UK: Welfare reforms failing to move social housing tenants into work

Anne Power
Anne Power

The coalition government’s welfare reforms have resulted in very few social housing tenants being able to find jobs despite their aim of moving people dependent on benefits into work, according to a new report by the London School of Economics (LSE).

Only one in six tenants have either found work or increased their hours since the reforms were introduced in 2010. Those who found work most commonly worked for family members or became self-employed. The majority of new jobs were part-time with uncertain hours.

One third of tenants are struggling financially as a result of the reforms. A majority, 63 per cent, said they were coping by reducing expenditure, in some cases on food, getting into debt to pay large bills or borrowing from family and friends.

A team led by Anne Power, professor of social policy at LSE, carried out two rounds of interviews with 200 tenants in the South West of England covering big cities, coastal towns, villages and tourist centres over a two-year period to find out how the reforms are playing out in low-income communities across the UK.

The report, Is Welfare Reform Working?, provides unique evidence about how tenants and social landlords are coping under the financial pressures of welfare reform and will be launched at LSE today at an event chaired by Margaret Hodge, chairman of the public accounts committee.

Professor Power said: “Four hundred interviews with two hundred tenants over two years paints a powerful and painful picture of low income tenants struggling to cope with falling incomes. Social landlords are offering more support but can’t close the gap.”

The research was commissioned by the South West Housing Association Influence and Leadership Organisation (HAILO), a lobby group of eleven housing organisations in the South West. Its member organisations own and build homes across the region and collectively have a turnover of £900 million, with 201,000 homes in management and 13,200 new homes in development to 2015.

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