LHA maxima makes older people distinctly unHAPPI

The LHA maxima is wrongly called the LHA cap by too many people in housing who should realise that we already have a policy called the LHA cap – in 2012 the coalition capped LHA at £400 per week and did away with any LHA rates for 5 or 6 or higher bed properties.

The LHA maxima is the policy announced by Osborne in the Autumn Statement which said no social tenant can receive more in housing benefit than the maximum LHA a private tenant can receive – hence the LHA maxima.

More importantly the message of what the LHA maxima does is still not getting through to social landlords and local government who both really should know better.  Today, Wednesday 3 February saw the Chief Executive of St Vincent’s Housing Association say this on Twitter:

charliesvha

Follow the link and we see this:

svhashelter

The two red lines are there as (a) these new homes are not ready to take the first sheltered tenants until May 2016 and hence after April and because of this (b) they will ALL be hit by the LHA maxima cut from April 2018.

A 1 bed property with a rent set from £135 in Bury which has a 1 bed LHA maxima rate of ….

burylha

£135 per week rent sees housing benefit pay just £84.00 per week of that meaning the sheltered tenant has to find an additional £51 per week just to make the rent – something that will not be too HAPPI about!

Delve a bit deeper onto SVHA’s website and we find that this scheme has 16 number of 1 & 2 bed flats to rent that I presume means 8 of each not 16 of each and the following on rent level which is lower than above and presumably means the HB eligible amount.

svhadanesmoor

SVHA has 8 x 1 beds that will see a HB cut in 2018 from £125.62 to £84.00 and 8 x 2 bed rented flats with a HB cut from £140.62 down to £98.96.

Compute that over a year and in 2018/19 this all singing all dancing state of the art HAPPI complex will have a HB cut of £34,739 per year or £2,172 per year less than when this new scheme was initially developed.

This is a 31.3% reduction in maximum housing benefit.

The scheme is ONLY financially viable IF SVHA only occupy these properties with those over 55 who do NOT receive housing benefit.  Or put another way these properties exclude the social housing tenant on benefit that now average at least 75% of all tenants in sheltered housing.

_________

The issue here is that SVHA must have costed this scheme a while back and way before the Chancellor’s out of the blue LHA maxima policy announcement on 25 November 2015 in the Autumn Statement.  They are now being shafted by that ill-conceived policy.

I wonder how many other new builds in development have a scheduled completion date after April 2016 as they too will all be in the same boat of being non financially viable.

All similar schemes to this and by any social landlord will not get the go ahead now and we read in the LHA maxima debate last week that Golden Lane Housing (Mencap’s housing arm) has shelved £100 million worth of new build investment because of this policy.

In this SVHA case would it be cheaper to tenant the scheme fully on the morning of 31 March and decant all tenants to a hotel for 5 weeks until the properties are ready?

It that was feasible legally then financially it would be worth it as these tenants would not then face the massive HB cut from April 2018.  SVHA could decant them for 5 weeks in Malta and still be better off financially as of course the tenants would be too!  Contrived to hell and almost certainly contrivance under HB regulations and hence unlawful.

Could SVHA have their builders work 24 hours a day and get the properties built by 31 March?  Being really sarcastic here but given that this government voted down the policy of making homes fit for human habitation could SVHA tenant the properties with no windows or doors or even internal walls on 31 March just so they are existing tenants the day before this policy comes into effect?!

This is just one example of perhaps many hundreds of new build schemes that are already in development and all of them expose the sheer madness of the LHA maxima policy.

The HAPPI standards are what is needed and Housing Ageing Population Panel for Innovation or HAPPI first reported back in 2009 as being greatly needed and THE way forward.  So the LHA maxima policy also means that HAPPI homes are probably all non financially viable and the whole concept is dead and buried.

Put another way, this government with one announcement by the chancellor has ensured that older people – the grey vote in political terms too – do not get the homes they need and want all because this Conservative administration is (a) incompetent and (b) hell bent on destroying the social housing model created in the Welfare State of 1948.

That just leaves 2 choices for older people – take the lowest or low level no frills and ‘bog-standard’ sheltered housing with no support and no care provision; or go into a residential care home and cost the (local government) public purse around 5 times as much as a HAPPI home would do!

That begs one simple question – Why the hell aren’t social landlords and local authorities screaming at this Conservative government what a flea-ridden dog’s breakfast this LHA maxima policy is?

 

Bedroom Tax – Let’s all cost IDS £1.26 billion per year and get rid

Jeremy Corbyn tweets a story in today’s Mirror which says that the Tories are to spend more in legal fees appealing last weeks Court of Appeal defeat than the ruling would cost them to implement.

corbyn bedroom tax

IDS is prepared to waste taxpayer’s money in spitting out his dummy is the implication and it’s a correct implication.

So is what is good for the goose good for the gander?

When 449,151 bedroom tax households get their new bedroom tax decision notices in March this year, which on average cuts their housing benefit by £795.72 per year then ALL 449,151 could appeal this decision which is their right and if they did then each First-tier Tribunal costs central government £2,800.

The bedroom tax cuts saves government £357.4 million [449,151 x £795.72] yet if everyone appealed the decision then 449,151 bedroom tax appeals will cost government £1.26 billion – or 3.5 times what they wish to save from it.

For every £1 allegedly saved, the government would be spending out £3.50 to defend that decision in simple terms.

Every one has a right of appeal against the decision to impose it and they SHOULD use that right.

It costs nothing to appeal and it would severely damage the policy by a form of lawful direct action.

All it takes is a letter with a signature within one month of receiving the HB decision notice and handed in to your local council’s one stop shop or office.

Sample letter to explain the simplicity of this below.

Include the date and your HB reference number and/or NI number and say as an opening paragraph the following.

Dear sirs,

I request that you reconsider your housing benefit decision dated dd/mm/2016 as I maintain you have not considered all relevant circumstances of my individual case which the Upper Tribunal state you must do as the decision maker in paragraph 54 of the three judge panel in [2014] UKUT 0525 (AAC).

Then you need to say (a) why you maintain a room is NOT a bedroom and then (b) sign it and hand it in.

