Social landlords – Thieving bar stewards!

Did you know a social landlord will take off you over SIX TIMES what a court would award for arrears?

Welcome to the UCAPA – the Universal Credit Alternative Payment Arrangement that sees a social landlord claim £99.87 per week from the tenant on benefit in arrears by default when a court would limit that arrears payment to £16.30 per calendar month.

The social (sic) landlord is nothing more than a thief with total disdain for the courts!

thief-1562699_960_720

The tenant has no say in the matter either and Universal Credit simply choose to believe the social (sic) landlord when he says the tenant is 8 weeks or more in arrears.

Yet as UC takes at least 6 weeks to arrive and all weekly social housing tenancies require 1 week in advance that alone is 7 weeks (!!) and this is becoming all too familiar an arrangement.

For the social tenant on a monthly tenancy then the minimum 6 weeks UC payment coupled with 1 month (4.34 weeks) in advance and you are well over this 8 week period for the APA to be put into place immediately.

The tenant can – if they are prepared to wait an hour on hold to UC listening to Vivaldi -argue hardship and Universal Credit may halve this payment to £49.93 per month – yet only if the UC member of staff knows the regulations and can get a supervisor to manually override the UC system that automatically defaults of 20% of the standard UC allowance and changes it to 10%. Oh and if the tenant has credit on their mobile phone too as calls to UC are chargeable!

How can social (sic) landlords justify a system that sees them take £63.56 per month off a single person or lone parent when a court would only award £16.30 per month?

How can social (sic) landlords justify taking £99.87 per month off a couple when a court would typically only take the same £16.30 or rarely £24.97 per month to be taken?

The reason a court only allows £16.30 per month to be deducted for arrears is because the courts have long decided that amount – which broadly equates to 5% of the base social security benefit of Income Support, JSA or ESA – is all that such a tenant can afford due to their subsistence level income.

Yet under Universal Credit the system defaults to 20% and four times this base benefit (called standard allowance) amount can be deducted and note up to a total of 40% of Universal Credit’s standard allowance can be deducted with other deductions too.

DO NOT for one second believe this is happenstance as the National Housing Federation – the NHF and lobby for housing associations – lobbied the Tory government hard over this Alternative Payment Arrangement or APA and the Tories were more than happy to agree to it!

It means a higher percentage of rent is collected by social (sic) landlords which then sees the Tories say oh the bedroom tax and benefit cap and all of the other cuts to social tenant housing benefit can’t be that bad!!

This same collusion is evident in the misnamed “affordable (sic) rent” which sees these landlords charge tenants up to 80% more in rent which see the NHF shafting the tenant for more in rent and quite coincidentally of course merely occasionally huff and puff over the fact the Tories no longer pay grant or ‘subsidy’ to the landlords.  Quid pro quo collusion again – and again the social tenant is shafted by the social (sic) landlord.

How dare you say that Joe we have a social purpose, blah, blah, blah!

ODFO* … Since when has social purpose meant thieving 6 times more off a tenant on subsistence level benefit than a court of law would award!!

__________________________

ODFO? – Oh Do F … Off!

 

 

 

 

 

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Tenants are social, landlords are not

tenants and viewed

The above was a quick exchange on Twitter earlier this week which has led to social tenants shouting YES YES YES and landlords saying the usual how dare you!

So let’s begin with educating journalists and the public about what is misnamed as social housing.

  1. Did you know that housing associations are correctly called Private Registered Providers?
  2. Did you know that housing associations have no duties to house or rehouse anyone?
  3. Did you know that more than half of all housing association properties used to be council housing?  The LSVT (Large Scale Voluntary (sic) Transfer) that has seen 1.6 million former council homes become HA properties is a massive transfer from public ownership to private ownership?
  4. Do you know that in the latest yearly figures for 2015/16 Housing Associations built just 12% of their new housing for social rent and what we used to call council rent?
  5. Did you know that social (sic) landlords (councils and housing associations) evict the same number of tenants as the private landlord?

All the above are facts and facts I’ve stated before and sourced from official data yet perhaps most significantly of all, facts that housing associations especially would rather journalists and the general public not know about yet are all true!

