Council offers support to affected tenants

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SUPPORT is being offered by North Lanarkshire Council to housing tenants who will be affected by the UK Government’s under-occupancy charge legislation as part of the welfare reform changes.

The new legislation takes effect from April 1, and the changes made by the UK Government will include those of a working age only receiving housing benefit - often referred to as the ‘bedroom tax’.

This means that if you are of working age and are under-occupying your home by one bedroom, your housing benefit would be reduced by 14 per cent of your current rent and if you are under-occupying by two or more bedrooms, housing benefit would be reduced by 25 per cent.

In response to these unprecedented changes, the council has taken on additional temporary employees to help provide residents with the advice they need to help manage the impact of these changes.

The local authority will be writing to more than 5,800 tenants who may be affected to offer them information and support.

They have issued more than 1,300 letters to those affected in 25 per cent bracket – two bedrooms or more; letters will be sent to tenants affected by 14 per cent bracket – one bedroom at end of February and those affected will be offered the chance to receive a visit from a trained council advisor who will provide guidance including income maximisation and budgeting advice;

The changes only affects tenants of working age - if either the tenant or partner gets pension credits they won’t be affected.

Mary Castles, executive director of housing and social work services, said: “As the largest social landlord in Scotland, these changes present an unprecedented challenge for the council, and we are determined to do all we can to help and support our tenants who will be affected by these UK-wide changes.

“The new legislation will also impact on the allocation of council properties. Our priority is to help those most in need of housing, as well as supporting existing tenants. The circumstances and needs of individuals and families are assessed using a points system to determine their place on the housing waiting list.”

“We have been reviewing our existing polices to ensure that we continue to help those in greatest need, as well as making the best use of the limited housing stock we have available in North Lanarkshire.”

Councillor Jim McCabe, leader of North Lanarkshire Council, added: “This is the single worst piece of legislation I have ever seen. It threatens families, it threatens lives and it threatens the very fabric of our society.

“We are taking what action we can. The council has
already approved £2.7million of additional budget to deal with this and in my budget proposals I will be seeking to make further money available.”

For more information about the welfare reform changes being introduced by the UK Government, phone 01698 403170 or go to www.northlanarkshire.gov.uk/yourmoney.