There are many reasons you could give as to why you maintain the room or rooms upon which you have been deducted bedroom tax are not a bedroom and I cover some of these at the end (also in blue.)

The key issue is that you appeal as part of a direct action protest which is lawful and a legitimate form of protest – else you would not have the right to appeal in the first place – and these appeals all going to the tribunal service would cost central government £2,800 each.

All it takes is one letter with a signature.  Your council’s HB department then have to conduct a reconsideration of the decision and say, in writing to you, why they maintain the original decision was correct to impose the bedroom tax.

Then you could email your council’s HB department (this second step does not necessarily need a signature though the first step does, hence a letter) to say you disagree with their decision and require the matter go to the tribunal.

One letter and one email is all it takes.

Is 1 letter and 1 email worth the trouble to potentially save £795.72 per year?  Of course it must be and note many of the 449,151 bedroom tax cases could have very legitimate reasons of appeal.

If EVERYONE appealed which I restate is your absolute right, then this would cause an almighty political stink as well as cost the government much more than they could possibly save.  So what!

The fact such a direct action protest would bring the matter to a head and do to IDS what he is now doing by using taxpayers money to appeal the Court of Appeal decisions which will cost more to appeal than the government gets if it wins – is example the same principle.

Do unto IDS as he is doing unto you!!

____________________

Some valid and arguable reasons why a room is not a bedroom are below and kept deliberately short.

  1. I maintain that 1 room is not a bedroom as it does not conform to the minimum size requirements in order to be a functional bedroom in accordance with Tudor Walters issues as stated in paragraph [55] of the above 3JP case
  2. I maintain that 1 room is not a bedroom as of its unusual design and layout 
  3. I maintain that 1 room is not a bedroom as to put a bed in that room would deny access to a built-in cupboard
  4. I maintain 1 room is not a bedroom as it has no window
  5. I maintain that 1 room is not a bedroom as it is not ventilated in the same way as other bedrooms
  6. I maintain that 1 room is not a bedroom as it is not heated as other bedrooms
  7. I maintain that 1 room is not a bedroom as it is needed for therapeutic other uses.
  8. I maintain that 1 room is not a bedroom as it is not of normal height
  9. I maintain that 1 room has a sloping roof and it not a bedroom

All of the above are very legitimate legal reasons why a room is not a bedroom even if the landlord says it is a bedroom and you only need to add one reason in the original letter and in addition to the opening paragraph as drafted.

There will be and are dozens more reasons that have all been upheld at tribunals or in which the decision has been changed before the matter going to a tribunal.

One such reason which was an example of common sense and good practice was a case where an 8 year old girl and her 5 year old brother were sharing a bedroom which is what the regulations say.  Two children of opposite sexes can share a room if both under 10.

Yet the 8 year old girl started her periods and after discussion and consideration the council bedroom tax decision maker agreed that the girl needed a bedroom of here own which she clearly did.  Note too that the NHS have this on their website:

Most girls start their periods when they’re about 12, but they can start as early as 8, so it’s important to talk to girls from an early age to make sure they’re prepared before the big day.

So we see the NHS admitting that some girls start their period as young as 8 years of age.

Regrettably many councils believe they do not have the discretion to do this and must stick rigidly with 2 children under 10 must share a room for bedroom tax purposes.  However every council decision maker DOES have discretion and they are free to determine in the individual circumstances that the housing need in terms of bedrooms was not 1 for the 8 year old girl and her 5 year old brother, but, as a matter of correctness 2 bedrooms or a bedroom each.

The example above is used because it illustrates what I drafted in the opening paragraph of the letter above in the council decision maker considering all relevant circumstances on a case by case basis which is what paragraph 54 of the legal precedent says.  In discussing what is and is not a bedroom and how decision makers approach that question paragraph [54] says:

We also agree with the Secretary of State that the choice by Parliament of a test using an undefined familiar or ordinary English word supports the view that Parliament intended to allow decision makers to take account of all relevant circumstances on a case by case basis

All relevant circumstances on a case by case basis is discretion for the decision maker and so decision makers – and they are your local councils HB department and no one else – have to consider my points 1 – 9 above and also have to consider the much rarer examples of an 8 year girl starting her periods as I illustrate.

In summary, the most important issue and for me the quickest way to get rid of the bedroom tax is if all 449,151 households who are currently affected write 1 letter and then insist in 1 email their council refers their individual case to tribunal to cost the government £2,800 or so.

Do unto IDS as he is doing unto you!

LHA Maxima – £40 million HB cut per year to YMCA!

YMCA England will see their housing benefit funding reduce by over £40 million per year under the LHA maxima policy of the Conservatives government.

The government says housing benefit cut by the policy will be mitigated by giving local councils £35 million per year in Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP), yet that is not enough to cover the housing benefit cut to just one provider in  YMCA England!  So…

  • What about the HB cut to all other homeless hostels?
  • What about the HB cut to all domestic violence refuges?
  • What about the HB cut to all extra care sheltered housing?
  • What about the HB cut to much of the rest of sheltered housing?
  • What about the HB cut to all supported housing for mental health?
  • What about the HB cut to all supported housing for learning disability?
  • What about the HB cut to all supported housing for physical disability?
  • What about the HB cut to all supported housing for sensory disability?
  • What about the HB cut to all supported housing for acquired brain injury?
  • What about the HB cut to all supported housing for autism?
  • What about the HB cut to all supported housing for homeless families?
  • What about the HB cut to all supported housing for ex-offenders?
  • What about the HB cut to all supported housing for detox and rehab?
  • What about the HB cut to all supported housing for mum and babes units?
  • What about the HB cut to all supported housing for care leavers?
  • What about the HB cut to all supported housing for refugees?
  • What about the HB cut to all supported housing for travellers?
  • What about the HB cut to all supported housing for HIV / Aids?
  • What about the HB cut to all supported housing for aspergers?
  • What about the HB cut to all supported housing for alzheimers?
  • What about the HB cut to all supported housing from male DV victims?
  • What about the HB cut to all supported housing for any other vulnerability that you can possibly think of however rare or specialist who will all face significant levels of cuts?

Ahem!

