Angus MacDonald MSP and Minister for Housing Visit Paragon Housing
Wednesday, 04 September 2013 13:45
Paragon Housing Association hosted a visit on Wednesday 4th September 2013 by Margaret Burgess, MSP, Minister for Housing and Welfare. The Minister had accepted the invitation to hear first hand from Paragon tenants, committee members and staff about the impact the Welfare Reform Act is having on individuals and organisations.
The Welfare Reform Act 2012 introduced significant changes across Britain to the benefit system including the introduction of the under occupancy charge ( the “Bedroom Tax”) and benefit cap from 1st April 2013. Future changes such as the introduction universal credit for benefit claimants are being rolled out on a phased basis from October 2013.
Paragon Housing Association, which has 1400 properties across the Forth Valley is running an awareness and support campaign for its tenants. The theme is “Working together to provide support and advice”. So far the Association has helped its tenants affected by the bedroom tax to access advice services through the national Money Advice Service, produced a series of guides on various aspects of the changes, carried out a series of home visits to tenants affected by the Bedroom Tax, worked closely with local authorities, provided information through its newsletters and has produced posters and display material.
The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, the national body which represents Scottish housing associations, recently published research findings into the early impacts of the bedroom tax. They report that on average those tenants affected are having to find an extra £11 a week for rental payments and 9 out of 10 housing associations are predicting an increase in rent arrears this year.
Flora Wallace, Chair of Paragon Housing Association said:
“We were delighted that the Minister accepted our invitation to visit us to find out what is happening to tenants and landlords as a result of these draconian policies. We hope her interest will promote our welfare reform awareness campaign.
"The impact of the Welfare Reform Act is now being felt by tenants and landlords up and down the country. This circle just does not square in terms of housing policy. The bedroom tax affects around 14% of our tenants and these hard pressed people have to find the money to pay this additional rent. As an organisation we need to bring in the rents so we can continue to remain financially viable, provide vital services such as repairs and fund investment so we can continue to provide social rented housing across the Forth Valley.
"We have experienced a recent increase in rent arrears and a big part of that is down to the “Bedroom Tax Effect”. We hope that if our tenants contact us as early as possible about any difficulties they are experiencing then we may be able to get them some help. We know that this works as a number of our tenants have successfully applied for Discretionary Housing Payments with help from our staff.
"Our awareness campaign is not just about keeping tenants informed. We also think it’s important that we keep our politicians up to date too. These are the people who can influence policy. We are grateful for the support of Angus MacDonald MSP for helping to arrange the visit from the Minister. Angus has taken a real interest in this matter and we think that his awareness can have a positive impact.”
Local MSP Angus MacDonald said:
“I was delighted to help to arrange the Housing Minister’s visit to meet with Paragon Housing Association management and residents. The frank discussion gave a snapshot and highlighted many of the difficulties being experienced by Housing Associations and their tenants, thanks to the benefit reforms being imposed by the Westminster government.
"Paragon HA have worked hard to limit the impact of the bedroom tax on their tenants as much as they can and must be congratulated on the way they interact with their tenants, helping them deal with what can often be a very worrying situation.
"I’m pleased the Minister saw at first hand the good work taking place at Paragon HA.”
The Minister for Housing and Welfare said:
“Westminster has imposed drastic welfare cuts which negatively affecting the people of Scotland. But Scotland will not turn its back on vulnerable people. The awareness and support campaign that Paragon Housing Association has introduced for tenants is a valuable and much needed service.
“The effects of the bedroom tax are being clearly felt across the country and these changes are hitting the poorest the hardest. Independence will provide the Scottish Parliament with control over welfare matters. Being in charge of our own welfare system will mean fairer policies that protect the vulnerable and benefit the Scottish people.”