Opinion Former Article

NHF: Communities across Britain campaign against housing benefit cuts

Thousands of people all over Britain are taking part in a week of grassroots campaigning against the Government's plans to slash housing benefit for some of country's poorest families.

The National Housing Federation, which has organised the event, warned the cuts could leave people with little option but to move out of their home or stay put and live in poverty and debt.

The week, which runs from October 10 - 16, will see local people, housing associations and charities contacting their MPs to highlight the damage the cuts would make to their local community.

Federation chief executive David Orr said: “The very people the Government should be helping during these tough economic times: the disabled, foster carers and families – are exactly the people who will be hammered by these measures.”

Around 50,000 families in Britain will lose nearly £5,000 on average a year when a benefits cap is introduced in 2013.

That will leave larger families with little option but to move to a cheaper area, borrow significant amounts of money or sacrifice basic living standards.

Ministers are also planning to penalise social housing tenants who have a 'spare' bedroom in their home - even if they have lived there for decades and even if there are no suitable alternative homes into which they can downsize.

The penalty will cost 670,000 social housing tenants around £676 a year. Two thirds of those hit by the measure are disabled.

Together, the measures represent an unprecedented attack on the welfare safety net of some of the most vulnerable and poorest people in the country.

Mr Orr said: “Hard up families will be left with a stark choice if these proposals go ahead: either move out of your home to a cheaper area or stay put and live in hardship or debt.

“We believe these reforms will be hugely damaging to community life and will see people priced out of their homes, away from local schools, and their support networks.”

“With time running out to influence ministers, this week is the chance for anyone who is concerned about these proposals to stand up and be counted.”

The week will see:

· Tenants writing to local MPs and councillors urging them to reconsider the reforms

· MPs invited to meet local social housing tenants and see for themselves how the reforms will affect them

· Dozens of local housing associations backing the campaign by raising awareness of the reforms within their local communities and contacting MPs and Peers directly.

The cap, and the under occupancy penalty, are due to be introduced in 2013 under the Government’s Welfare Reform Bill. While the cap will hit larger families in areas with high property prices, the penalty will affect disabled people, foster carers, working families on low incomes and families with young children.

The Federation says the cap does not take into account the significant variations in income and housing costs across the country, and excessively penalises both larger families and households in regions with higher than average rents.

It says the under occupancy penalty is also poorly targeted, and will do little to address the problem of over crowding.


Notes to editors

:: The National Housing Federation represents 1,200 housing associations in England. Our members manage 2.5 million homes for more than five million people.

:: To find out more about Welfare Action Week go to www.housing.org.uk

For more information, or to arrange an interview, please contact the Federation press office on 0207 067 1028 /07748 931286 

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