Families in Newcastle are going hungry just so they can hang onto their homes following the introduction of the bedroom tax, a report has said.
Research released by Newcastle University reveals communities are being ripped apart by the tax, which has left people in the region feeling “hopeless”.
Many are finding it almost impossible to manage ever-decreasing incomes, with many spiralling into debt and rent arrears in order to afford bare essentials such as food.
Tyneside, where the research was carried out, is disproportionately affected by the bedroom tax with some 50,000 households estimated to be ‘under-occupying’.
Social housing provider Your Homes Newcastle (YHN) reported last year that 66% of people affected by the bedroom tax were in rent arrears.
Residents were finding it increasingly difficult to buy simple, basic foodstuffs and in some extreme cases, cutting down to just one meal a day, or going to bed early to evade hunger and keep warm – a pattern more prevalent among parents to ensure their children were properly fed.
The University research – A qualitative study of the impact of the UK ‘bedroom tax’ – looks at the effects of the tax on the area.
It followed people living in Walker in Newcastle, which is in the top 10% most deprived areas of the UK, where around 650 homes are affected by the bedroom tax.
Dr Suzanne Moffatt, who was involved in the research, said:
“The bedroom tax reduces a home to simply bricks and mortar.
“However, these are homes that people invest in over time, places of safety within communities that offer friendship and support.
“As a consequence, many of those we interviewed elected to pay the tax in order to stay in their homes, resulting in cutting back on essentials such as food and heat to do so.
“Rather than improve housing stock efficiency and save tax payers money, the effect of the bedroom tax in the North East is likely to make the distribution of social housing less efficient.”
Dr Moffatt says the new study undermines Government claims that implementing the ‘removal of the spare room subsidy’ in April 2013 would not have a detrimental impact on people’s health and well-being.
“Monumental effort was put in by people to simply ‘survive’. Their accounts powerfully demonstrate how loss of income as a result of the bedroom tax has a detrimental effect on mental health, with many saying it had left them feeling ‘hopeless’.”
Researchers within Newcastle University’s Institute of Health and Society also looked at the YHN pilot scheme set up in help people in response to the introduction of the tax.
Neil Scott, director of Tenancy Services, said:
“We encouraged residents to enrol onto training courses. For those that took part, it was highly beneficial, with a small number of mainly short-term jobs created within our organisation.”
The pilot ran for seven months from September 2013 to April 2014 and included budgeting and housing advice, with a focus on testing the Government’s claims that work pays by supporting residents who were farthest from the labour market to gain employment.
Dr Moffatt added:
“Although this pilot was fantastic for those involved, one person working over seven months can only achieve so much.
“At a time when local authority budgets are being increasingly tightened, it is always going to be difficult to fund interventions of this kind.
“These people are not languishing around on benefits by any means – they face many complex barriers to employment such the poor state of the local labour market, as well as mental or physical health issues and lack of qualifications.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 16 Mar 2015
A Universal Credit claimant who featured in a government film to promote the reform now says the system is riddled with computer problems and could make people destitute.
In the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) advert, Daniel Pacey explains how the reform helped him to find work.
But he now says a six-week delay before the first payment and subsequent monthly payments are “a nightmare“.
The DWP said monthly sums replicate the world of work and tackle dependency.
A spokesman said:
“Universal credit is simplifying the benefit system and [makes] the transition into employment smoother.
“Our work coaches discuss budgeting support with all claimants and nearly 80% say they are confident in their ability to manage a monthly budget.”
> Is that 80% of work coaches or claimants ?
Mr Pacey, 24, from Wigan, Greater Manchester, said:
”It might be easy for a government minister to make their wages last a month. But I’d like to see them make £250 last four weeks while looking for work.”
The government has announced that a national roll-out of universal credit is starting in earnest across the country. The aim is for it to be offered in all job centres in England, Scotland and Wales by 2016.
