UK Government signals transfer of housing allowance to Holyrood by 2019 amid concerns around cuts to shelters
CHARITIES AND LAWMAKERS expressed their relief that the UK government will put a planned cap to the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) for supported accommodation on hold until 2019 after which date, the responsibility be transferred to Holyrood.
Both MSPs and MPs from the SNP hailed the decision as the result of campaigning and research by organisations such as Scottish Women's Aid (SWA).
The UK work and pensions secretary Damian Green stated that the new funding formula, which would affect women’s refuges and homeless shelters, would include a "top up" of ring fenced funding to protect these areas from his departments housing benefit cap.
"Charities and women's groups have faced an enormous amount of uncertainty since changes to housing benefit were first proposed but this could have been avoided if proper impact assessments and research had been carried out in the first place." Eilidh Whiteford
Dr Marsha Scott, chief executive of SWA in response, said: "We are relieved and pleased to see the UK Government have listened to the numerous and serious concerns raised about changes to housing benefit, deferring these changes until 2019 and exempting refuges from the planned 1 per cent rent cut.
"If implemented these plans would have had a devastating impact on women’s refuges and today’s news grants temporary relief to refuges providing vital services across Scotland.
"We worked hard to make this outcome a reality, and we are grateful to all who campaigned and put pressure on the Government to make the right decision."
"I look forward to the Scottish Government gaining control of resources for supported accommodation, which will enable us to ensure it has a secure future." Clare Adamson
CommonSpace earlier this month covered research by SWA which demonstrated that plans laid down by the UK Government last year, to change housing benefits for supported accommodation would mean over £3.7m worth of cuts to Women’s Aid groups, and would result in the closure of refuges for women across Scotland.
SNP MSP Clare Adamson also welcomed the UK Government’s abandoning of its planned cuts to housing benefits for vulnerable people in supported accommodation including women’s aid refuges as she raised the issue in First Minister’s Questions.
Commenting, Ms Adamson said: "I welcome the news that the UK government has abandoned its plans to reduce housing benefit for vulnerable people. The campaigns by groups including Scottish Women’s Aid and others who have criticised the Tories plans has been highly successful in forcing this reversal from the Tories.
"Continuing the policy would have been unacceptable and would have caused serious financial difficulties for crucial services such as hospices, sheltered accommodation and women’s refuges.
"It will be a huge relief to these services and vulnerable people that require use of them that for the time being at least, funding levels will remain the same and I look forward to the Scottish Government gaining control of resources for supported accommodation, which will enable us to ensure it has a secure future."
Plans laid down by the UK Government last year, to change housing benefits for supported accommodation would mean over £3.7m worth of cuts to Women’s Aid groups.
Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP, the SNP's spokesperson for Social Justice, said: "This U-turn from the UK Government is the latest in a long line of so-called social reforms that the Tories have been forced to abandon after closer inspection reveals the devastating effect the changes would have.
"Charities and women's groups have faced an enormous amount of uncertainty since changes to housing benefit were first proposed but this could have been avoided if proper impact assessments and research had been carried out in the first place."
The Scottish Government received the UK Government statement with optimism saying it would work with both the private and public housing sector, third sector and local authorities in Scotland to ensure the devolved funding will be used wisely to maintain support for the vulnerable.
Angela Constance, cabinet secretary for communities, social security and equalities, said: "From 2019 the resources for supported accommodation will transfer to the Scottish Government. When we have further detail, we will work with our partners to ensure that supported accommodation in Scotland is put on a secure and sustainable footing for the long term."
Picture courtesy of Jodi Womack
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