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Policy update – March 2011

Policy developments

Welfare reform bill

On 16 February 2011, the Welfare Reform Bill was introduced to Parliament. The Bill introduces a wide range of reforms that will deliver the commitment made in the Coalition Agreement and the Queen’s Speech to make the benefits and tax credits systems fairer and simpler by:

  • creating the right incentives to get more people into work by ensuring work always pays
  • protecting the most vulnerable in society
  • delivering fairness to those claiming benefit and to the taxpayer

The main elements of the Bill are:

  • the introduction of Universal Credit to provide a single streamlined benefit
  • a stronger approach to reducing fraud and error with tougher penalties for the most serious offences
  • a new claimant commitment showing clearly what is expected of claimants while giving protection to those with the greatest needs
  • reforms to Disability Living Allowance, through the introduction of the Personal Independence Payment to meet the needs of disabled people
  • creating a fairer approach to Housing Benefit to bring stability to the market and improve incentives to work
  • giving greater power to local authorities in relation to the Social Fund system
  • reforming Employment and Support Allowance
  • a new system of child support

The Bill is online at http://services.parliament.uk/bills

Oxfam commissioned a gender analysis of the potential impact of the proposed welfare reforms which raised four main areas of concern:

  • the proposal that a single payment be made to one main claimant in the household and its potential to make the ‘dependent’ member of a couple (usually the woman) poor
  • the apparent move away from universal and non-means-tested benefits which provide key social protection, especially for women
  • the use of stronger conditionality, which lone parents (who are mainly women) in particular may not be in a position to meet
  • the impact of the changes in earnings disregards on labour market motivation for those affected, many of whom will be women

Oxfam’s report is online at www.oxfam.org.uk

Decentralisation and Localism Bill

The Decentralisation and Localism Bill gives the National Assembly for Wales legislative competence in respect of:

  • local referendums on proposed council tax levels
  • planning applications and enforcement
  • the Housing Revenue Account and Housing Revenue Account Subsidy system in Wales

The Bill also contains two Wales-only provisions that will confer a power for Welsh Ministers to decide the timing of council tax revaluations in Wales and a power for Assembly Ministers to give directions to Welsh local authorities who fail to produce new budget calculations after having their Council Tax capped.

In addition, the Bill includes a provision to permit local authorities to discharge their homelessness duty in the private rented sector without the consent of the applicant. To implement this in Wales, the Assembly will have to make its own commencement order.

On both homelessness and the Housing Revenue Account, Welsh Ministers decided to take the opportunity presented by the Bill to make these changes (rather than use powers under the housing Legislative Competency Order) as it is an efficient use of resources in making new legislation on areas where the Welsh Assembly Government’s policies accord with those of the UK Government.

A National Assembly for Wales briefing on the Localism Bill and Wales is online at www.assemblywales.org

A CIH Cymru briefing on the Localism Bill and its implications for housing and communities in Wales is online at www.cih.org/cymru/policy

Publications: 10 to look out for

1 – Bevan Foundation (December 2010) Coping with Cold – looks at fuel poverty in Wales, how people affected by it cope with cold weather, and attitudes to, and awareness of, energy efficiency.

2 – British Social Housing Foundation (2010) Living a Good Life – report from an international meeting examining how organisations bring relationships, community and purpose to the lives of marginalised people. www.bshf.org

3 – Chartered Institute of Housing/Savills (January 2011) Appreciating Assets – explores the potential impact of housing associations having and using freedoms to manage their assets on their own terms based on understanding of local markets and agreements with local authorities. www.cih.org/policy

4 – Chartered Institute of Housing/National Fraud Authority (undated) The guide to tackling tenancy fraud – key findings of a series of workshops held in autumn 2010 including a detailed compendium of examples provided by the participating councils. www.cih.org/practice

5 – Centre for Social Justice (January 2011) Outcome Based Government – examines how to improve spending decisions by government by ensuring that spending has the best impact on social outcomes. www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk

6 – Existing Homes Alliance (December 2010) Key policies for accelerating low carbon retrofit in the existing domestic dwelling stock – recommendations to the government on the Green Deal. www.existinghomesalliance.org.uk

7 – HouseMark (January 2011) Preserving Value – a guide to value for money in tough times. www.housemark.co.uk(available to members only)

8 – Joseph Rowntree Foundation (January 2011) How can local authorities with less money support better outcomes for older people? – looks at the low-level support provided to older people that promotes health, well-being and quality of life in the communities where people live. www.jrf.org.uk/publications

