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Renfrewshire Council plans new measures to support tenants facing welfare cuts

Renfrewshire Council is so concerned about the impact of welfare changes that it is looking at reclassifying homes where tenants on benefits are being financially penalised for having a bedroom which cannot be used because of disability or medical requirements.

The change would mean that tenants wouldn’t be hit by under-occupancy restrictions.  The second bedroom would no longer be classed as a spare bedroom but would be judged as necessary where no suitable alternative accommodation was available.

renfrewshire council logo .JPGThe move is part of a package of measures that Renfrewshire Council is looking at to manage the current and future impact of welfare changes on its housing service and tenants.

There would also be increased priority in housing allocations for tenants who are worst affected by the bedroom tax.

Renfrewshire Council has already agreed that, where tenants are engaging with the Council, it will not resort to eviction to collect rent due to bedroom tax.  The council has now gone further and may allow tenants with bedroom tax debt to still be considered for a housing exchange move to a property with no spare bedroom, which will improve their financial circumstances.

Consideration will also be given to ending the right to buy for one-bedroom council properties.  The council’s housing stock is now mainly consists of flats as a result of right to buy and so the restriction may be applied to any houses the council has left which are in short supply.

That would enable greater flexibility in allowing tenants to move to properties that are more suitable for their particular circumstances.

Councillor Tommy Williams, Convener of Renfrewshire Council’s Housing and Community Safety Policy Board, said:  “Renfrewshire Council is generally regarded as being at the forefront of the approach that local authorities are taking to try to help tenants, families and communities deal with the severe impact of the UK Government’s welfare cuts.

“We have prioritised this issue and are working with everyone involved to put in place practical measures to provide support on benefit, debt and welfare issues.

“Regarding the council’s housing service, we are bringing forward what we believe are practical and achievable proposals which could make a real difference for those of our tenants who are on welfare and who are in an increasingly difficult position.”

“We are prepared to work with other social housing organisations and tenants’ groups to do all we can to give our tenants the help they need in these difficult times.

“We want our housing service to be best placed to meet the continuing challenges it faces through the impact of welfare changes.  I believe these proposals are a positive step in that process.”

A report on the proposals will be considered at a meeting of Renfrewshire Council on Thursday 27 June.


Renfrewshire Council to host welfare reform summit

Renfrewshire Council is hosting a high level summit to coordinate efforts to help thousands of local people cope with the estimated £22million loss in benefits they are expected to suffer because of changes in the welfare system.

The summit, involving housing associations, charities and voluntary organisations, is being held at India of Inchinnan on Tuesday 11 December.

Renfrewshire_Council_ezg_1During the summit Renfrewshire Council will present its plans for preparing the community to cope with what has been described as “a tidal wave of benefit cuts.” Lyn Kilpatrick from the Chartered Institute of Housing and John Campbell of Rights Advice Scotland will give the views of housing and advice services professionals.

The event will also feature workshops where organisations will have the opportunity to highlight their preparations and consider what else needs to be done.

Councillor Mike Holmes, Renfrewshire Council’s Welfare Reform spokesperson, said: “Renfrewshire residents are facing a tidal wave of benefit cuts. The changes being made by the UK Government will see 2,900 local working-age households affected by new under-occupancy rules.

“Over 2,000 working-age disabled people will also lose out when Disability Living Allowance is replaced by Personal Independence Payments.

“The under-occupancy rules alone could see local council and housing association tenants lose more than £1.8million of housing benefit. Disabled people, tenants in social and private housing, and families on working tax credits are going to be hit hardest, with many of them facing not one but several of these changes at once.

“The council is already working hard to make sure Renfrewshire residents know about the changes and how they are likely to be affected by them. This seminar is a vital part of those preparations. We are keen to work with our partners wherever possible to support local residents. The Welfare Reform summit will be an important opportunity for us to get together and discuss a joined up approach.

“Concerted, proactive measures are needed to minimise the damage that these far reaching changes are likely to inflict on the welfare safety net.”
Under-occupancy rules, or ‘the bedroom tax’, will introduce new rates of housing benefit that take into account the size of each property. Where people are considered to have more rooms than they need their housing benefit will be reduced.

The UK Government is also handing over responsibility for lifeline support such as community care grants and crisis loans to local authorities while reduced the funding available. Families working less than 24 hours a week will also lose out on Working Tax Credits.

Information about the imminent changes is also available on Renfrewshire Council’s website and Facebook page. Staff training is also being carried out to ensure key groups of council employees can advise the public of changes that might affect them and where they can get support.

More information about the changes is available on 0300 300 0288 and online at