If you are affected by the raft of changes to housing benefit, then you’re not alone, writes Catherine Dempsey. Recently published research and data modelling by Hackney Council has highlighted that thousands of local residents will be affected by housing benefit changes. Lots of people are facing cuts to their benefit throughout 2012 as transitional protection ends with a peak in numbers in November and December.
Just under 1,400 households have been identified as affected by the local housing allowance (LHA) cap and over 1500 by the 30th percentile setting of LHA rates (rates will be set at the 30th percentile of rents in the local area instead of the median). There are numerous other changes and nearly 14,000 people in total will be impacted by welfare reform in Hackney.
The council’s research also reveals that the areas most affected by housing benefit reform are in the east and north-east of the borough. Many of those affected by the housing benefit changes are currently in work, which demonstrates that movement into employment won’t always provide a solution to making up shortfalls. It’s a little known fact that many people who receive housing benefit are in employment, with an income which doesn’t cover the essential expenses of rent, council tax and food.
At Hackney Citizens Advice Bureau we’re starting to see an increase in enquiries from people affected by the various cuts to housing benefit payments, with shortfalls between rent and housing benefit rates of as high as £550 per month. If you are affected, there are a number of potential avenues to explore including Discretionary Housing Payments, negotiating with the landlord and looking at other options. We strongly advise taking action and seeking advice as early as you can before the cut comes into effect on your claim.
We’re also campaigning to raise awareness of the issue and sharing anonymised data and stories about the impact in Hackney at http://hackneycab.crowdmap.com – you can make your voice heard and tell your story by sending a report through the website.
The campaign launched at the official opening of the new Citizens Advice Bureau at 300 Mare Street, which provides a great environment and more space for people using the service than in our previous home a few doors away. Mayor Jules Pipe opened the building at the event on 24 February and guests from local organisations and services attended including our two MPs for Hackney, Diane Abbott and Meg Hillier.
The Hackney CAB Crowdmap campaign is being supported by the Young Foundation through their Building Local Activism programme and uses software from Ushahidi, a Kenyan non-profit tech company which develops free and open source software to collect and visualise information.
If you are concerned about welfare reform and changes to Housing Benefit, you can find further advice here or at Hackney Citizens Advice Bureau at 300 Mare Street E8 1HE. Tel: 020 8525 6350./ 9 March, 2012