First minister ‘deeply concerned’ by housing benefit cuts to women’s refuges

Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon has called on the UK government to “immediately” announce an exemption for women’s refuges and other types of supported accommodation.

The first minister warned that planned changes to housing benefit could have a “catastrophic impact” on abuse victims, with the future of refuge accommodation under “real uncertainty”.

The UK government plans to reduce social sector housing benefit rates to that of Local Housing Allowance – a rate that is far lower than the cost of rent and service charges that is needed to provide refuge and supported accommodation.

Social justice secretary Alex Neil had previously called for “urgent clarification” from Westminster around the proposal, which is due to come into force in April 2018, while Scottish Women’s Aid warned that the changes would leave them with shortfalls of tens of thousands of pounds a year.

In response to a question from Clare Adamson MSP at Holyrood yesterday, the first minister said she is “deeply concerned” about the impact housing benefit cuts will have on people in refuges and supported accommodation, including older people, disabled people, women who have suffered domestic abuse and care leavers.

Ms Sturgeon said: “The UK government’s proposals mean there is now real uncertainty about the future of refuge and other forms of supported accommodation, not just in Scotland but across the UK, despite an earlier announcement that changes to funding arrangements would be cost-neutral.

“UK ministers can put an end to this worry now and I call on them to immediately announce an exemption for refuge and supported accommodation from the local housing allowance cap.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “The truth is that nothing will change until 2018. We value the work of the supported housing sector extremely highly and are working closely with them to ensure they are supported as effectively as possible.”

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