Fact 1 – PRIVATE Registered Providers – This is how housing associations are referred to by the UK housing regulator and look here for a huge level of detail not just the label

Fact 2 – No duties to house or rehouse – Because housing associations are not public bodies they cannot have any mandatory duties such as housing or rehousing unlike councils who do have mandatory and statutory housing duties

Fact 3 – You can find this in government data on LSVT and 1.6 million former council houses have transferred to the housing associations.

One such transfer to note is that Tewkesbury Council transferred their housing to Severn Vale Housing Association and SVHA last year announced a ban on allocating to all under 36 year olds as policy in response to the Tories SAR policy.  The point of note is that the former council housing department of Tewkesbury would not be able to do this in law yet the transferred HA is allowed to do this. Detail all here

Fact 4 – 12% only as genuinely affordable – Of the total 40,014 new properties built by housing associations just 5454 were developed and operated at the social rent level.  The figures come from the National Housing Federation and widely reported in Inside Housing – see here

Fact 5 – Evictions – The elephant in the room as far as rented housing and as far as the housing and homeless commentariat such as Shelter who solely focus on private rented sector evictions and say nothing about these two startling facts in my post here

srs evictions

In short, despite the ease at which private landlords can evict and the constraints social landlords have by comparison, the official eviction figures are in proportion to the size of each sector.  Hence an argument can easily be made that social landlords have a greater proclivity to evict than the private landlord!

Housing Associations as private – general

Housing Associations have been proceeding along the commercialised direction of travel apace since 2010/11 and this road runs directly contrary to the genuine social housing road and in the exact opposite direction.  For instance here we see L&Q announcing 25,000 new homes exclusively for private rent and here is a source for another supersized housing association in Riverside announcing that they will not be building any genuinely affordable social rent properties for the next decade.

Note that in the past couple of years we have also seen some council landlords do an abrupt U-turn down the affordable (sic) rent road too but insignificant in comparison to HAs, aka PRIVATE Registered Providers.

Affordable Rent?  This is the Affordable Homes Programme of the Tories which allows housing associations to shaft the tenant for on average 45% more in rent because the Tories no longer give housing associations grant subsidy to pump prime new housing.

Until last financial year this was exclusively used by the ever more commercial housing associations but now they are joined by council landlords in hijacking the word ‘affordable’ to mean an average 45% rent increase.  This is shafting the tenant and being overtly asocial regardless of whatever reason is used by these landlords to ‘justify.’

The housing association rationale / excuse behind the affordable (sic) rent model was the absence of subsidy YET only a few weeks ago the Labour Mayor of London announced (in the usual blaze of hyperbolic glory) that one-third of the new near 50,000 homes in London would be ‘social housing.’  Yet when we look at this we find these properties do indeed have £60k each in grant or ‘subsidy’ which is more than double the previous amount AND the new ‘London social rent’ Sadiq Khan announced will be up to 49% higher than the current actual social rent level in London.  The details of this including sources can be found here.

The term social housing is a chronic and 100% misnomer with regard to housing associations – aka Private Registered Providers – and is starting to become a similar misnomer with council landlords as scores of councils have now set up their own private rented housing companies!

Yes you read that correctly – Councils who have no council housing have set up their own wholly owned private renting companies which go by the vague generic name of LHC’s – Local Housing Company’s.  Here is explicit detail of that from earlier this year and the 98 councils mentioned has now increased too.

The above are just a few of the main points of which journalists and the general public are blithely ignorant and so they choose to believe many long-held myths about social housing, social tenants and about social (sic) landlords.  The public and journalists are bombarded with mantras and PR releases aplenty from housing associations which all say they have a social purpose or social ethos or some other similar vague sentiment yet just the few facts stated here show the reality is very different indeed.

It is time the facts and especially the pesky ones that the feodaric housing associations don’t like have greater awareness

The politics of the social (sic) rented sector (SRS)

Today we have approximately 63% of SRS properties owned and managed by housing associations and 37% by councils or twice as many HA properties as LA ones.  That is a radical shift from 30 years ago when councils had over 80% of all SRS properties and 4 for every 1 housing association property.

A very crude measure of how private HAs are is the highest paid CEO receives over half a million per year.  I’m pretty sure the former Director of Housing in Glasgow and Birmingham councils that both had twice as much council housing as this HA (PfP) never had anything like such financial rewards.  Some may say that is a cheap point yet they can’t deny it is an extremely valid one.