> Whether it works or not, presumably.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith told BBC News the new benefit was £600m under budget and had been implemented gradually on advice.
But Mr Pacey, who lives with his father, said his job centre struggled with failing computer systems, adding:
“I hate to think about how I would have coped had I lived on my own. I know I couldn’t have.”
The DWP spokesman added:
“People can apply for advanced benefit payments if they need extra support and we are working with local authorities to make sure people get budgeting and debt advice.
“The IT system adapts smoothly to claims as they become more complex, which we have already seen across the North West.
“Computer problems in offices are separate issues and are resolved quickly but these do not impact the operating system, or have an impact on claims.”
The scheme was initially piloted in Ashton-Under-Lyne nearly two years ago.
Under the old system, payments were bi-weekly, with housing benefit paid directly to landlords.
Under universal credit, claimants are instead paid monthly and are expected to pay their rent themselves.
Housing Associations in Ashton-Under-Lyne say rent arrears and debt are on the rise amongst universal-credit claimants.
The chief executive of the National Housing Federation, David Orr said:
“This scheme isn’t even ready to fully roll out in Ashton-Under-Lyne, where it’s been piloted for two years, let alone the rest of the country.”
The DWP spokesman said:
“In some cases, we can arrange for alternative payment arrangements, including rent being paid direct to landlords.”
The government says it is important for people to learn how to handle their own monthly budgets, as this replicates the world of work.
> Oh for fucks sake – how stupid do they think we are ? Do they think every unemployed person has never worked ? Do they think anyone having to survive on benefits doesn’t already know all about handling budgets ?
But Mr Pacey’s new job in a call centre pays bi-weekly.
He said: “In my experience, most low-paid jobs pay weekly or every other week, not monthly. You can’t make small sums of money last a month.
“It’s not about dependency, it’s about living, being able to get a bus to go to the job centre. The government needs to rethink this.”
The scheme has also been criticised by the National Audit Office as badly managed and failing to deliver on its targets.
It is concerned that a roll-out from pilot areas in north-west England is taking place with fewer resources to spend on staff training and less time for staff to get accustomed to the changes.
About 50,000 people in selected areas have claimed the benefit since it was introduced in April 2013 – far fewer than the government originally said would be getting it by now.
Computer problems have also caused delays and seen ministers write off tens of millions of pounds.
Source – BBC News, 16 Feb 2015
Cash-strapped South Tyneside has the second-highest level of personal debt in England, a shock new report reveals.
Statistics show that 607 clients visited the borough’s Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) between July and September last year, with debt-related concerns.
Concern over debt now accounts for a staggering 42 per cent of that bureau’s workload.
A new national CAB report also reveals that South Tyneside has the fourth-highest level of personal debt in England and Wales.
However, when two Welsh authorities are taken out of the equation, it emerges as the second worst debt-hit area in England – just behind Stoke-on-Trent.
Ian Thompson, chief executive of South Tyneside CAB, based at the Edinburgh Buildings in South Shields, revealed that priority debt, such as rent and Council Tax, had spiralled in recent years.
Meanwhile, advice workers are expecting a further surge in demand for the service this month as borough residents begin to count the cost of Christmas spending.
Mr Thompson revealed that debt-related problems are so great that some clients in the past have committed suicide as an escape from them.
The seriousness of the situation has led him to write a letter to every elected member on South Tyneside Council, outlining the situation and his concerns.
Mr Thompson said:
“We know there is an awful lot of debt in the borough.
“Forty two per cent of our work is working with clients with debt problems.
“That’s a staggering figure when you consider that we deal with a whole range of issues, ranging from employment to housing and much more besides.
“The sort of debt we are encountering has changed during my time with the bureau, from credit card debt and to priority debts, such as Council Tax arrears and rent arrears.
“These are life-changing, priority debts which can lead to people losing the roof over their heads.
“Unmanageable debt causes untold misery and can require the intervention of GPs for the treatment of depression.