9 – Save the Children (February 2011) Severe Child Poverty Nationally and Locally – severe child poverty estimates for each local authority area in Great Britain. www.savethechildren.org.uk

10 – Thames Reach (2010 Walking the walk – an exploration of the costs and benefits of employing service users in homelessness organisations. www.thamesreach.org.uk



The final budget for 2011/12 and indicative budgets for future years were published by the Welsh Assembly Government in February 2011. On housing, there were no changes from the draft budget – see pages 8-9 of issue 81 of WHQ for the details. In summary, the picture on revenue is not as negative as anticipated a number of months ago. However, the position on capital investment for housing is challenging, with lots of thinking to be done about how new affordable housing can be funded over the coming years. This issue of WHQ includes a feature on the funding of affordable housing with contributions from a number of perspectives.

Information about the 2011/12 budget is online at http://new.wales.gov.uk

New child poverty strategy

The Welsh Assembly Government aspires to the eradication of child poverty by 2020. The Welsh Assembly Government’s new child poverty strategy has been revised to focus on how the Welsh Assembly Government’s policies collectively contribute to the three strategic objectives:

(i) To reduce the number of families living in workless households

(ii) To improve the skills of parents/carers and young people living in low-income households so they can secure well-paid employment

(iii) To reduce inequalities that exist in health, education and economic outcomes of children and families by improving the outcomes of the poorest

The new duties in the Children and Families (Wales) Measure 2010 will add a new impetus to the process as each local authority and Welsh public body will be required to develop a strategy to tackle child poverty that will complement the Welsh Assembly Government’s own approach.

The strategy is online at http://new.wales.gov.uk

Cross party housing group

Assembly Members from all four parties have come together to make sure the next Welsh Government continues to see housing as a political and resource priority. Acting on behalf of the umbrella group Homes for All Cymru, Shelter Cymru and the Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru brought together representatives from all four parties in the Assembly to form the cross-party group.

For further information about the work of the cross party working housing group please contact:

Victoria.Hiscocks@cih.org, tel 029 2076 5760 or CeriD@sheltercymru.org.uk, tel 01792 483 021

Supporting People review

Following the publication of the Aylward review of Supporting People, three worksteams have been established to forward the review recommendations:

  • quality services – to include commissioning and procuring, service element of tariff and outcomes
  • financing housing-related support – focussing on funding arrangements and redistribution formula
  • governance/regulation – action to establish accreditation, National Advisory Committee, committees and performance monitoring

Evaluation of the Essex Review

The Welsh Assembly Government commissioned evaluation of the Essex Review and related implementation programme was published in late 2010. The evaluation identifies six key issues:

  • the implementation programme was successful in engaging a wide variety of stakeholders and individuals because it was ambitious and committed to addressing in active ways, the difficult problems associated with progressing the affordable housing agenda in Wales
  • adopting Making the Connections principles requires an open and engaging approach to be successful, but the desire to be inclusive needs to be carefully managed with pragmatism in order to maintain momentum
  • the implementation programme adopted a novel and innovative approach where process was as important as outcome. For the future, monitoring of more intangible value-added benefits needs to be designed in from the outset
  • the engagement of the private sector and tenants was less than optimal and should be addressed
  • learning from Scotland and England helped improve the efficiency of the programme
  • there is a need to acknowledge the importance of strong and high calibre leadership

The evaluation report is online at http://new.wales.gov.uk


Support for work with the private rented sector

The Welsh Local Government Association has worked with a steering group made up of local government housing practitioners and representatives from Shelter and the National Landlords Association to develop an improvement toolkit for local authorities to assist them in their work on the private rented sector. The toolkit aims to:

  • raise awareness across local government of the potential of a well-functioning private rented sector in delivering on a range of local government priorities, as well as providing value for money
  • generating a more strategic and co-ordinated approach to the private rented sector across the range of local authority departments/teams who work directly with private sector landlords
  • supporting improvement of the different departments within each authority that work with the private rented sector

The toolkit is online at www.wlga.gov.uk

Pictured are Apprentice Kallum Baxter, Angela Williams of North Wales Housing and James Hughes of Wall-Lag following successful installation of photovoltaic panels at the association’s Cae Bold development.

Health and safety

A short film starring pupils at a Torfaen primary school has been entered for the International Film and Multimedia Festival which is part of the World Congress on Health and Safety at Work. Children at Hillside primary school in Blaenavon were asked by Bron Afon Community Housing to help out with a film to show the dangers of building sites.