The policy

No social rented sector tenant can receive more in housing benefit than the maximum LHA rate. LHA is Local Housing Allowance which is the private rented variant of Housing Benefit and is set at a fixed rate in 152 localised areas called Broad Market Rental Areas.

 

A YMCA Statement on the 2 hour debate held this week says

“YMCA is the largest provider of safe, supported accommodation for young people in England, providing almost 10,000 beds every night.

When this policy was first announced I computed that single homeless services in Liverpool would lose £3 million per year in housing benefit.  As part of that YMCA Liverpool would lose £677,000 per year and have to close.

Two nights ago I looked at YMCA England’s website which contains the housing benefit costs for each YMCA and the age groups which is relevant as the under 35s get a lower rate of LHA called the SAR – shared accommodation rate.

What I found for the first 6 YMCA’s alphabetically was as follows:

  • Basingstoke YMCA would lose £343,517 (see below)
  • Bridgewater YMCA would lose £102,500
  • Colchester YMCA would lose £108,452
  • Cornwall YMCA would lose £358,344
  • East Herts YMCA would lose £106,936
  • Goole YMCA would lose £111,197

Each YMCA has a table such as the one for Basingstoke here:

ymca-basing1830

YMCA Basingstoke now gets £150.52 per week per tenant in housing benefit – the £153.05 less £2.53 personal service charge figures above – and its age group is 18-30 which means that £150.52 will reduce to £68.17 per week, the SAR rate for Basingstoke.  This is a cut of £82.35 per tenant per week and for the 80 tenants this is a total housing benefit cut of £343,517 per year.

Collectively for the 6 YMCA’s detailed this is £1,130,946 per year in housing benefit cut for the collective 280 bedspaces they have.  This cut in housing benefit of £1,130,946 for 280 bedspaces is an average loss per bedspace of £4,049.09p per year and that YMCA England have 10,000 bedspaces.

YMCA England will therefore face a housing benefit cut of £40 million per year

 

Note that the figures are in no way skewed to misrepresent as figures for YMCA Liverpool reveal a £677,000 per year cut for 98 bedspaces or £6,908 per bedspace and 50% higher than the above average.

In addition to the cautious £40 million housing benefit cut to YMCA England (and YMCA have homeless accommodation in Scotland and Wales too) it is reported that Housing & Care 21 will lose £23 million per year and Anchor will lose £13 million.

Other figures are trickling out individually and many are reluctant to state what their losses in housing benefit will be.

We first had a figure of £177 million per year from the NHF of 50,000 properties at £68 per week and then a day later a NHF figure of 156,000 supported and sheltered housing closures just for housing associations reported by John Healey in the House of Commons debate on Wednesday this week which if at the same £68 per week is £553 million per year…

…and the government is saying £35 million per year in DHP is appropriate!

That same HoC debate also had John Healey say that Mencap’s housing arm had shelved plans for a £100 million investment in new supported housing which shows the real issue of taking away the revenue funding, the HB which allows such services to operate and not only will services close, they will never reopen or be rebuilt.

Golden Lane Housing, Mencap’s housing arm, had plans for £100 million investment over the next five years in supported housing across England, but they have been scrapped.

 

Is it really the government intention to close ALL supported and sheltered housing services?  If the policy goes ahead in this planned form then every homeless hostel and every DV refuge will close by 2018.

There is no doubt that every DV refuge becomes non financially viable under the policy and also no doubt it will affect every women and child in every refuge on 4 April 2018 as all will have entered refuge after April 2016 and so all will receive the cuts and no DV provider can afford to operate a refuge.

What is truly bemusing is that this government knows the impact of this policy and has known the likely impacts since 2011 when they issued a consultation paper on this very same issue – capping housing benefit to the LHA rate.  That consultation did not even see a consultation response and the issue was dropped by the DWP, who are the same DWP personnel now as back in late 2011!

The House of Commons debate on Wednesday saw the CLG under which housing sits say they will defer the 1% planned rent cut for supported housing while awaiting a DWP study into housing benefit in supported housing.  Yet, the LHA maxima policy which holds the £40 million cut to YMCA England, is a housing benefit policy which comes under DWP and no deferment or even a commitment to look again at the issue, with or without this research study led by IPSOS MORI.

Instead all we have is a vague comment by Lord Freud in the House of Lords – and remembering Lord Freud was a full part of the original LHA maxima consultation in 2011 that was abandoned:

“I am not in a position to be utterly specific about how we will do this, but I can say that we will put in place the appropriate protections for those in supported housing. DWP (the Department for Work and Pensions) and DCLG (the Department for Communities and Local Government) will be working closely together to make sure that those protections are in place. We appreciate the concern, and we will aim to do this urgently.”

 

Lord Freud has had over 4 years to formulate “appropriate protections” since the July 2011 consultation yet has not done so. His definition of ‘urgent’ clearly finds no dictionary definition of that word.

 

The 2011 DWP consultation proposed 3 options of (a) LHA only (b) LHA + £20 and (c) LHA + £40 per week and was at pains to say this was not a cost cutting exercise but a recycling of existing funding on a cost neutral basis.  Yet as the above YMCA Basingstoke example shows what is now proposed is a cut of £82.35 per week as the current housing benefit is LHA + £82.35.  So even the most generous option from the 2011 consultation would see a cut of £42.35 per tenant per week if option (c) of LHA + £40 was implemented and a cut of £176,660 to YMCA Basingstoke that would still mean closure.

Some in supported housing are welcoming the statement of Lord Freud to look at this urgently and provide “appropriate protections” yet he has had over 4 years to develop these since the July 2011 consultation and has not done so.  That welcoming cannot be anything more than Panglossian delusion and supine or spineless delusion.  Lord Feud has had more than 4 years to find an ‘appropriate response’ yet has not done so and what the YMCA Basingstoke example above shows is no wriggle room and government has no option but to abandon the policy for all supported and sheltered housing.

Finally, the LHA maxima policy was announced out of the blue in the Autumn Statement on 25 November 2015 and was accompanied by the OBR estimates of savings which also included the certainty level of achieving the stated policy aims.

The OBR said the LHA maxima had a medium to high level of UNCERTAINTY in achieving its aims and its projected savings!

