Brent housing benefit campaign update

Brent Council’s head of housing commented on the Government plans last week (30 November) to delay the capping of housing benefit for existing claimants until 2012 saying – “delaying change is not addressing the problem.”

Martin Cheeseman, Director of Housing and Community Care, has been at the forefront of a campaign by Brent and London Councils to encourage the government to introduce changes to the benefits system that fairly reflects living costs in London.

In a recent interview for The Guardian website’s housing blog, Martin outlines the risk of homelessness facing thousands and the vast costs to councils and taxpayers if the proposed changes go through as planned. He also points to the social problems that will follow including the creation of ghettos or ‘dumping grounds’ and the demise of sustainable communities that local authorities have worked hard to forge.

Speaking about the recent announcement Martin said: “Brent has lobbied hard to get government to rethink their proposals which threaten thousands of people, with many families facing the possibility of leaving their homes and the lives they have built in the borough.

“Postponing the caps does indicate that the government are hearing councils calls to rethink the proposals but delaying change is not addressing the concerns or the problems we will face from this type of benefit reform.

“Brent and many other London councils feel these changes hit the poorest hardest making the most vulnerable – such as pensioners, carers, vulnerable adults and families – pay a huge price for the countries debt without offering sustainable results.

“Whilst we recognise the benefits system is in need of reform the issue cannot be addressed without taking into account the lack of affordable housing in London which leaves councils dependent on the private rented sector. Neither of these issues can be looked at independently of each other if we want a system that works.”

The delay means that from April 2011 existing Local Housing Allowance claimants will have their benefit entitlement reviewed on the anniversary of their last claim and will then have up to nine further months before the new caps are imposed.

Anyone making a new claim from April 2011 will be affected by the caps immediately.

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