Scaffolding, ladders and dangerous materials are just some of the hazards that local children could face if they enter these building sites.

The video is on You Tube at www.youtube.com

Saving Monmouthshire residents thousands of £s

Monmouthshire Housing Association (MHA) launched a new Money Wise Project in September 2010 with the introduction of two Income & Energy Advisors who are able to help Monmouthshire tenants and residents with all aspects of income and energy advice. The scheme has been very successful saving residents thousands of pounds through backdated housing benefit claims, grants for energy efficiency and savings on home contents insurance and utility bills.

Money Wise is an initiative jointly funded by MHA and the DWP. The project provides assistance and guidance to all within Monmouthshire specifically targeting the growing problem of debt. MHA are also working with the Gateway Credit Union encouraging people to save and help themselves.

Recognising excellence

Over the past few months, a number of housing organisations across Wales have been acknowledged for excellence in a range of ways:

  • Carmarthenshire Council’s Shared Apprentice Scheme was singled out for praise at the National Training Awards overall winners’ ceremony in London in December 2010
  • Melin Housing Association’s dispute resolution team has been awarded the Wales Assembly Government standard on dealing with anti-social behaviour which means that the organisation meets seven key commitments
  • Merthyr Tydfil Housing Association has gained the Investors in People Gold Award, the hallmark for successful public, private and voluntary organisations, gold in the Welsh Assembly Government\’s Corporate Health Standard and has also been awarded the UK Government\’s Customer Service Standard
  • Newydd Housing Association won the Social Affordable Housing category at the Vale of Glamorgan Council Building Excellence Awards 2011, organised by the Vale of Glamorgan Council Building Control Group, for their Court Road development in Barry which included a chapel conversion
  • Both Llamau and the Pennaf Housing Group has been awarded a ‘Two Star – Outstanding’ status in the prestigious ‘Best Companies’ listings

New affordable housing

The crowd enjoying the opening of Taff Housing\’s latest development at Ninian Park, providing 17 homes for families.

Taff Housing\'s latest development at Ninian Park

Newydd Housing Association\’s Jacksons Quay development on the Barry Waterfront.

Newydd Housing Association\'s Jacksons Quay development on the Barry Waterfront

A 3d image of Mid Wales Housing\’s forthcoming development on land transferred from the Welsh Assembly Government at Vaynor.

A 3d image of Mid Wales Housing\'s forthcoming development

Part of Seren Group\’s Mariners Quay eco-development in Newport – the first residents moved in before Christmas 2010.

Part of Seren Group\'s Mariners Quay eco-development in Newport

New advice note from WHQ

WHQ was commissioned by the Welsh Assembly Government to develop an advice note on preventing homelessness amongst young people. The advice note is written in the context of the Southwark judgement, is complementary to the statutory guidance issued by the Assembly Government and includes a range of practice examples from Wales and beyond.

The advice is available online at www.whq.org.uk

News from TPAS Cymru

A new TPAS Cymru publication explores the key aspects of the new regulatory system – what regulation is, why social landlords are regulated, key features of the new regulatory system and tenants’ role in regulation. Copies of Solutions 14 – Ensuring Quality of Housing: The New Regulatory System for Social Landlords – are available from TPAS Cymru, tel 029 20237 303, email enquiries@tpascymru.org.uk

TPAS Cymru Tenant Scrutiny 1 Day Conference – 13 April 2011, Builth Wells

TPAS Cymru is running a 1 day conference on Tenant Scrutiny for housing association staff, tenants and board members who are keen to see how scrutiny can be developed within their organisation and how it complements the new regulatory framework in Wales.

For more information and booking please contact Gail Lewis, tel: 029 2023 7303, email: gail@tpascymru.org.uk or www.tpascymru.org.uk

TPAS Cymru Participation Awards 2011 – 12th May, Cardiff

The time of year is here again when TPAS Cymru seeks nominations for the TPAS Cymru Participation Awards 2011 in the categories of:

  • The Val Feld Wales Communication in Housing for A) Landlords B) Tenants
  • Ruth Radley Outstanding Achievement in Participation
  • Roy Parry Mainstreaming Tenant Participation
  • Tenant Participation Projects
  • Empowering People to Improve Services – Tenants and Residents in Action
  • Active Inclusion
  • Inspirational Colleague
  • Improving the Environment

Nominations close at Noon on 24 March 2011. Nomination booking forms are available from Iona Robertson, tel 01492 593046, email: iona@tpascymru.org.uk or from the website www.tpascymru.org.uk

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