Since last Tuesday when I joined the Labour Party as a registered member, I’ve been bombarded by promotional materials from various new faces and some old faces like Ken Livingstone as well.
The only two people who appear to have a really good grasp about what’s needed in detail to solve the housing crisis in London are Diane Abbot and David Lammy and they are running for Mayor, not Labour Leadership.
Yes, the leadership candidates do mention how they will address the housing crisis but not in a way that I feel speaks to me as a individual in my situation. There’s that phrase again, sung to the tune of The Who’s My Generation!
To all candidates across parties, here’s one area that needs urgently sorting out:
It is the issue of Discretionary Housing Payments.
DHP’s are paid from a pot of money that councils hold. You can to apply for them to cover housing costs that may be an emergency or unforeseen. They are means-tested, for people who are in receipt of Housing Benefit – getting one is not a done deal.
You can apply, but you may not get one. I should be eligible because I’m in receipt of Housing Benefit due to being on ESA and having no other assets.
Julie, my disability rights advisor said that I should apply for one to cover my advance rental fees I’m going to need to be able to move. That was her solution to the: ‘no overdraft, no credit card, no loans’ status I have since I’ve been in receipt of benefits.
The referral she made for me to Social Services was part of that process. She said that the Social Worker would apply on my behalf.*
Last week I phoned the Council because I wanted to know more about DHP’s. I explained my situation and asked them what the payments were for.
“Um, they aren’t really for that,” came the reply, “they are usually payments with sudden rent increases, for instance.”
“So I couldn’t apply for my advance rental fees and deposit and all that, from you?”
“Er. No. It’s ..it’s too much money. Its not for that…”
I rang off. I rang off with another question in my mind: how do people with no credit and no facility to borrow money get the money together to move between rented properties?
I’m lucky. I have a group of people around me who can lend me various bits and pieces of it, in order to make up the whole.** What happens to people who don’t have people around them that can do that?
THIS needs urgently addressing in the dialogue about affordable housing and the housing crisis in London.
To any candidate reading this, in my extensive search for landlords who will accept me as a client on housing benefit, agents are asking me how I am going to cover my advance fees.
Changing the rules around DHP’s to include the advance fees associated with a house move should be included in the strategy for change around affordable housing and the housing crisis in London.
© Lindy 2015
*despite being referred to Social Services over 2 months ago, I’ve heard nothing from them. Julie is chasing this up.
** under the Social Security Act the council and the DWP can ask to see your bank statements and query any money you may hold in your bank accounts as it could be perceived as regular income.
The council’s answer to this was to ask me to write a letter confirming what that money was for and who loaned it to me. I had to sign it and so did the person who loaned it to me as well.