Disability benefits, housing standards and homelessness (not to mention Universal Credit): 2018 is set to be a big year in the world of welfare reform. As there’s so much going on, we’ve broken it down into monthly bitesize pieces. So here are some of the key developments to look out for this January.
Karen Buck MP’s Homes for Human Habitation Bill
Do you like the sound of living in a home that is fit for human habitation, one which doesn’t damage your health and wellbeing through substandard conditions? And don’t you think all tenants – whether in social or privately-rented accommodation – should be entitled to that basic standard of living? So do we. But unfortunately, that’s not currently the reality. Many tenants suffer in terrible, dangerous conditions and have no legal right to demand improvements – as shown so tragically in the disaster at Grenfell Tower.
One MP is trying to change this. On 19th January, Karen Buck MP’s Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill will have its second reading in parliament. If it passes, the Bill would demand that all rented accommodation – both private and social – be made ‘fit for human habitation.’ It would also enable renters to take legal action against landlords who don’t maintain the property in a decent condition.
However, the Bill does not have government backing. This means that in order to pass, it needs at least 100 MPs to attend parliament and vote for it on January 19th.
So please take a minute to email your MP and ask them to support it here: http://act.generationrent.org/lobby/fitforhumanhabitation
Select Committee’s Recommendations for Disability Benefits
The Work and Pensions Select Committee has now completed its inquiry into the assessment processes for the major disability benefits – Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) – and will be making their recommendations to government later this month. These are likely to include suggestions around the audio recording of assessments, taking evidence from claimants’ companions and assessors’ treatment of mental health issues.
We are hoping the Committee will also take into account the unjust and flawed design of the assessment process, and be bold in their statements on how the system must be improved.
Read our submission to the inquiry here.
Local Council Tax Support Schemes in Hackney and Lambeth
We have been campaigning against London Borough of Hackney’s plans to cut council tax support for its poorest residents by increasing their minimum payment from 15% to 20%. This would be a significant increase for those already struggling on low incomes. Along with CPAG, we met the Mayor before Christmas to set out our concerns. We hope he has taken those on board, but will keep campaigning against any increase in charges and the use of bailiffs right up until the final decision at the Full Council meeting later this month.
Read our submission on the proposals here.
Unfortunately, Lambeth Council have confirmed they intend to raise the minimum payment demanded of their poorest residents from 15% to 20%. Their final decision will be announced after their Full Council meeting on 24th January. Again, we will work to ensure that their £400,000 hardship fund is used fully and effectively to support those in need.
Read our report on localised council tax support schemes here.
Evidence sessions on Tenant Fees Bill and Private Rented Sector
The Communities and Local Government Select Committee continues its inquiries into standards in the Private Rented Sector (PRS) and the draft Tenant Fees Bill. While the latter focuses on rights between landlords, tenants and letting agents, the former looks at the role of local authorities in providing and regulating accommodation in the PRS. Both inquiries will hold their first oral evidence session on 8th January, and will continue throughout the month.
Read our submission to the PRS inquiry here.