Plans by the Tory Westminster Government to cap socially rented housing will leave many people in Wessex as well as other parts of England homeless. These are the findings of the National Housing Federation (NHF) which represents housing associations across England. The people included on this housing hit list include those who could be deemed the most vulnerable such as those suffering from mental illness, victims of domestic violence and even the elderly living in sheltered accommodation.
Estimates by the NHF show that across England there will be as many as 50,000 vulnerable tenants who cannot work without accommodation they can afford to live in. The organisation also claims that 2,400 planned new homes have been scrapped because of the Housing Bill. Numerous housing associations and charities have warned of closures on a ‘massive and unprecedented scale’. Wessex, with large conurbations such in addition to coastal resorts which are a magnet for many elderly people will no doubt see much hardship as a result of this act.
In addition to these attacks on specialist housing, local authorities will be forced to sell off more council homes under the ‘right to buy’ policy, as part of the continued Westminster quest to abolish social housing, led by the Tories, continued by New Labour and unchallenged by the Liberal Democrats as part of the coalition.
The Chief Executive of the NHF, David Orr, said; ‘If this cap applies to specialist housing, tens of thousands of vulnerable people will be unable to afford the cost of their home and care. Huge numbers will be affected from older people too dementia patients, to disabled people and women fleeing domestic violence’.
The effects on those fleeing domestic violence was also highlighted by Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid who highlighted the proposals would undermine plans to put specialist domestic abuse refuges on a financially sustainable footing. Ms. Neate stated, ‘An estimated 12,000 women will stay in a refuge every year, more often than not with their children. Uncertainty over the future of housing benefit payments is already directly impacting on services plans for the future. A risk to the future of refuge provision is a risk to women and children’s lives’.
Housing associations claimed charging higher rents to supported living tenants was justified as it reflected the cost of specialist services provided by care staff. It cannot be argued that if services close, many vulnerable tenants will be forced into a diminishing number of residential and NHS care places which would also need funding by the taxpayer.
Defending their position, the Tory Westminster Government stated that tenants can apply for ‘authority discretionary housing payments’ to make up for the rent shortfall. However the capability of this short term fund is disputed by many landlords, who claim there will still be a shortfall as the fund is also used to help tenants affected by the Bedroom Tax.
What we are witnessing with these proposals is either a complete lack of understanding of the lives of those in need, a further assault on them by the Tory Westminster Government, or perhaps even a combination of the two. It is a sanction which will affect the lives of many. When you witness the number of millionaires and career politicians who occupy the green benches of Parliament and who have little idea of the real world outside the Westminster bubble, this comes as no surprise.
As Regionalists we seek to reduce the influence of the out of touch Westminster careerists and millionaires and call for devolution in the form of devo-max settlement, with proportional representation to a democratically elected Wessex Assembly. The Wessex Regionalists would not maintain what is a continued assault by successive Westminster governments on the most vulnerable, but instead work for a restructured finance system in the form of positive money with citizens' dividends of right in the form of a living income. Through this, and a more progressive taxation system, we can meet the requirements of those most in need across Wessex.
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