1) Half of families hit by ‘bedroom tax’ now in debt
The bedroom tax has pushed more than half of those affected by it into debt, in the first three months since its launch.
The National Housing Federation (NHF) reported that in a survey of 51 of it’s biggest housing association members, more than half of tenants affected could not pay their rent between April and June.
The findings come after UN Special Rapporteur Raquel Rolnik was caught in a row with Conservative Party Chairman Grant Shapps over the spare room subsidy. Rolnik put out a press release last week asking the government to suspend the levy after her investigation into housing found that it may be in breach of human rights. Shapps hit back at Rolnik claiming that she had not spoken to the appropriate officials, and even wrote to the UN to complain.
The findings of the NHF will now come as a blow to Shapps and the government.
NHF Chairman, David Orr will now follow Rolnik’s argument. He is expected to say: “Housing associations are working flat-out to help their tenants cope with the changes, but they can’t magic one-bedroom houses out of thin air. People are trapped. What more proof do politicians need that the bedroom tax is an unfair, ill-planned disaster that is hurting our poorest families? There is no other option but to repeal.”
2) Labour announce policies, including scrapping of ‘bedroom tax’ and sacking of ATOS
Labour have announced that they will scrap the ‘bedroom tax’ and sack French healthcare group, ATOS who provide the fit-to-work tests, should the party win the next general election.
Other policies include strengthening the offence laws on disability hate crime, which are thought to have risen in part due to the “benefit scrounger” rhetoric pushed by government and media. Ed Miliband has also promised to strengthen the minimum wage.
The Labour Party Conference was held on Sunday, in Brighton. For many campaigners, the news that Labour will take strong action against the mis-handlings of the benefits system, pay, fit-to-work tests and ‘bedroom tax’ comes as a relief. However, many believe there is more to do to ensure that Labour lives out it’s promises and does away with faulty social policy systems.
3) Homeless hit harder by welfare cuts, says research
According to research carried out by the charity Homeless Link, the increased punitive measures used against jobseekers are hitting the homeless harder than other groups.
Research covering more than 50 organisations show that around a third of homeless people have been sanctioned compared to 3% of other jobseekers. With homeless people often battling a number of obstacles including mental health issues, learning disabilities and substance abuse, the sanctions pose a further threat to their wellbeing, instead of motivating them (as the sanctions were meant to, according to the coalition).
Chief Executive of Homeless Link, Rick Henderson said: “Claimants do have responsibilities but it is clear that sanctions may be forcing them deeper into the problems that led them into homelessness in the first place. We’re calling on the Government to ensure the conditions for receiving benefits take into account individual circumstances.”
4) In-Work poverty exceeds out of work poverty in Wales
Around 700,000 people live in poverty in Wales, equating to a quarter of the population. 51% of working age adults and children in poverty are in working families, according to new research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation – outnumbering those out of work and in poverty.
The report reveals the pressures put on families and wages, and calls on government to deal with low pay and working conditions, as well as welfare reform.
“Peter Kenway, Director at NPI, said: “This report shows there are not enough jobs, not enough hours and not enough pay for people in Wales. These are families who are going out to work but still have so little they are living below the poverty line and struggling to make ends meet. Low pay and low hours go hand in hand: job creation is a priority, but this must lead to better pay and more hours to tackle in-work poverty.”
by Kam Sandhu – @KamBass