ‘safety net’, and further warn that the UK is becoming a ‘unsympathetic and uncaring state’.
SFHA criticise what they call the “disproportionately harsh” and “unfair” changes to the Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) benefit sanctions regime, introduced by the Tory-led coalition government as part of widespread changes to the UK’s welfare system, as a means of incentivising unemployed people into looking for work.
Critics argue that far from encouraging people into finding work, benefit sanctions can create a barrier to employment because those affected are pushed into survival instinct; where rather than looking for work they are forced into finding alternative ways to pay bills and acquire food – which may include visiting food banks or even taking part in criminal activities.
David Ogilvie, SFHA Policy Manager, has called on the coalition government to ‘introduce appropriate measures to ensure that all sanctions are reasonable, proportionate and do not trigger a suspension of any existing Housing Benefit claims”.
Mr Ogilvie said:
“When you look closer at how the recent changes to JSA are being implemented and how they are actually impacting upon some of the most vulnerable in our society, a worrying picture emerges.
We are at risk of seeing an increasingly unsympathetic and uncaring state where the ‘safety net’ is now so loosely woven it is all too easy for vulnerable people to fall through it.”
“We’re really concerned about the clear trend that when a tenant receives a sanction on their benefit, all too often their Housing Benefit is being suspended, leaving them with no means of paying their rent and potentially at risk of homelessness.
“As rental income is the primary revenue stream for housing associations, we are very concerned about the combined impact of benefit cuts and sanctions on tenancy sustainment and, ultimately, the viability of the sector.
“That’s why we are calling on the UK Government, as a matter of urgency, to introduce appropriate measures to ensure that all sanctions are reasonable, proportionate and do not trigger a suspension of any existing Housing Benefit claims.”