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Scottish Government Committee releases report on social security support for housing

The Social Security Committee of the Scottish Parliament has released a report on Social Security Support for Housing

The report focuses on how changes to the Social Security System are impacting on landlords and tenants, exploring how Social Security Support for Housing Costs is impacted by welfare reform with a particular focus on Housing Allowance and Universal Credit housing costs. The committee considers how both reserved and devolved Social Security Policy can address issues arising for tenants and landlords, particularly in the private sector

The committee issued a call for views based on five questions which covered areas such as impact of Local Housing Allowance on the private rented sector, the impact of welfare reform on private landlords and what improvements could be made to resolved and devolved systems. The responses received alongside some further oral evidence formed the basis of the report and the Committee’s subsequent recommendations.

Universal Credit

The committee’s findings show that, based on the feedback from the call for views, the main areas of concern in relation to Universal Credit in Scotland are rent arrears, communications and data protection, and Scottish Choices and Alternative Payment Arrangements. The report sets out recommendations for each area of concern.

Legal Housing Allowance and the cost of renting

The report highlights that much of the evidence received in relation to Local Housing Allowance (LHA) and the Cost of Renting focussed on the widening gap between the current level of LHA and increasing cost of rent, specifically in major urban areas. The committee points out that the current rate of LHA is insufficient to provide adequate support to those in private rental accommodation.

Access to housing for those in receipt of benefits

The report specifies that people on benefits can struggle to find suitable accommodation due to being excluded from parts of the rental market. The committee consider that there is a lack of affordable housing meaning that there is a greater reliance on temporary accommodation which seems to no longer be a short term measure but rather the report has found that people are living in temporary accommodation on a semi-permanent basis. In express their extreme concerns in relation to high costs of temporary accommodation and the conditions of some of the accommodation, the committee calls for the Scottish Government to set out what actions it proposes to take to address the particular concerns relating to the cost and standard of this type of accommodation.

Discretionary Housing Payments

The committee emphasises that at the time of writing the report, the Scottish Government has yet to provide specific guidance on Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) since they were devolved to Scotland in April 2017. DHPs are administered by local authorities, however the report evidences that the allocation of DHP funding between local authorities is inconsistent. The committee therefore recommends that the Scottish Government increase the awareness of DHPs by providing new guidance that would place a requirement on local authorities to publicise their availability.

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