This policy is a dog with fleas and the government don’t have a Scooby Doo what they are doing. Abandon the policy

________________________________

 

PS I had to somehow get this work of genius below into one blog post reader – just how can anyone see a map of Australia and think Scooby Doo?  Inspired just doesn’t cover it!

scooby doo australia

Damn, says Osborne…I would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for you pesky bloggers?

 

What the LHA maxima policy really means

Imagine your Mum or Dad is getting a bit frail, a bit forgetful, perhaps now living alone in the family home and maybe you recognise the initial onset of multi infarct dementia as I did with my Mum 20 years or so ago.

I was lucky as working in supported housing and at the time line managing 4 regional sheltered housing managers too, I knew the signs to look for.  I was also lucky in that low level sheltered housing was available and Mum moved in after much consideration, and loved it.

She was quite anxious about it and perceived sheltered housing to be ‘old folk’ sitting around in wheelchairs with commodes and dribbling from the mouth and similar imagery, which it is not,  yet a fairly commonly held view of it being a dreaded ‘home’ as in your not putting me in a (care) home.

I showed her round a few to dispel that myth and the low level non resident warden (category 1) scheme she moved into was two tower blocks adjacent to one another and had a community centre attached; more function than form and aesthetically ugly as hell yet safe and secure.

Mum began to sing again for ‘the pensioners’ as she had done for man years previously that I had often witnessed during school holidays and ran around with her boundless energy that she had always had.  She looked younger, made dozens of new friends and had a whole new lease of life and a better quality of life than if she had stayed rambling round in the family home.

Then about 10 years ago the multi infarct dementia really began and what Mum needed was the then very new extra care provision -sheltered housing with added care services – but none was available and I was on the phone to every social landlord asking if any was in the pipeline as you’d expect.  However, the concept of extra care was still relatively new and little provision was around and so I had to take the decision to put Mum in a care home.

I told and persuaded Mum more correctly, the decision was all my brothers and sisters, and after a great deal of deliberation and anger and tears as you can imagine, but as my other sister said I will have to do it as I was the blue-eyed boy, the spoilt youngest child and still Mum’s baby…

Putting your Mum in a care home is every Mum’s nightmare but there was no choice as there was no extra care sheltered housing available which was the only other option and the preferred one.

On the day she went in I can still see the look on my other sister’s face in the car park and remember her saying to me “You’ll have to take Mum in, I just can’t do it” while she was fighting back her emotions and tears so Mum wouldn’t see.

Mum died a couple of years after and while the care home staff were fabulous, it was a care home with all the loss of independence that brings.  Mum went into a shell, she wasn’t Mum: She was not the fiercely independent woman any longer and some other residents there were in commode wheelchairs and were dribbling from the mouth, constant reminders in Mum’s mind of what she would become…

Mum, in part, and understandably so, stopped fighting and gave in to the bastard of all bastards which is dementia and all that goes with it.

IF there had been extra care provision, which still maintains a fair level of independence and much more dignity than a residential care home, Mum would have lived longer.

Even if that had only been 6 months longer, there would have been at least one day when she would have been lucid and when she was Mum and not the pale imitation of a wonderful Mother, woman and human being she had become.

Oh to have one more day…

Mum stopped talking altogether rather than say the wrong thing, pride kicked in and the look in her eyes was one of I am a burden to you even being here and one of stupid shame and of she had let us down … Mum was a typical Mother …

……………

Over the past decade Extra Care has been increasing significantly in terms of provision to give that just one more day (and more) to many adults whose Mum or Dad is deteriorating.  Yet this government will kill extra care off altogether with their LHA maxima policy and it will also reduce that low-level sheltered housing Mum first went into.  We also have the demographic ‘time-bomb’ as it used to be known of an increasing number of older persons. and need much more of it.

Yet there will be nowhere for your Mum or Dad to go soon except into the dreaded home that is all parents worst nightmare and fear as it becomes financially non viable to operate.

I make no apologies for the emotive and personal narrative above as that is the reality of what this government is doing with the LHA maxima policy.

Factual data as to why all the above is true

  • The government policy is that a 1 bed sheltered housing property cannot receive any more in housing benefit than a private tenant receives for a non-sheltered general needs property.
  • The housing benefit a private tenant receives is called the Local Housing Allowance or LHA and is a fixed maximum figure in each local area.
  • So the maximum housing benefit a sheltered tenant can receive is the 1 bed LHA rate, hence the policy being correctly called the LHA maxima.
  • George Osborne announced the policy out of the blue in the Autumn Statement in late November 2015 and announced it with no consultation, no impact assessment and not as part of any legislative Bill.  Government will introduce it by statutory instrument and with no scrutiny, which they can.
  • The policy affects new tenants from April 2016 and is only applied from April 2018

The 1 bed LHA rate in Greater Liverpool, a low rent area which includes most of Merseyside, is £90.90 per week, hence that is all the sheltered tenant there can receive from 2018.

A typical 1 bed sheltered housing property receives £140 per week in housing benefit which is £50 per week more than the maximum housing benefit.  This means the sheltered housing tenant will have to find £50 per week from state pension or savings in order to make the rent.

This ONLY applies to NEW tenants from April 2016 and not to current or existing tenants … HOWEVER …

A recent 165-page report into older persons housing in Sefton, one of the 5 Merseyside councils found that sheltered housing has a 16% per year turnover – 16 new tenants per year for every 100 sheltered properties in simple terms.

Thus, in April 2018 when the housing benefit cut of £50 per week begins it will affect 32% of all sheltered tenants.  This is the 16% new tenants from 2016/17 and the 16% of new tenants from 2017/8. (It will also affect 16% more in 2018/19 making 48% by financial year end but let’s leave that aside for argument sake.)**

For every 100 sheltered properties this will mean 32 lots of £50 cuts per week which is a cut of £1,600 per week and over a year that is £78,000 less in housing benefit that the landlord will receive if all new tenants are on housing benefit or, a £58,500 funding cut to the social landlord if 75% of sheltered tenants receive housing benefit. Note that 75% is a low percentage in sheltered housing.

