A week ago I put out the idea of the TCG as being urgently needed in light of the Financial Times front page which said in simple terms that Osborne is seeking to privatise social housing.
Next Wednesday (25th) sees Osborne’s Autumn Statement (think mini budget) and perhaps we will find out more then and/or find out more about whether his apparent plans to only pay a maximum of 90% of social rent in housing benefit – as stories in Sunday Times, Inside Housing and Guardian all speculate – is true or not and if so it will increase the bedroom tax by 52% as I reported here.
Until next Wednesday afternoon we don’t know precisely what new or revised issues the TCG will need to challenge and this hiatus I welcome as despite being just 7 days ago the response to the TGC idea has seen hundreds of emails to the email@example.com temporary email I set up. I have also had hundreds to my personal and work email, phone calls, PMs on Facebook and DMs on Twitter and a large number of enquiries on the temporary TCG Facebook page (here).
So while any notion of social housing being privatised must be the number one priority for the TCG the Autumn Statement could increase the importance and urgency of the bedroom tax or not.
The responses, which have ALL been supportive, have come from tenants, official and unofficial tenant groups, tenant activists, private tenants, private tenant lobbies, community lobbies, journalists both local and national, trades unions, political parties and landlords large and small – to name just a few. Yet despite being a tad overwhelmed keep the correspondence coming by whatever means suits.
Bank details for donations and membership will be available soon as will a specific and permanent TCG website and funding is as always the critical issue. In the first update I included a poll asking should the TCG take start-up funding from landlords and was at pains to point out this had to be on a non-strings one-off basis to get it off the ground. This was after the idea had been put to me by landlords as they have a mutual interest in challenging the potential privatisation of the social housing model and other tenant issues imposed by Government.
I have included that poll again below and to date over 90% said Yes the TCG should take such no-strings one-off funding and I will keep this open until the end of November as originally stated
As yet no funding has been received just to clarify yet the huge response to that poll is encouraging and so I have put out a series of questions below and or now just one question on just 4 of the new social tenant issues since the May 2015 general election.
Q1 – Extension of the Right to Buy to Housing Association tenants
Q2 – Pay More to Stay
Q3 – Welfare Benefit Freeze
I have deliberately made the last question as leading as possible so that the point hits home. Welfare benefit levels (pensioner and DLA/PIP excepted) were frozen this year at 2014/15 levels and will remain at the exact same level until March 2021. This is a 14.6% cut in real terms using the Office of Budget Responsibility’s inflation estimates which the Government uses.
The social tenant’s gas, electricity, food, transport and other necessary expenditure will increase by this 14.6% (if not more) and as social housing is the only place where those who are unable to work (sick, disabled etc) and those not expected to work (e.g. mums with pre-school age children) tend to live. As such the welfare benefit freeze – that rarely gets discussed or commented upon – is a huge issue for the social tenant.
Below is a pie chart showing who lives in social housing and the classification of “unable” is an official one from the English Housing Survey produced by Government and shows the importance of the welfare benefit freeze until 2021.
The chart above also shows that 3 times as many social tenants claiming housing benefit are in work than claiming Job Seekers Allowance. The TCG is not all about the social tenant in receipt of any benefits as 36% of social tenants of working age are in employment and do not qualify for any housing benefit on top of the 22% above who work and earn so little they qualify for HB.
The TCG must have a role in changing the narrative of the social tenant as being a stereotypical White Dee or other Benefit Street caricature or scrounger or shirker. Not only is it bloody offensive it is also a proven lie as the above reveals
One final question and one area linked to that is should the TCG have a role in promoting that all social tenants need to claim all the benefits they are entitled to? My view is that if you are entitled to it you should claim it and that is also the philosophy behind Universal Credit which is one assessment for all the benefit and tax credits you are entitled to and on a not a penny more not a penny less basis. Yet the table below comes from the DWP official release of the non take up of welfare benefits from June this year.
The table using the official DWP figures from June 2015 and based in 2013/14 data shows that up to £4.27 billion of housing benefit goes unclaimed (17.7%) and it has to be in both the tenant and landlord interest for this figure – which is now higher than the total paid out in Job Seekers Allowance in 2014/15 that was just under £4 billion per year.
Q4 – Take up of Welfare Benefits?
I will keep all the above open until end of November so please share you views.
Finally, the above questions and data show a bit more of what I have in mind for a few key social tenant issues the TCG can take up. Yet as much as possible the issues social tenants face will be the issues the TCG will take up on a local, regional and national level.
As always keep the emails and comments coming.
PS – Anyone know how to centre polls on WordPress
PPS – I am looking into an initial TCG conference for tenants to be held in early January and will put up some dates in the next week or so and will put on here and on the Facebook page