This morning, Tuesday 16 February, I watched BBC Breakfast and they had an article about the LHA maxima policy in which they spoke with the MD of Contour Homes and with David Orr of the National Housing Federation. It was a farce!
Imagine you are a BBC reporter and you ‘discover’ the LHA maxima policy and are tasked with prepping BBC News and with a website article.
You are a public service broadcaster and you choose what element of the LHA maxima policy you wish as your theme and you choose to exclude other elements. That is sloppy and biased journalism of the highest order.
Michael Buchanan did NOT choose the fact that the policy:
- WILL close ALL domestic violence and abuse refuges and that it means women and children fleeing it will have nowhere to flee to, and
- DID NOT choose to report that the policy will close ALL single persons homeless hostels and any other short-term hostel service for care leavers, ex-offenders or other group
- DID NOT choose to report the policy will close all supported housing for those with mental health, learning disability, physical disability, sensory disability, acquired brain injury an any other support need and therefore cost the NHS huge amounts MORE in public purse costs
- DID NOT choose to report that the policy means that the extra care model of sheltered housing is dead and buried and not financially viable
- DID NOT choose to report that the policy means that many other lower level existing sheltered housing services would also close and therefore mean the only choice for older persons becoming infirm is registered care model costing £600 – £2000 per week and often meaning older persons would have to sell their own homes to pay for.
INSTEAD, Michael Buchanan chose to report that the policy may mean that future sheltered housing may not be built as it is non financially viable.
As a public service broadcaster the BBC clearly got this wrong as the fact there is nowhere to flee DV to and that all Mums will have to be put in a home as sheltered housing no longer exists; or even that 36,000 single homeless persons will have nowhere other than the streets on which to live – are all clearly far higher public interest issues than whether there is any new build sheltered housing!
The Conservative government and the DWP must have been delighted with this slant taken by the BBC as it severely spared their blushes from this ill-conceived LHA maxima policy.
The DWP will also be ecstatic that after interviewing Judith Winterbourne the MD of Contour Homes who spoke only of sheltered housing and after the BBC spoke with David Orr CEO of the National Housing Federation who also did not mention anything other than sheltered the BBC said the DWP has put £870 million aside in discretionary housing payments (DHP) which is a known lie from the DWP that the BBC failed to check and reported as fact!!
The BBC website report by Michael Buchanan is here and is titled “Sheltered Housing development ‘shelved’ due to benefit cuts” – which tells you straight away that he and the BBC fail to mention all the other and far more important public interest and political interest impacts this LHA maxima policy has!
This woefully and blatantly political article ends with this :
But a spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “We’ve always been clear that we value the work the supported accommodation sector does to protect the most vulnerable members of society.
“That’s why we are carrying out a thorough review, working with the sector, to ensure that it works in the best way possible – which is what the NHF has asked for.
“We are also providing councils with £870m of Discretionary Housing Payments which can be paid to people in supported accommodation.”
Two known and blatant lies are contained in the above last two paragraphs.
A review? No. The government is not carrying out a review into the impacts of the LHA maxima policy at all as the DWP confirmed 2 weeks ago in the House of Commons Opposition Day Debate on the LHA maxima policy. The CLG is looking at whether to impose the 1% rent cut for supported housing and including a review on that issue BUT NOT on the LHA maxima issue.
£870m of Discretionary Housing Payments which CAN be paid to people in supported accommodation?
No! The DWP confirmed in a parliamentary written answer (below) that they will be providing £70m (not £870m) and over two years only for the LHA maxima policy! The BBC never chose to investigate this blatant deceit from the DWP and however cleverly it is written with the use of the word CAN.
What is also fact is that all other benefit reforms such as bedroom tax, benefit cap and so on to date specifically EXEMPT those in supported accommodation and as such there is NO NEED for anyone there to need a Discretionary Housing Payment!!
Here is the parliamentary written answer from Justin Tomlinson at the DWP, the same junior minister who confirmed the review into supported housing does NOT concern the LHA maxima policy!
As you can see this confirms my points above and you will see this is two months old so this is incredibly sloppy (and biased?!) journalism from Michael Buchanan and incredibly sloppy and biased of BBC Breakfast to report the DWP deceit as if it were fact!
Here is the parliamentary written answer on the same day in which the DWP confirm the policy is to go ahead and does restrict housing benefit in hostels, refuges, sheltered and all other supported housing, AND the government policy is to make up the shortfalls with DHP …
Yet another woefully sloppy piece of journalism by Michael Buchanan and the BBC Breakfast News team – the so-called impartial public service broadcaster!
Finally the social housing sector complicity and naivety in this needs to be mentioned and this is galling and my personal and professional anger at this has still not dissipated despite consciously waiting over 12 hours before drafting this piece.
Judith Winterbourne the MD of Contour Homes I have some sympathy for and no real blame for her part. She was asked only about new sheltered builds and used the example of a Contour scheme that is in development. She said that each older person due to move in after April 2016 would have to pay (in 2018 through this deferred and perverse policy) around £68 per week from their pension on top of the housing benefit they receive just to make the rent. Over the 40 year life cycle of this new development Contour would lose multi millions of rental income and the scheme was not financially viable due to the LHA maxima policy.
I can understand her take on this and she is not a regular on TV programmes and as such she got one of her organisation’s message across. Judith is not the most media savvy in short
Yet David Orr, as the Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation is regularly on television and many say he is politically and media savvy and his interview was pre-recorded and ONLY mentioned sheltered housing and did not mention hostel, DV refuge or any other form of supported housing establishment at all.
This David Orr interview smacks of either complicity with the deflection onto sheltered housing new build instead of the other issues above would damage the government far more in political and media terms; or it was rank incompetence or perhaps both.
I have been raging over this issue of the LHA maxima policy since mid December when I discovered the parliamentary written answers some of which are above. That was two months ago and you do not get a second chance at making a first impression and today was the first impression of this LHA maxima policy on mainstream TV news.
The news was sanitised and ineffective and overtly politically biased and presented clear deceits and lies from the government as fact. It was a mockery of anything resembling public interest broadcasting and while I place no blame on Judith Winterbourne, I have nothing but professional scorn for David Orr in this farrago in which he was totally complicit. Shameful deeply deeply shameful.