The social landlord will have no option but to close such a low level sheltered housing scheme given income cuts of this size and scale which equate to an income loss of 8% – 12% just in the first year and increasing each year thereafter.

Recently I was given figures for a new Extra Care sheltered scheme in the North East (all singing, all dancing, state of the art, multi-million pound development) and the social landlord receives just over £180 per week in housing benefit for each tenant which will fall to the 1 bed LHA rate there of just under £84 per week.

That means a weekly shortfall of just over £96 per week and £5000 per new tenant per year and if the same 16% turnover rate applies then this is a £120,000 – £160,000 per year cut and undoubted closure as the entire scheme is not viable.

Those 100+ extra care tenants will also have the only option of registered care, that’s 100+ Mums and Dads put in a home and at a cost of anywhere between £500 to £900 per week in the North East, and very much more cost to the public purse than the current £180 per week in housing benefit.  It is between 3 and 5 times the cost in fact and that also reveals why this LHA maxima cut is the falsest of false economies.

Summary

The LHA maxima policy has no merit in moral or economic terms.  None of the above is hyperbole or scaremongering or the use of polarised figures to skew the figures in any way to embellish the economic argument.

The LHA maxima policy is not just amoral it is economic incompetence from this government and the policy simply has to go.

____________________

** This same system means that all  – that means 100% – of women and children in a DV refuge will be hit by massive cuts from April 2018 and the refuges, all of them will close.  The typical length of stay in a DV refuge is 6 months or less and so on 4 April 2018 every resident at a refuge will have entered it way after April 2016 and so ALL will be affected.

In a separate blog the level of housing benefit cut from the 17 refuges I have advised is 62.40% and obviously closure.

The exact same happens with all other short-term supported housing such as single homeless hostels and is why they will also ALL close.

In a separate blog the single homeless provision alone in Liverpool will see £3 million per year cuts to housing benefit and the government is planning to give Liverpool just £360k more in Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) to cover this £3 million per year loss to homeless services; and a further £1.3 – £1.45 million housing benefit cut to sheltered housing and £x million per year to all other supported housing such as provision for mental health, learning, physical and sensory disability, acquired brain injury and a range of other vulnerable persons supported housing.

Figures do not lie, only MP’s do when they say all the above is scaremongering.

Lord Freud is really Diana Ross

After Wednesday’s debacle in the House of Commons over the LHA maxima cap policy that will, and definitively WILL, close all refuges and all hostels and at least 156,000 supported and sheltered housing units, it’s a case of Deja-Vu with the incredulous Lord David Anthony Freud Tory or Lord Daft for short.

Inside Housing in it’s usual supine Panglossian manner releases this:

frued deja vu

Firstly, a subtle nuance of Lord Daft conceding that the (LHA maxima) cut will come in by saying he will act urgently to ensure ‘protections’ are in place.

Yet we have been here before with precisely the same reassurance on precisely the same issue from precisely the same Lord Daft back in July 2011 when the Conservatives first unveiled this LHA maxima policy in a consultation paper.

lhajuly11consultpaper

That is the frontispiece of the consultation which proposed the same LHA maxima cap policy as one of its 3 options.  The other two were LHA + £20 per week and LHA + £40 per week.

The above alleged consultation, I say alleged as these 3 options were presented a fait accompli with no alternatives and comments were ONLY sought on these 3 options and by the same DWP Minister, Lord Freud aka Lord Daft.  I remember this very vividly as it was the reason I began blogging as I could see immediately that all of these 3 options would close homeless hostels and DV refuges and all other short-term  / emergency access / direct access supported housing.

I even ran projections of these 3 LHA maxima / LHA plus options on homeless and DV refuge providers I was advising and the scale of housing benefit cut this would bring was between 24% and 65% of housing benefit income.

 

Many others responded and presumably with similar comments at the time – I say presumably because the Conservative-led coalition did not even issue any form of consultation response – In simple terms they got a kicking and realised that all of these LHA maxima and LHA plus proposals were a dog’s breakfast.

Instead they – and led by Lord Daft – had a series of behind closed doors meetings with the usual suspects (and which I still have the minutes of all of them) which led after 3 years to two outcomes.

The first was a wider definition of the old “exempt accommodation” to become what is now called “Specified Accommodation.”

The second was that this “specified accommodation” would have to carry on outside the all singing all dancing Universal Credit project. [Errata, this took 4 years to admit not 3 my apologies!]

Yes, the Tories and Lord Freud specifically, had totally forgotten to include supported and sheltered housing in the design of Universal Credit, they simply missed the minimum 782,000 supported and sheltered housing units out of their considerations and IT specification for Universal Credit.

So when we now read (in the supine Panglossian Inside Housing) that Lord Freud will ‘urgently act’ you can rest assured that his version of the term “urgent” is impossible to find in any dictionary.

That also means that ALL refuges and hostels and all other short-term services (care leavers, ex /sex / mentally disordered offenders et al and not forgetting homeless families units) WILL close.

Such services will never be rebuilt as I have continually stated since I first raised this issue on 15 December 2015 and ever since and how many of the Panglossian housing people will have seen or read this one comment from yesterday’s debate from John Healey:

Golden Lane Housing, Mencap’s housing arm, had plans for £100 million investment over the next five years in supported housing across England, but they have been scrapped

Yes that does say £100 million of plans for new supported housing has been scrapped and just from 1 support provider and because the revenue funding in housing benefit will be so severely cut that new supported housing, like new sheltered housing is wholly non financially viable.

How many will have read or seen this being said by Clive Betts: –

When I am rung up by Tony Stacey, the chief executive of South Yorkshire Housing Association, who is widely respected by people on both sides of the House because of the work of his association and his personal commitment, and he says that the impact of these measures will be a £2.8 million reduction in the income of the association, out of a £20 million budget, that is a matter of major concern

A £2.8 million cut on £20 million turnover is 14% housing people!  That’s FOURTEEN PER CENT and you all have your knickers in a twist and are making 15% of staff redundant and seeking 25% efficiency savings over a 1% cut.