“We have also had, as an extreme example, clients committing suicide because of the pressures they are under.
“From mid-January we are expecting a surge in the need for debt-related advice. Prior to Christmas, people tend not to think too much about debt – then the bills and credit card demands start to arrive.”
Top of CAB’s personal debt chart for England and Wales are two Welsh authorities – Denbighshire and Merthyr Tydfil.
In the North East the other worst-hit authorities are Darlington (5th), North Tyneside (8th), Gateshead (12th) and Middlesbrough (13th).
Source – Shields Gazette, 15 Jan 2015
Six of the country’s biggest “debt hotspots” are in the North-East, a report has revealed.
South Tyneside, Darlington, North Tyneside, Gateshead, Middlesbrough and Northumberland have some of the biggest clusters of people seeking help from Citizens Advice in England and Wales.
The charity dealt with 405 clients in Denbigshire between July and September – or 0.54 per cent of the adult population – making this area of North Wales the top debt hotspot.
South Tyneside was fourth with 607 clients seen (0.5 per cent); Darlington joint fifth with 410 clients (0.49 per cent); North Tyneside joint seventh with 776 (0.48 per cent); Gateshead 748 (0.46 per cent) and Middlesbrough 499 (0.46 per cent) in joint 11th and Northumberland in joint 15th place with 1,166 clients seen or 0.45 per cent of its adult population.
The charity, which has helped almost half a million people with debt over the last year, made the findings after analysing the cries for debt help it received over the three month period.
Citizens Advice said since the economic crisis, problems with consumer debt such as credit cards and personal loans have fallen significantly. By contrast, problems with “priority debts” such as rent arrears and council tax debts are growing.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said:
“Times have changed, and so have people’s debt problems.
“Consumer debts like credit cards and personal loans have traditionally been the most common debt problems. But now priority debts such as council tax arrears are gradually building up as people struggle to cover everyday costs.
“In the past, people were more likely to get help for debt problems triggered by life events such as illness, redundancy or separation.
“But in recent years more people are being pushed into debt as they struggle to stretch their income to cover everyday living costs.”
Here are the biggest debt hotspots across England and Wales, according to Citizens Advice, with the number of people it helped between July and September, and also expressed as a percentage of the local adult population:
1. Denbighshire, 405, 0.54%;
2. Merthyr Tydfil, 248, 0.53%;
3. Stoke-on-Trent, 1,031, 0.52%;
4. South Tyneside, 607, 0.50%;
=5. Darlington, 410, 0.49%;
=5. Salford, 908, 0.49%;
=7. Copeland, 276, 0.48%;
=7. North Tyneside, 776, 0.48%;
=9. Mendip, 411, 0.47%;
=9. Liverpool, 1,793, 0.47%;
=11. Stevenage, 303, 0.46%;
=11. Gateshead, 748, 0.46%;
=11. Middlesbrough, 499, 0.46%;
=11. Torfaen, 330, 0.46%;
=15. Northumberland, 1,166, 0.45%;
=15. Lincoln, 348, 0.45%;
=17. Cannock Chase, 336, 0.43%;
=17. Barrow-in-Furness, 240, 0.43%;
=17. Hastings, 310, 0.43%;
=17. Sandwell, 1,015, 0.43%
Source – Northern Echo, 06 Dec 2014
Families are “teetering on a financial knife-edge” with one in every 121 households in the North East at risk of homelessness, a charity claims.
Shelter says 140 children in the region will wake up homeless this Christmas, while 58 people are being put at risk of eviction or repossession every day.
“Imagine the panic of receiving a notice through the door saying that you could lose your home – that’s the devastating reality for thousands of people every week,” said Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter.
“The sky high cost of housing is making it harder and harder for families to keep a roof over their heads. And with the stakes so high, all it can take is one piece of bad luck to send a family spiralling towards homelessness.”
