Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Bleak Winter for Housing Benefit Families

Estate agents in Brent are already taking action
The Winter Bulletin from the Brent Citizens Advice Bureau has two pieces of worrying news.

The first concerns the impact of changes in Housing Benefit, which although not in force until January 2012 is already having an impact, with private landlords taking drastic action. I have already seen this in a primary school where I am a governor with tenants receiving notice to quit and families having to move into bed and breakfast hotel accommodation.

Brent CAB say:
Although the government has delayed the changes, evidence is emerging of the impact of the proposed housing benefit cap.

We are receiving a mounting number of enquiries from prospective tenants, who are being rejected by landlords because they rely on housing benefit.

We are also seeing many residents whose tenancy agreement is not renewed because of the HB changes. In other cases, landlords are simply issuing Section 21 notice to evict tenants.

The full implementation of these proposals, next January, is bound to have a devastating effect on Brent residents - of the 10,225 families receiving LHA in Brent, 1,988 are receiving LHA above the cap - and it may be compounded by the pressures on accommodation and other basic services - such as schools and health, as a result of families being displaced from more affluent central London boroughs.

We are already working with Brent Council to look at ways of easing the impact of such changes.

We have also raised our concerns with local MPs. Brent CAN attended a meeting of the Work and Pensions Select Committee to make the case against a cut in housing benefits.

Brent CAB is looking for a multi-agency partnership to support people affected by these changes. We are also trying to secure extra resources to deal with housing benefit cases and displaced families.

If you would like to know more about working in partnership with Brent CAB, please contact Jacqueline.carr@brentcab.co.uk


Ian Brownhill, Chair of Brent CAB, warns that they have already lost a quarter of their total funding and that more cuts are on the way. The reorganisation of Children's Centres may result in a significant reduction in the service that Brent CAB offers at the Centres. Last year they helped 2,820 families and since April 2009 have gained £3.7m for parents.

He says:
It is alarming to see funding being reduced as part of a budgetary drill, paying little or no attention to outcomes or impact on vulnerable people.
He goes on to welcomes the Council's decision to protect the most vulnerable people from cuts and says:
I trust this policy to be fully implemented, when it comes to deciding on essential advice services for Brent residents and the future of Brent CAB.
He is absolutely right and that is why Brent Fightback is so essential to monitor cuts that the Council is making and ensure that the policy is being followed.

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