But shame on me for saying – again continually – that the NHF have constantly and deliberately downplayed this issue and very very recently issued knowing underestimates of the impact of the LHA maxima cap issue!!  Yet today the big cheese himself admits that 156,000 properties just run by housing associations will CLOSE …. Just how I have the temerity to criticise Glorious Leader Orr I don’t know myself!!

Then this evening (Thursday) I noticed this !!!!

grauniadwrongagainlhamax

This is Women’s Aid retweeting a story that the Guardian got hopelessly wrong when they say “Plans to cap benefits for social housing tenants in line with private sector deferred for a year until review is completed.

No! No! No!  The government agreed to defer the 1% rent cut to supported housing for a year NOT the LHA maxima cap policy which is the one that reduces social housing rents in line with private rents.

Wholly inept of the Guardian to run this fallacious piece, yet a thousands times as inept for Women’s Aid in believing this fiction – especially when the LHA maxima cap is the one that will close ALL refuges and put Women’s aid out of business too!!

Ye Gods – or some Anglo Saxon words to the same effect – just how do housing associations or support providers such as YMCA or Women’s Aid have the nerve to say they are on the side of vulnerable people and have a social ethos if they are so incompetent as seeing what the LHA maxima cap policy means?!  The same could be said for Age UK and EROSH who have also been very quiet publicly on this cataclysmic policy.

I wish I was articulate enough to coin a phrase for the thin veneer, fur coat and no knickers, superficial and hollow feigned concern all of these organisations who have their heads so far up their own arses and only see daylight when it comes to their own lobbyist survival, that have grown so remote from the very vulnerable people they claim to serve they never see the bloody obvious death this policy causes!

They too all share the Lord Daft definition of urgent!!

_________________________________________

PS We already have the LHA cap (no more than £400 per week housing benefit introduced in 2012) so can we all please refer to this ideological bullshit of a policy that WILL CLOSE ALL hostel and refuge as the LHA maxima cap or just LHA maxima as that describes what it does – cutting HB to the maximum LHA

lhacapedsuphsg

In just over 9 weeks time and starting in April, between 9% and 16% of all sheltered and supported housing tenants will be new ones this forthcoming financial year and so will face massive HB cuts from April 2018.

Unless social landlords adopt a policy of no new sheltered, extra care or supported tenants will be admitted if they are on housing benefit from 9 weeks time then this whole issue is URGENT as a definition that we all do recognise.

So, on the off chance that David Lord Freud has this put under his nose ….

lord daft urgent

Tonight Matthew, says Lord Freud I’m going to be Diana Ross…

I'm Still Waiting

 

UPDATE 10.27 pm

The Guardian has now corrected its significant mistake and says this at the end of the article I reference above:

This article was amended on 28 January 2016. An earlier version said incorrectly the government had announced that housing benefit cuts for people living in social housing would be deferred for a year; what it announced was that the forthcoming 1% cut in social rents would be delayed by a year for supported housing.

Frankly, the fact I report that Women’s Aid read and retweeted the earlier incorrect view of the Guardian and given the monumental consequences of accepting the original Guardian view as fact, warrants far more than a postscript as the Guardian has done.

That too is also URGENT!

pps  I assume that when the government say it has deferred the 1% rent cut for supported housing they are including sheltered housing in that definition of supported (sheltered housing is not necessarily supported housing – they are different precise terms.)

 

 

De facto post facto NHF lives in glass house

The Government has failed to act bemoans David Orr of the National Housing Federation in an article in Inside Housing called “Failure to Act” and in the article David Orr says that the NHF failed to act!!

failure orr

You care to join up the dots David?

“Of the homes provided by housing associations, over 150,000 will become unviable and be forced to close. It doesn’t include the huge range of accommodation services run by voluntary organisations across the country…This is not scaremongering…We have presented these facts privately…Now we have to be public. The facts are indeed scary. And they are very real.”

Pot calls kettle black? Throwing stones in those extremely fragile glass houses of yours?  And yes they are extremely fragile aren’t they? So fragile that you have kept quiet about it and not mentioned but have in fact drip fed deliberately understated fiction out to the likes of the Guardian and 24 Dash that the LHA maxima cap may see a £68 per week cut to 50,000 homes … which you now say that over 150,000 will close – oh sorry that’s just 150,000+ housing association homes – and not just 50,000 may have a rent cut!

I challenged you to publicly state the facts as long ago as 15 December on this LHA maxima issue which WILL close all hostels and refuges and yes I do mean ALL; facts which you now admit you have to go public with.

As anyone who’s ever worked in homelessness will tell you there is a 4-week window when the public – yes they are the ones to go public to! – have some form of sympathy for those who are homeless and that is the Christmas period.  We won’t see you on the streets at Christmas but in the New Year … is a common phrase in the world of homelessness – but hey you mention every other client group in your apologia article in Inside Housing except homelessness!

A 4 week window that you missed thus condemning the 36,000 or so single homeless hostel provision and the circa 4,000 DV refuge beds we now have to the annals of history and because you missed that window.  Perhaps you were looking in the mirror instead to see how good the ermine robes looked?

Going ‘public’ as you now say you have to do means getting the public onside to pressurise government – and your now admitted failure to go public was a huge huge mistake.

What did you call this article? Oh yes…”Failure to Act” Irony is clearly not dead!

Is it because you have read too much Burns that you are a wee timorous beastie yet like that silent mouse you have fallen into the trap set by the DWP who shouted from the rooftops yesterday that housing benefit is out of control and that social landlords have seen their HB levels increase way ahead of inflation at 21% since May 2010 while PRS HB levels actually fell by 0.6% in that time – and that social housing rents have increased 60% in the last ten years compared with 23% for the PRS in that time.

Isn’t the pithy motto of this government fix the roof while the sun is shining?

That’s the same government you chose to jump into bed with but only the housing department at CLG and not the DWP who control all housing benefit matters such as this LHA maxima cap policy and that’s the same Housing Benefit that 65% of the customers (ahem) of your members receive…now why does the Mussolini attack on Abyssinia spring to mind?  Build, build, build, we need more more more while neglecting to ensure what you have is secure.

Failure to Act indeed.

