Over the last few years extensive welfare reform changes have been implemented under successive Westminster governments. The reforms have been wide-ranging and include the introduction of the Bedroom Tax and Universal Credit, as well as, the replacement of Disability Living Allowance with Personal Independence Payments, the benefits cap, and an increase in the application of sanctions.
Currently, over 61% of all rental income of housing associations and co-operatives is sourced from Housing Benefit. The geography of deprivation in Scotland is closely matched to the neighbourhoods managed by Community Controlled Housing Associations. Being based in some of the most disadvantaged communities in Glasgow and the west of Scotland our members are seeing, first-hand, the impact of welfare reforms on vulnerable tenants, who in many cases, already find it difficult to manage their financial affairs.
New powers for Scotland
Potential new welfare powers under the Scotland Act (2016) which would allow the Scottish Government the scope to ‘top up and create benefits’ could reconfigure the social security landscape in Scotland. These include: power over the housing element of Universal Credit; the opportunity to abolish the bedroom tax; the potential adjustment of LHA rates in relation to social housing; the chance to reconfigure the system for Discretionary Housing Payments.
The Scottish Government’s consultation on social security in Scotland is currently ongoing and GWSF will consult with members on our response. The consultation document can be viewed here
Our members’ contribution
CCHAs have responded to welfare reform in a number of ways by –
- Providing on-going welfare reform mitigation advice and support to their tenants delivered by specialist staff.
- Directly assisting with benefit claims and with advice on sanctions.
- Responding to the need for assistance and information by holding welfare reform surgeries in their local offices
- Building innovative partnerships with other public and third sector bodies including: local authorities; credit unions; law centres; and food-banks.
- Keeping tenants updated on key facts about welfare reform changes through housing association newsletters and other publications.
GWSF’s work on welfare reform
- GWSF is closely involved at both national, and at local authority level in Glasgow, in the welfare reform agenda. We represent our members at relevant groups and stakeholder events where we make sure that the CCHA perspective is heard.
- We continue to highlight the impact of welfare reform on tenants and their families while promoting the work that our members are doing on this front.
- We work with other organisations like the Poverty Alliance and Child Poverty Action Group on key welfare reform issues.
- We support our member-led Campaign Group in its work on welfare reform issues.