Are the housing associations in bed with the Tories?  Yes they are and before you say that is is just a view not a fact – which of course it has to be – consider the example of the LHA Maxima Cap policy to substantiate that view.

In 2011 the Tories first proposed this piece of ideological claptrap and the housing associations vehemently challenged it and the policy was hastily dropped.  That incarnation was (a) LHA maxima only and (b) LHA maxima plus £20 per week, and /or (c) LHA maxima plus £40 per week in housing benefit.

When the same LHA maxima policy of the Tories resurfaced in 2015 it only had option (a) LHA maxima only and a much worse deal than the 2011 version.  Yet where was the housing association outcry over this?  It wasn’t there as HAs had a policy dictated down to them by the National Housing Federation of NOT challenging government housing and housing benefit policy!  The NHF had in their view much bigger fish to fry with the Tories such as the extension of the right to buy and an obsession with build, build, build only that was ‘permissible’ through the relaxation of regulation upon housing associations.

As social housing by name and definition means housing for the people and THE most vulnerable people are those who require housing AND support, then the NHF as the leading supported housing provider type was prepared to sacrifice THE most vulnerable and most social tenant for the profits in ramping up their private products..

While all social businesses have to ensure survival first ahead of any social ethos which they may want to have, the abandonment of the needs of THE most vulnerable social tenants in the pursuit of profit is amoral and asocial in the extreme … as well as being incredibly bad business! Some 700,000 social tenants residing in supported housing are adversely affected and the same policy that the NHF chose not to challenge will potentially hit a further 500,000 pensioners in general needs properties with a backdoor bedroom tax and have other negative general needs impacts in low rent areas.

The NHF were and still are blind to this inept business practise of not challenging government in the hope of greater profit that truly shafted THE most vulnerable social tenant.  That strategy of the NHF is economic madness in its blind chasing of profit as well as being asocial and morally reprehensible.

The same NHF / housing associations are logically seeking to cement their position as the leading provider of social (sic) housing and in doing so they have both a business rationale for dismissing the popular Labour Party policy of allowing councils to borrow in order to build and be against Corbyn and Labour Party policy for the same reason.

This is where the record output of new builds from housing associations of 40k per year in 2015/16 [that paradoxically was also the lowest ever post-war social rent new build by housing associations of 5445!] stacks up very unfavourably with local councils who used to build more than 200k homes per year and LA’s can easily scale up to do so again.

It is also clear that councils have the will and desire to become major house builders once again and these factors threaten the housing association sector and this is the political context of socially rented housing in England today.

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Supported Housing – Tories throwing baby out with the bath water

The reason six years ago I started to blog was the Tories release of the original LHA Maxima Cap consultation in July 2011.  The idiots of the Tory-led coalition government were seeking to damage supported housing as much as the Labour idiots who preceded them in government.

[ Aside – Please take those above points in to those who accuse me of a left-wing bias and label me in their shoot the messenger ignorance]

Thankfully and rightly the LHA Maxima Cap 2011 version was quickly buried yet it has now been resurrected (a) on even worse terms and (b) is scheduled to become operational in April 2019 with, (c) we are informed without any detail a year long lead-in which begins in April 2018 less than 8 months away.

My Speye Joe name is Joe keeping an eye on SP (Supporting People) that was the principal funding stream in supported housing which the idiots in the last Labour government decided to take away its ring fence in 2009 and thus directly caused the crisis we now have in social care as local authorities chose to swipe the SP funding and so the preventative agenda of support that SP had was no more.  That same ring fence removal madness is manifest in the much touted Crisis report of today on homelessness which reveals 5,000 fewer homeless hostel beds in 2016 then in 2011, though I note Crisis do not make the bloody obvious connection between the 134% increase in rough sleepers in this time in the official count and 5,000 fewer hostel beds!

The larger supported housing providers are moaning like hell over the LHA Maxima Cap coming into force in 2019 yet the same moaned liked hell and actually did challenge the 2011 version of it and that challenge got the policy dropped.  These larger supported housing providers by contrast did NOT moan like hell over the 2019 version as they were in cahoots with the Tories and had much bigger fish to fry with them over for instance the extension of the right to buy to housing associations – the same larger supported housing providers – and the HAs had an overt policy of not challenging the Tory government!