Figures from the Ministry of Justice show that in the 12 months to the end of September there were more than 7,250 possession claims – the first stage in a court process which can end with the loss of a home – issued in county courts for homes in the North East.
Of those the highest number – 1,853 – were for properties in County Durham, followed by Newcastle (1,230) and Northumberland (1,016).
However, the highest proportion of homes on which possession orders were sought was in South Tyneside, where 938 orders were applied for – one for every 72 homes in the borough.
Councillor Allan West, South Tyneside Council’s lead member for housing, defended his authority’s approach to dealing with homelessness.
“Following a review in 2013, South Tyneside Council developed a new homelessness strategy which made homeless prevention one of our key priorities,” he said.
“Our proactive approach means that we step in to prevent households becoming homeless before their case becomes critical.
“This is reflected in figures released recently by the Department for Communities and Local Government which highlighted that the number of times we intervened during 2013/14 was almost five times the national average.
“As a social landlord, we have an early intervention approach to rent arrears and nowhere has this been better demonstrated than in the award-winning work of our Welfare Reform Team which has enabled over 92% of tenants who wanted to keep their homes after the introduction of the ‘bedroom tax’ maintain those tenancies.
“Eviction is used as a last resort when all other methods of engagement and arrears collection have failed.
“Since quarter four of 2013 the number of mortgage possession claims in South Tyneside has reduced from 254 to 147 and evictions resulting from possession claims from Council tenancies have reduced from the same period last year.”
At the opposite end of the scale Sunderland had the lowest proportion of applications for possession orders, with 696 – one in every 172 homes – and Gateshead saw the fewest applications overall, with 652.
According to the MOJ, of the around 223,000 possession orders applied for nationally in county courts each year, just under 53,500 result in repossessions.
If the same was true on the regional level that could mean that around 1,740 North East families have had their homes taken off them in the 2013/14 period.
And as Christmas approaches Shelter is warning that continuing “sky-high” housing costs coupled to families having little or no savings to fall back on, mean that “just one thing, like a sudden illness, can be all it takes to tip a family into a downward spiral towards losing their home.”
“Our advisers will be working non-stop this Christmas to support families who find themselves battling to keep their home – but our services are already over-stretched and we’re struggling to meet the demand, ” said Mr Robb.
“We desperately need more support from the public to help us make sure no-one is left to fight homelessness on their own this Christmas.”
To support Shelter’s emergency Christmas appeal please visit shelter.org.uk or text SHELTER to 70060 to donate £3
Source – Newcastle Journal, 02 Dec 2014
A disabled man claims he is facing eviction from his council flat over falling behind on rent payments.
The man, who wanted to remain anonymous, has blamed the Bedroom Tax for getting into financial difficulty and could be made to move in just over a month.
That’s if Your Homes Newcastle, an organisation which manages council homes across the city, decides to evict him from his flat in Westgate Road.
The potential eviction follows the loss of the tenant’s housing benefit.
Though it was reinstated, a shortfall caused by the bedroom tax was not paid, meaning his rent arrears have continued to rise.
The man appealed his eviction yesterday at Newcastle Crown Court in a case which will be heard again in 42 days. It will allow him to reapply for benefits that will enable him to pay his rent and reduce the level of arrears, according to the housing provider.
Following the hearing, he was joined at Todd’s Nook Tower on Westgate Road by fellow tenants and activists in protest of the proposals.
The man, who suffers from anxiety which worsens his arthritis, said his life has become dramatically worse since the situation began.
“This situation has made everything worse for me. The anxiety causes so much pain in my body and makes my arthritis even worse. It’s a massive downward health spiral.”
He added that the situation had left him unhappy in his own home, where he has lived for almost a decade.
“I now hate being in the flat, I want out of it. The memories created by the way the council have treated me sicken me. There’s no way I can be happy here,” he said.
He said that the extended 42-day window before the decision is made on the eviction will give him more time to involve disability activists in his case in a bid to save himself from eviction.