The zeal in which you have chosen to focus solely on more more more reminds me of the same zealotry of IDS, a phrase and comment with which I know you are familiar. You have allowed myopia (and dystopia!) to set in and you clearly believe that housing associations have both an untouchable birthright to be favoured by government yet are private companies.  You have a blinkered focus in believing 99.999% of housing associations role is to build build build while neglecting their core business and much claimed, yet hollow assertion, that they have a social mission and social ethos.

Failure to Act.

That phrase which you must have coined for this article will very much come back to haunt your tenure as the Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation.  The cynic in me says HA’s are of the view that we are private companies ergo we do not have any mandatory duties ergo let’s leave the dinosaur council landlords to pick up the shit!  Extremely unfortunately that cynicism is also the reality and comes on top of the disingenuous we don’t support the forced sale of council housing to pay back your members in the right to buy fiasco.

What’s the latest thinking David?  Wait until a few years after all the larger hostel buildings and housing units close, till they fall into disrepair and become an eyesore … and then snaffle them up cheap and convert into affordable (sic) rent luxury flats?  I agree there will always be punters stupid and desperate enough to buy a new in the heart of the city luxury flat in a former sex offenders or mentally disordered offenders hostel, so why not really come clean and say the NHF couldn’t give a toss about supported housing.

A bit of a bummer that extra care and sheltered housing will also fold though a retirement village into a luxury professional flat gated village is not beyond credulity is it? Of course it will pay a much greater return and without having to get into bed with social and health care too. Wow. Result!!

Then all those sheltered bedsits your members have been desperate to convert for 20 year or so.  Still not a problem, a simple case of demolish and rebuild for private sale or shared ownership – yes that will give a much greater return to wont it? Result!!

In fact failure to act in reality is rather Machiavellian isn’t it David though given its the NHF it will be more Baldrickian in practice, but hey you’ll be long gone by then and probably sharing a heavily subsidised tipple with Lord Best in the House of Lords members bar.

The Lords are a failure in Acts and a failure to act is your fast track there.

Failure to Act? Now what was that you said with the Homes for Britain campaign? That touch, in fact huge touch of blarney you came out with on St Patrick’s Day last year….

nhfnofuss

Time for the sector to make a fuss and have a clear strong voice… ah to be sure!!

ALL refuges and ALL hostels to close and much blame lies within!

The LHA maxima cap policy of the Conservatives will close all DV refuges, all single homeless hostels and much sheltered housing and much specialist supported housing for all other vulnerable persons.

Today the Labour Party had an Opposition Day debate on this LHA maxima policy and sought to have supported and sheltered housing exempted from it.

That attempt failed and the LHA maxima policy will go ahead so all refuges and all single homeless and other short-term hostel type provision will inevitably close.

Hansard records

12.58 pm

John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne) (Lab):

I beg to move,

That this House believes that the Government’s planned cuts to housing benefit support for vulnerable people in specialist housing, including the elderly and people who are homeless, disabled or fleeing domestic violence, risk leading to the widespread closure of this accommodation; notes the concern from charities, housing associations, councils and others across the country about the severe effect of these cuts; further notes that supported housing has already suffered as a result of Government spending cuts and policy decisions; notes that the planned changes will apply to all new tenancies from April 2016; notes the clear evidence that the Government’s proposal to mitigate these cuts with discretionary housing payments will not work; and calls on the Government to urgently exempt supported housing from these housing benefit cuts and to consult fully with supported housing providers to safeguard this essential accommodation.

John Healey framed the issue well from the start:

In his November spending review, the Chancellor announced that:-

“housing benefit in the social sector will be capped at the relevant local housing allowance.”—[Official Report, 25 November 2015; Vol. 602, c. 1360.]

With one short, sweeping sentence, he put at risk almost all supported and sheltered housing for the frail elderly, the homeless, young adults leaving care, those suffering with dementia, people with mental illness or learning disabilities, veterans and women fleeing domestic violence. According to those who provide that type of housing, he condemns nearly all such housing schemes to closure.

Clearly the previous mute and noticeably mute and errant National Housing Federation have been busy the last 24 hours as John Healey said:

The National Housing Federation says that 156,000 homes—at least that number of people will be affected—are set to close.

Well blow me down with a feather.  That would be the same NHF who were quoted yesterday in an article in the Guardian saying 50,000 would have £68 per week cuts and 82,000 COULD close?!

The Guardian article said:

According to the NHF, about 50,000 households could be affected over the course of a year, losing an average of £68 each. It estimates 82,000 homes could be forced to close, equivalent to more than four in 10 of all supported housing in England.

 

As I have maintained from 15 December 2015 when this policy was confirmed this will close ALL refuges and ALL single homeless hostels and much other supported and sheltered housing.  Yesterday I tore a strip off the Guardian article and said this 50,000 figure an 82,000 figure was a pile of baloney and was much much higher.

Then surprise, surprise the NHF double that figure overnight to 156,000 as quoted by John Healey which is still too LOW a figure by the way but at least moving in the right direction!

But enough of me saying I have been right all along and that the NHF in particular want two rockets up their lazy-arsed backsides over this issue which WILL CLOSE ALL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE REFUGES AND ALL SINGLE HOMELESS HOSTELS.

That latter point wasn’t helped by this little gem in the Hansard recording of this debate and the particularly odious little grunt called Justin Tomlinson a DWP junior minister who said this: –

Justin Tomlinson:

We all accept that this issue goes far wider, and we must look at all that in the consultation.

My hon. Friend the Member for South Ribble (Seema Kennedy) asked me to take on board the comments from Progress Housing, and I will happily do so. The hon. Member for Cambridge (Daniel Zeichner) talked about the YMCA, which is an important organisation.

I am pleased that Denise Hatton, YMCA England’s chief executive, has already tweeted:

“It is positive that the Government has listened to the concerns of the sector and we welcome the fact it has taken appropriate action to protect supported housing.”

Oh Denise Hatton what an incompetent idiot your are as the detailed figures for the YMCA in Liverpool below prove you don’t have a clue what you are talking about as this service WILL CLOSE AS A MATTER OF INEVITABILITY.

ymca

Sing the song, do the dance, you just cant stay there as they’re all gonna close!

