Spending Review criticised on housing and Universal Credit

By agency reporter
September 5, 2019

The Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, Terrie Alafat, has responded to the spending review announcement by Chancellor Sajid Javid. Alafat said: "We recognise this was an unusual spending review: it dealt with only one year, and with only a few exceptions it relates only to revenue, rather than capital spending.

"We are disappointed the government has not included housing in those areas, like health and education, getting a long-term additional funding settlement. We are facing a national housing crisis, and every day we do nothing about it, it’s getting worse. Having a safe and secure home with the right support is as important as having access to good schools and hospitals in building thriving families and sustainable communities.

"On one area, however, the Chancellor was silent – and that was welfare. And the freeze on local housing allowance (LHA) continues to cause misery.

"In some parts of the UK a staggering 97 per cent of private rents are now simply unaffordable under benefit rules. This leaves thousands of families having to choose between paying their rent and feeding their children. It is a national shame that people face being made homeless and councils have to spend £1 billion a year on temporary accommodation because LHA is failing to do its job. Restoring LHA to cover the most affordable 30 per cent of rents in this spending review would have brought the government significant savings in the benefit bill, as well as giving some of our most vulnerable fellow-citizens a more secure environment in which to live."

Also responding to the Chancellor's announcements, Emma Revie, Chief Executive of the Trussell Trust, said: “This Spending Review was a lost opportunity. As the country looks to the future, we need our Government to put policy ahead of politics. Increasing living costs, inadequate benefit levels, and the five week wait for Universal Credit are all leaving people without enough money in their pockets for the most basic costs. It’s no surprise we’re seeing the highest level of need for food banks ever.

“Our benefits system must be able to offer vital protection to people in uncertain times, yet there was little mention of how households on low incomes will stay afloat as Brexit unfolds. It was particularly disappointing to see no action on the five week wait for Universal Credit – we know this is pushing people to the doors of food banks.

“It’s not inevitable that food bank use will continue to increase – there are steps we can, and must, take as a country. First, our Government must end the five week wait for Universal Credit. More broadly, if we want our benefits system to be able to offer crucial support, we must also see benefit levels restored to make the cost of living affordable. These are things in our Government’s power to deliver – anchoring us all from the rising tide of poverty must be a priority.”

* The Trussell Trust https://www.trusselltrust.org/

* Chartered Institute of Housing http://www.cih.org/

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