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Housing Futures Cymru: Isolating the vulnerable

Katie Howells explains why welfare reform is a key priority for the Housing Futures Cymru Panel.

With austerity continuing to batter the most vulnerable within our communities, we’re sure it comes as no surprise that at our first meeting it was agreed that welfare reform would be one of our main priorities.

A large percentage of the panel work on the front line; dealing with the effects of the welfare reform policies and see the real catastrophic consequences these policies are having on the communities in which we work and live. In a recent piece of work we spoke to a number of organisations that shared great concern over the impact of the reforms on their tenants and their organisations.

Unlike the turnaround on Local Housing Allowance, the UK Government is pushing ahead with Universal Credit and has ignored calls for a pause to address the problems that are pushing the most vulnerable people further into the poverty trap. The recent budget came with some commitments to look at problems with implementation but these don’t go far enough.

The wait time is still far too long and the slight decrease doesn’t even come into play until February. The consequences of this on our communities will be long term. We have worked so hard to move away from the stigma surrounding benefits and social housing, creating integrated communities; now this work is being jeopardised by a policy that is isolating the vulnerable.

In the coming months we hope to provide support to the fantastic work that is already taking place in the sector to mitigate the impact of these policies and use the panel to build on research that is already available to change the way our communities are impacted by welfare reform in any way we can.

With the Welsh Government currently reviewing its rent policy we saw an opportunity to feed into this process in order to hopefully create a policy that will allow landlords to set rents that really are affordable for the whole community, including those who are affected by the austerity cuts.

From the research we have done it’s clear that each area has its own issue. We are asking for a flexible policy that can be adapted to each organisation’s needs. If rent is rising at a rate much higher than salaries then this could see social housing becoming unaffordable for many working tenants. This isn’t acceptable or achievable long term.

Katie Howells is a member of the Housing Futures Cymru panel


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