The YMCA Liverpool has 3 main services and they will lose £677,606 per year in housing benefit and they will close.  Yes that is over two-thirds or a million pounds per year and you are congratulating the government.

Please advise how this in your own words is “…appropriate action to protect supported housing?”

ymcalivlhamaxima

The above are the 3 services with numbers in each and the last column is how much they now receive each week in housing benefit.  Yet under the LHA maxima cap policy which you applaud Denise Hatton, they will lose £667k or so and will have to close as in Liverpool the SAR rate for those under 35 is £57.77 per week and the 1 bed LHA rate is £90.90 per week.  Those maximum figures are one hell of a lot less than the £242, £182 and £175 per week they now receive aren’t they?

Denise Hatton, Chief Executive of the YMCA you should resign immediately

And just to prove that this is not just another case of a Tory MP making it up as he goes along here is your tweet:

denise hatton ymca

I was going to keep quiet on how much individual services in Liverpool will lose as a result of this dog’s breakfast of a policy and indeed I did publish an anonymised table of it having jumbled up and blanked out each services name.

Yet now when the Chief Executive of a national organisation as large as the YMCA either supports this policy or is stupid enough to tweet something that could be taken out of context then he or she should resign.

To put what you tweeted into figures, the 1% rent cut not applying to the Liverpool YMCA would save just over £10,000 yet your tweet has been used to justify a cut of £667,606 per year and inevitable closure of YMCA Liverpool!

Such a careless error from you says to me you shouldn’t be working at all in the supported housing sector as you are not fit to do so and frankly you don’t deserve the privilege of working with vulnerable people at all.

Am I being angry here?  Yes, very angry but professionally angry and rightfully angry as your incompetence and ineptitude and ignorance of a policy that will cause the inevitable death of ALL YMCA supported housing services right across the country – every single one of them not just Liverpool – is staggering!

Oh I see that YMCA has details of all its hostels online Denise Hatton and the next nearest is in Halton as below:

ymcahalton

So lets all work out how much YMCA Halton is going to lose and assuming the 66 units are 22 Type A, 22 Type B and 22 Type C and ALL residents over 35 which is the lowest possible cut

  • Type A – 22 rooms @ £203.28 becomes 22 rooms at £90.90 = £128,916 per year
  • Type B – 22 rooms @ £181.47 becomes 22 rooms at £90.90 = £103,897 per year
  • Type C – 22 rooms @ £198.41 becomes 22 rooms at £90.90 = £123,329 per year

That is a MINIMUM housing benefit cut of £356,142 per year.

If ALL the residents were under 35 they would only receive £57.57 each in housing benefit which gives a maximum cut of £167,150 for Type A plus a further £142,131 for Type B and a further £161,564 for Type C making £470,845 per year.

Halton YMCA will lose between £356,142 and £470,845 per year in housing benefit in Halton!  So while the world and his wife and the wife’s dog and even the fleas on the wife’s dog can see this means Halton YMCA will have to close, the Chief Executive of the YMCA praises the Conservative government for…taken appropriate action to protect supported housing!

You seeing why I am just a tad professionally angry Denise Hatton?

When we see very large national names such as the YMCA not realising that government policy will kill off the YMCA you begin to realise just how ignorant the ‘housing’ world is and that is an unbelievably sad indictment on those who are in charge of the privilege of running this sector.  Perhaps they even lessen my repeated criticisms of the National Housing Federation to some extent?

However, what anyone who has ever worked in homelessness services of any type will tell you is that you have an ’emotive window’ of about one month per year that covers two weeks before Christmas an two weeks after.  That 4 week period is the only time that the general public tend to have concern for those unfortunate enough to find themselves homeless, and especially for single homeless persons.

IF housing lobbies and support lobbies had got their head out of their own backsides when I first revealed that the LHA maxima policy will close ALL hostels and close ALL refuges on the 15 December, there would have been little need for today’s 2 hour debate.  The general public would have been up in arms over the festive period with particularly DV refuges and sheltered housing having to close and never reopen again which is the reality of this policy.

Yet housing lobbies dragged their feet with the possible exception of Placeshapers, the support lobbies saw Women’s Aid retweet and like an article yesterday that they though was the LHA maxima policy but wasn’t and they have been noticeable quiet on all DV refuges closing.  Polly Neate has appeared on TV many times recently yet has never mentioned the LHa maxima cap policy that will close ALL refuges!

The YMCA as the above proves don’t realise the impact.  Homeless Link has done some good work and a few individual housing associations such as Bromford and a couple of others although very belatedly.  Where is the huge outcry from Shelter and Crisis and other homeless lobbies that all single homeless hostels will close?  Barely a whimper!

It literally took me 3 minutes to cut and paste the YMCA figures and do the maths above so why has the Chief Executive of YMCA not been on TV or radio or in the national press saying this policy will close every YMCA in the country?

On a related issue go through the 65 pages of A4 that today’s Hansard debate records and you will see speech after speech saying Provider A has stopped £100 million of new development from the Labour benches and a whole host of chinless wonders on the Tory benches actually talking about anything BUT the LHA maxima policy and invariably saying its Labour fault for increasing housing benefit so much.

Tories have very convenient memories re housing benefit…

HB bill blair v thatch

That is an old and simple graph which is self explanatory as to which political party let “housing benefit take the strain” and it takes ten seconds to also see that Major’s administration doubled the HB bill between 1991 and 1997.

Look again at Thatcher’s HB record.  Thatcher who said right to buy was right and would reduce the HB bill as there would be fewer tenants to claim HB just as the Tories of today are saying now.  Thatcher increased the HB bill over 6-fold despite selling off almost 2 million council houses and in her warped philosophy almost 2 million fewer HB claimants.  It didn’t work then just as it won’t work now.

Yet the Conservative government speakers only talked of the ‘last lots’ HB record and not a sausage about their record or about the matter of the debate, that their HB policy that was taken with no knowledge of the impact and without any impact analysis and whom its current MPs believe that currently there is a consultation of the LHA maxima policy when there is not filibustered, prevaricated and talked about anything other than the inevitable closure of ALL hostels and ALL DV refuges and all extra care sheltered housing and much of other forms of sheltered housing this policy means.