Campaigner James Bell, 23, from Whitley Bay, attended the demonstration has offered support and advice to other tenants being hit by the tax.
Mr Bell said: “He’s come out and given support to people who are going through this. He’s been consistent to opposition to this.”
Tradesman Richard Hartfield, 34, from the West End of Newcastle added:
“We’re putting the unity back in community. He’s helped others in need and we’re to return that.
“I’ve been in that situation a few times, it’s about having other people there that you can go to for advice. We’re here to defend the man and his rights.”
Your Homes Newcastle said eviction was only an option in the most extreme circumstances and that the situation has arisen after attempts to engage with the man failed.
Director of tenancy services Neil Scott said:
“Since the introduction of the bedroom tax in April 2013 we have made every effort to assist any tenant who has been affected and offer support to enable them to meet their rent payments.
“Eviction action has been an absolute last resort where we have exhausted all other avenues or where tenants have refused support from us.”
A spokesman for Newcastle City Council said:
“The council social housing provider Your Homes Newcastle has an excellent track record in supporting tenants who find themselves facing financial difficulties. We would much prefer to work with those at risk to help them avoid losing their homes. Clearly this does depend on the tenants being willing to cooperate in the process.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 28 Nov 2014
Universal Credit claimants who fall behind on rent payments could see up to 20% of their monthly allowance redirected to landlords, the DWP has announced.
The move comes after housing organisations raised concerns that the previous amount of just 5% could result in increased arrears and possible evictions.
Universal Credit brings together six different benefits into one monthly payment and the housing element will, in most cases, be paid directly to the claimant – rather than their landlord.
The new system is designed to “encourage financial responsibility”, says the Department for Work and Pensions. However, some housing organisations and charities are concerned that vulnerable claimants – which may include people with learning difficulties or debt problems – may struggle to manage their finances and fall into rent arrears.
The DWP say “work coaches are being trained to assess a claimant’s financial capability and will refer to personal budgeting support where appropriate”.
Where Universal Credit claimants need additional support to help keep up with their rent payments, the DWP may make rent payments directly to landlords, and deduct additional amounts from a claimant’s monthly Universal Credit payments if requested by landlords.
Communities Minister Kris Hopkins said:
“Universal Credit helps claimants and their families to become more independent through simplifying the welfare system. I welcome this initiative to help social landlords and tenants prepare for Universal Credit.
“I’ve been impressed by the work I’ve seen that social landlords do in supporting their tenants and it’s clear to me they have a vital role to play in helping them to make this change. A large number of social housing tenants will over time move onto Universal Credit so I would encourage landlords to get involved.”
In a ‘support pack‘ published for housing organisations, the DWP said:
“The amount that can be deducted from a claimant’s universal credit if they fail to pay their rent, has been increased from 5% to an amount of up to 20% of the universal credit standard allowance, which will ensure claimants are back on track with payments quicker. The minimum amount that will be deducted is 10%.”
If a claimant accumulates a months worth of rent arrears it will trigger “early intervention” by the DWP, who will review a tenants financial status and may consider making rent payments directly to landlords where appropriate.
Should a tenant accrue two months of rent arrears, the DWP will step in immediately and divert the housing element of Universal Credit to a claimants landlord.
20% of a claimants ‘standard allowance’ could be deducted and diverted to landlords to clear rent arrears as quickly as possible. The DWP had consulted with charities and experts on deducting as much as 40% from a claimants standard allowance.
However, like many others, The Money Advice Charity described this amount as “excessive”, which “could ultimately compound the financial difficulties that led to the arrears building up.”
Responding to the consultation (pdf) the charity said:
“A maximum deduction rate of 20% for housing-related arrears would strike a more appropriate balance between increasing repayments and ensuring that these repayments do not have unintended negative consequences.”
Social landlords are being encouraged to identify tenants who may be struggling to keep up with their rent payments under Universal Credit.
