“Upside-down” Housing Benefit reforms leave people unable to pay rent

Commenting on research published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the Chief Executive of national charity Citizens Advice has said that the “whirlwind” of changes has left increasing numbers of people unable to pay their housing costs.

Citizens Advice Chief Executive, Gillian Guy, said:

“The Government’s upside-down approach to housing costs has left many people on the edge of losing their home. Citizens Advice saw a 16 per cent increase in social housing tenants dealing with rent arrears in 2013. Last year we saw a rise of 26 per cent in our clients living in social housing who faced having their house repossessed. We need urgent action to get housing costs down.

“Government’s Housing Benefit changes do little to ease the pressure on our housing stock whilst ramping up the strain on hard-pressed families. The Under-Occupancy Penalty cannot be delivered safely without immediate investment in new homes. The lack of options available to people is the fatal flaw at the heart of Housing Benefit reforms and has been made even harder to deal with by poor implementation. This has resulted in many sick and disabled people facing unfair extra costs and unable to pay their rent. With so many unable to meet their living costs, Citizens Advice Bureaux saw a 110 per cent rise in enquiries about Discretionary Housing Payments in just one year.

“For people at the sharp end of reforms, the combined impact of welfare upheaval and the unprecedented economic downturn has felt like a whirlwind. Localising Council Tax support led to 87 per cent more people asking for our help with bills. The extra squeeze on household budgets has led to increasing numbers of people seeking emergency help with everyday essentials. The chaos and confusion caused by reforms to emergency financial assistance mean many people at their wit’s end are being sent from pillar to post to put food on the table.”

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