Yet just as you will read in any business manual by whichever business guru is de rigeur now or in the past supported housing has its showstoppers.

Showstoppers? In a general business context imagine a provider of widgets who can source 99% of parts or services from a thousand suppliers … yet they are reliant on the widget to work on one small specialist provider for the other 1% and without which the widget is useless.  The de rigeur business guru exhorts the businessman to ensure for instance that it pays this small specialist provider on time and not have it wait the 90 day payment reality on 30 day invoices it has for the other 99% of suppliers.  If the small specialist provider goes so does the business of selling widgets in short.

Supported housing has a wealth of small specialist providers (SSP) without whom the system falls apart.  Yet because they are small they became the proverbial easy target for local councils to remodel or decommission when the SP ring fence was removed in 2009 and their expertise went with them as support staff who were experts in the nuances of support to 1-legged Peruvian glue sniffers or any such specialised vulnerable group largely chose to go stack shelves in Tesco as it paid more and without the hassle!

My company HSM worked with and advised over 200 SSPs and deliberately so rather than the larger support providers such as HAs. These providers were not just specialists who delivered phenomenally good levels of service that saved their respected local councils a fortune and helped the larger more generic support services, they were protected by the SP ring fence and the grant conditions that went with SP.  Post 2009 they became vulnerable as hell thanks to the sham we call the commissioning process and in essence they lost the right to receive such necessary and vital funding SP provided.

Commissioners in local authorities simply saw them as an easy target to take back money so they could spend it in repairing pot holes or more typically to set against their care budget deficits.  The example above of 5,000 fewer hostel places reveals the old tactic of the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ that is another typical subjective short-term madness of the LA commissioning process, that was bolstered and deflected with the superficial mantra of local councils know local needs best – a mantra not even worthy of the bullshit label!

We are now returning to even greater local authority control and subjectivity and short-term myopic madness in the LHA Maxima Cap policy.  The small specialist providers that have somehow managed to survive to date will discover an even greater survival threat in the LHA Maxima Cap commissioning process.

  • Councils as commissioners will become ever more parochial and insist that all services only accept in-area cases and not accept out-of-area cases as a support contract term and that will by definition deny specialist provision that typically sees perceived need only on a regional or national basis with for example acquired brain injury services as a better example than 1-legged Peruvian glue sniffers as a client group.
  • I can give many examples that have happened such as one councillor stating in very forthright terms I am not having this service in my ward or my city about a support service for mentally disordered offenders that took those released from Rampton.  The same will happen with more generic probation hostels and a whole host of other perceived NIMBY groups
  • This literal NIMBY practice (Not In My Back Yard) will also be put in place to services such as domestic abuse refuges who by necessity take out-of-area cases due to safety reasons and if you think the tiny amount of male domestic abuses services will get funded then how’s the weather on Cloud Cuckoo Land?

What the LHA Maxima Cap policy like Supporting People before it share is the denial and non-consideration of capital funding. Existing specialist and accommodation-based services even to the very ‘deserving’ client groups came about years before the revenue funding of SP and its second incarnation in LHA Maxima Cap commissioning.  As a result we see D/deaf services sporadically located in a few geographical areas with just one or a handful of services in a wider region such as the North West or the West Midlands and their residents may even originate from outside such regions never mind outside the specific local authority area in which it is located.

The Supporting People programme originally sought to protect such services and government created a public list of services of national importance  yet that soon became meaningless as it was dropped.  The LHA Maxima Cap policy has to date no detail whatsoever even on basic processes and commissioning and decommissioning never mind any protection for these services of national importance or any other conditions on the monies over and above the LHA level that will transfer to local authority commissioning pots.

The SP programme had a full three year lead-in period in the Transitional Housing Benefit Scheme (THBS) and that is universally regarded as being too short yet the LHA Maxima Cap policy has only a one year lead-in – which for dire want of a more professional term is the smelliest shit hitting the biggest fan you can imagine!

The LHA Maxima Cap policy and its unworkable LA commissioning process does not operate in a bubble but in the context of many other factors too. I posted earlier today about the DWP essentially forcing those with autism, learning difficulties and severe mental health conditions into supported employment.  Yet if this fails, which it will, and even during its pilots if supported housing tenants refuse will they be sanctioned and put many such supported housing services at risk because the vulnerable resident with SEVERE mental health conditions loses their benefit?  The mind shudders!