Lord Freud, Minister for Welfare Reform said:
“Social landlords have been playing a vital role in welfare reform and supporting tenants who are already receiving Universal Credit. There is great work happening in the sector.
“Universal Credit is now available in 1 in 10 Jobcentres and will be in almost 100 by Christmas, with national roll-out beginning early next year – so now is the ideal time to boost preparation activity.
> Didn’t they say that last year ?
“For the first time many tenants will be paid their Housing Benefit directly and I would encourage landlords to think about identifying tenants who need support to prepare for this, and put those who are ready onto a direct payment early.”
Universal Credit has been beset with delays and costly IT problems. The DWP has already written-off £40 million failed IT system with a further £90 million predicted to be thrown away over a five-year period.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith originally promised that 1,000,000 households would be on Universal Credit by the end of 2014. However, DWP figures show that less than 18,000 households were claiming Universal Credit by 9 October.
The national roll-out of Universal Credit is expected to be fully completed by 2018.
Source – Welfare Weekly, 13 Nov 2014
New research published by the TUC reveals the future impact of a controversial new welfare reform – the five-week wait – on workers in North West England, with 39,000 newly unemployed people set to be hit each month.
Currently most workers who lose their job have to wait two weeks before they get their first benefit payment. But under new Universal Credit rules for assessing unemployment claims, most people will face a wait of more than five weeks before they get any money. This could mean going two months into rent arrears before any cash support arrives.
The TUC’s new research reveals the monthly average number of newly unemployed people broken down by region, local authority (county and unitary) and constituency. This indicates how many people can be expected to be hit by the five-week wait when Universal Credit replaces workers’ current safety net benefits.
Across the region, Lancashire is the most affected local authority where over 5,000 people each month are expected to be hit by the five-week wait, in Manchester more than 3,600 people will be affected whilst in Liverpool just under 3,500 people will be affected.
These local authorities are amongst the biggest affected in the UK, ranked 4th, 9th and 11th respectively. The DWP’s own analysis suggests that the measure may increase claimants’ reliance on short-term loans.
The TUC has launched a new campaign, Saving Our Safety Net, to highlight the five-week wait and other welfare reforms that cut safety net protection for working people.
North West TUC Regional Secretary Lynn Collins said:
“We know workers in the North West have suffered cuts in real earnings over the last 5 years, and will have relied on savings to get by, which means that many workers have no financial buffer if they lose their job. Help should be there when it is needed, but instead people will be left to rely on food banks and pay day loans to see them through the wait.
“Welfare reform is one thing but the five week wait is a collective punishment for anyone who loses their job. People need to focus on finding new work, instead of being stressed-out about how they will pay the rent, feed the kids and keep the heating on.
“Job security has got worse since the recession. Government ministers are out of touch and fail to understand the anxiety many people feel not knowing if they’ll still have work next month. If your job goes, the five-week wait puts you at greater risk of a downward spiral where you’re trapped in debt, lose your home, become ill from the stress and fall too far to climb back again.
“With these escalating bills, worsening job security and only a limited recovery in the jobs market, a 5 week wait could easily push many more families into poverty through no fault of their own. These people have paid for, and deserve, a safety net.
“We are launching the Saving Our Safety Net campaign to expose government welfare plans for what they are – cuts to the National Insurance safety net we’ve all paid into on the understanding that it will be there when we need it.”
Source – Welfare News Service 07 Aug 2014
Hundreds of people in Hartlepool have been forced to plead for help after racking up personal debts worth £7.5m in just a year.
Shocking new figures reveal Hartlepool Citizens’ Advice Bureau supported 1,500 people with debt and money advice over a 12-month period – with the average debt a staggering £16,000.
Worried officials at the Park Road-based CAB say they are very concerned with the high level of personal debt their clients have, some of which is more than £100,000.
Not everyone in money trouble seeks help or advice from the CAB either so the £7.5m figure – which is similar to previous years – is likely to be even higher.
