Government proposals present threat to vulnerable

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Thousands of vulnerable people in Nottingham could be placed at risk of losing specialist accommodation as a result of Government proposals to reduce housing benefit.

Older people, those with mental ill health or learning disabilities, young mothers, those fleeing domestic violence, vulnerable young people, BME groups and refugees who are living in specialist accommodation with care and support currently receive extra housing benefit to help cover its additional costs.

However, the Government proposes introducing a much lower cap on housing benefit for any new or renewed tenancies in supported accommodation that are signed after April 1 this year, which will come into effect in April 2018.

It’s estimated that this may affect up to 3,000 people in Nottingham, and one of the key local providers of supported accommodation, Framework, has warned that if this proposal was implemented in its current form it would lead to the closure of all of its supported accommodation on or before April 1 2018. It’s predicted that anyone remaining in supported accommodation is likely to struggle to pay their rent.

The City Council is raising its concerns about the likely impact of this Government proposal on vulnerable people with the Department for Communities and Local Government and through the Local Government Association.

Deputy Leader of Nottingham City Council, Councillor Graham Chapman, said: “Once again we are faced with a Government policy which targets the most vulnerable in our communities. If it goes through, it will cause serious social problems in the city and elsewhere. I am not convinced the Government knows what it’s doing or understands the impact this move would have, and we will be making strong representations to them to oppose this.”

The proposals were being discussed in a parliamentary debate today (Wednesday 27 January) on the same day that a court ruled that the so-called ‘Bedroom Tax’ is discriminatory and unlawful.

The outcome was welcomed by the City Council which argued against the introduction of the under-occupancy charge in 2013 as an unfair method of raising funds which disproportionately affected vulnerable people, especially those with disabilities.

At least 3,228 tenants in Nottingham have been affected by the ‘Bedroom Tax,’ but with very few suitable alternative properties available in the city, only 424 of them have had the option to move. Many of those stuck with the ‘Bedroom Tax’ are now in arrears with their rent, which hadn’t been the case before the charge came in.

Now, in a case brought by a domestic violence victim and the family of a disabled teenager, the Court of Appeal has ruled that the charge is discriminatory and unlawful.

Councillor Chapman said: “We have said all along that this is an ill-conceived charge which is especially cruel and unfair to disabled people and is costing more than it saves.

“I would hope that the Government would accept the court’s ruling and scrap this charge before it causes any more misery to families already struggling to make ends meet.”

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