SFHA outlines its five general election asks

SFHA logo - CMYK 2016With the general election just two weeks away, the Scottish Federation of Housing Association (SFHA) has revealed its five-point plan to reduce the damaging impact of welfare reforms.

The membership body said welfare reforms have increased the vulnerability of tenants and impacted on the ability of housing associations to support tenants, increased the incidence of homelessness and reduced rental income to housing associations.

Given that welfare payments remain reserved to Westminster but are a key source of sustainable finance to social housing in Scotland – social security is the central focus of what the SFHA is asking the political parties to transform to make the social housing world a better place.

The five-point plan is as follows:

  1. Alleviate the poverty resulting from the seven-day waiting period for new claimants of Universal Credit
  2. Abolish the two-child policy for access to Working Tax Credits and Universal Credit – which would also redress the injustice of the ‘rape clause’
  3. Restore protection for the youngest, older and most vulnerable in communities by removing arbitrary caps on rent in social housing
  4. Defer the roll-out of Universal Credit until it can be shown to be working safely
  5. Reduce the risk of destitution for benefits claimants by reforming the punitive sanctions regime
  6. The SFHA said: “Almost two-thirds of tenants of housing associations rely on Housing Benefit to pay even modest rents, including tenants who work. Recent reforms are having a damaging impact on housing associations and their tenants.

    “Under the existing system for Job Seekers Allowance there is a seven-day waiting period, it does not prevent tenants claiming housing benefit from day one. But with Universal Credit, a seven-day waiting period is in place. To help prevent claimants from falling into debt, this cut urgently needs to be reversed.

    “Recent social security policies have discriminated against the young, with the removal of entitlement to 18-21-year-olds and the shared accommodation rate to single under-35s. SFHA believes these measures should be scrapped. In addition, the protection provided by social security’s safety net should be restored by reversing caps to entitlement for younger people and large families.

    “Fuel poverty is another major issue for SFHA and our members at this election. In spite of significant investment by housing associations in energy efficiency and in schemes to support and advise tenants, fuel poverty remains a significant issue for housing association tenants due to rising energy prices.

    “Some 27% of households living in housing association homes in Scotland are in fuel poverty. We therefore call on parties to prioritise the provision of affordable warmth and make warm homes a priority by taking steps to reduce the cost of energy and provide customers with the cheapest tariffs; investing in the energy efficiency of homes, especially hard to treat homes; and supporting the provision of energy advice and support, especially for vulnerable people and people on low incomes.

    “And due to recently published research by the SFHA on the possible impact Brexit will have on our members, we want to see the Scottish and UK governments working together to focus on access to construction materials and workers during negotiations as well as support and funding for training of apprentices.

    “We look forward to discussing these priorities with candidates ahead of the election.”

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