Personal debt includes everything from credit cards, personal loans, pay-day loans, mortgage and rent arrears, council tax arrears, catalogue debts and bank overdrafts.
The figures relate to the period between April 1, 2013 and March 31, 2014. In 2012, the figure was around £8m and worried officials say there has been no “let-up”.
Joe Michna, CAB manager, said: “There has been no let up or reduction in the number of people contacting us with debt related problems.
“The debt levels, given that they are average figures, are concerning.
“While the average debt may be £16,000 excluding mortgages, some clients have debts of well over £50,000 when they contact us.
“We deal with clients who have personal debts of everything from a few thousand through to £100,000.”
Officials say the golden rule for those experiencing money trouble is to seek help or advice early.
The CAB offers two services, a Debt Advice Service and a Money Advice Service, which offers help and support from everything from financial planning to budgeting.
CAB staff aim to re-arrange and improve debt-ridden clients’ financial affairs by gathering information on a client’s indebtedness, confirming household income, alerting clients to other potential sources of income, and identifying priority debts.
Once a full and complete picture of a client’s financial situation has been established, the CAB team can help to identify the most appropriate option for dealing with the particular client circumstances which include self-help support packages, negotiations with client creditors and bankruptcy applications.
The debt and money advice services gave advice and assistance to a combined 1,500 clients.
Mr Michna added: “The golden rule for people who have gotten themselves into debt is to seek advice early.
“We are fortunate in that we can offer two services to local people – a full debt advice service and also a money advice service.
“The money advice service can offer advice on budgeting, financial planning and income maximisation.
“We then have our full debt advice service which offers advice and assistance with debt relief orders, bankruptcy and individual voluntary arrangements as well arranging repayment plans with creditors.”
Source – Hartlepool Mail, 16 July 2014
More and more tenants have been forced from their homes in the North after landlords took steps to take back their properties.
In parts of the region, possession claims have risen to their highest levels in over a decade – with the number rocketing by more than 70% in some areas in just a year.
MPs say they are are “deeply concerned” by the trend, and that for too long, in the face of a rising cost of living, “Generation Rent” has been forgotten.
“Many households in the North are really struggling with the cost of living – and one of the most significant issues facing so many families across the region is housing costs, whether they rent or own their home,” said Newcastle North MP Catherine McKinnell, Labour’s shadow economic secretary to the treasury.
“The steep increase in the number of tenants losing their homes across the North East is deeply concerning, but unsurprising in the face of rising household bills combined with falling real terms wages, and the prevalence of low-paid, insecure work for those who are in employment.
“Of course, many thousands across the region have been hit by the unfair bedroom tax, leaving many in rent arrears for the first time.
“For too long, those who rent their homes have been forgotten about – and this number is increasing.”
Nationally, the number of claims by private landlords were up 4.1% year on year in 2013/14, while social landlord claims rose 17.8%.
But in Middlesbrough private landlord claims jumped 71.1% – one of the biggest increases in England and Wales – and the number of both private (65) and social (573) landlord claims reached their highest levels since 2002/03.
The number of social landlord claims in Stockton-on-Tees also rose sharply, up 43.9%, from 253 in 2012/13 to 364 in 2013/14, while Northumberland also recorded its highest number of claims in more than a decade at 691.
“These figures have been released just over a year since the bedroom tax was implemented,” Kevin Williamson, head of policy at the National Housing Federation, said. “We have long warned of the stresses that the bedroom tax is placing people under, and housing associations are working hard to help their tenants.”
A spokesman for Northumberland County Council urged anyone affected by such proceedings to get in touch with their local authority, who may be able to offer support and advice.
“Possession proceedings will only be taken by registered landlords as an action of last resort.
“We would urge anyone who finds themselves in a position where they may be in danger of losing their home to contact the council’s housing options team, who can offer advice and support,” he said.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle 11 May 2014