Given that the vast majority of disabled persons live in social housing – both general needs and supported – as their needs do not fit the private rented model, this one policy will also affect many in general needs social housing not just supported housing.  So when and again not if many now general needs social housing tenants with disabilities such as SEVERE mental health conditions see their needs increase in severity that they need specialist supported housing such provision will not be there due to being decommissioned thanks to the LHA Maxima Cap policy of local councils know local needs best superficial bullshit that in reality is just blame deflection from central to local government.

Support providers are NOW whether rightly or wrongly in a moral sense but logically in business sense, are quietly refusing to take out-of-area cases as they are too much of a financial risk.  Hence the post LHA Maxima Cap perversities are already having an effect today almost 18 months before the policy goes live.  The Tories have not just managed to make general needs social housing increasingly asocial, they have made the most social form of social housing in supported housing increasingly asocial.

Unlike in general needs I can see why and fully support small specialist providers having to take in only in-area cases.  The disaster that will happen when local council commissioners say we will only pay the LHA Maxima Cap top-up to those residents who originate locally and the provider must get the funding for out-of-area residents from their host local authority is a nightmare – and as there is no mandatory legal basis to pay for support this funding will never flow.

These are just some of the issues, a tiny proportion of the issues, that all supported housing providers face with the ideologically bankrupt LHA Maxima Cap policy and issues that all providers, large and small, need to be addressing now.  All support providers need to have radically revisited business plans for post 2019 survival and those that bury their heads in the sand or postpone this urgent matter will not survive the farrago that is the LHA Maxima Cap.

I cannot press the URGENCY of this strongly enough and especially on supported housing provision that is NIMBY or ‘undeserving’ or who take out-of-area residents or who are small specialist providers. The lack of awareness of how urgent and how radically the LHA Maxima Cap affects existing support providers is stark and in large part excusable as all such providers are constantly tick-boxing and constantly jumping now to the ignorant LA commissioner tune and just don’t want to see the much greater threats and impositions and radical remodelling that is needed before this horrendously inept policy comes into operation.

As the old saying goes fail to prepare, prepare to (inevitably) fail .…!

Severely disabled forced to work by the Tories ICYMI

It’s not what disabled people can’t do, it is what they can has been the mantra of the Conservatives ever since 2010 along another highly superficial mantra of the best route out of poverty is to work.

Yesterday they announced they are piloting both of these together in a number of local authority areas for those with (a) learning difficulties, (b) autism and (c) severe mental health conditions.  This will soon become the forced work policy of work for your disability benefit!

Big Lottery Fund: Lorraine McIntosh and Bob O'Neill Pic: Peter Devlin

The announcement was buried in the DWP Touchbase magazine which can be seen here and I reproduce below what it said

As part of the Personal Support Package for people with disabilities or health conditions, DWP will work closely with a number of local authorities to deliver local supported employment for those with:

  • learning difficulties
  • autism
  • severe mental health conditions

The following local authorities have been selected to work with DWP:

  • Brighton and Hove City Council
  • Cheshire West and Chester Council
  • City of York Council
  • Croydon Council
  • Hertfordshire County Council
  • Kent County Council
  • Shropshire Council
  • Stockport Council
  • Telford and Wrekin Council

The proof of concept will commence later in the year for approximately 18 months.

The concept the DWP is seeking to prove is that those with learning difficulties, autism and severe mental health conditions (my emphasis) can work if they receive support, which then leads to the political posit that they should work and further to the political posit that if they do not work then all such disabled persons including those with SEVERE mental health conditions are malingerers.

And you thought cutting the £29.05 per week from those who are incapacitated and on ESA was bad!!  You thought the work capability assessments were bad when so many have died within weeks even days of being found ‘fit for work!’

I have seen many pilot studies before and they consist of huge amounts of money being thrown at a small group of areas in order to produce very misleading and Panglossian final reports to say these pilots prove something works.  Note that the local councils in this case have also competed to take part in such a charade and of course when, not if, this is then rolled out as national policy such levels of funding and the support it pays for disappears into a black hole!  Yet politicians then recite the mantra to any challenge to the policy that it does not work and these pilot studies PROVE that it works.

This is a significant ramping up of the Tories ideological premise that disabled people cost too much and are swinging the lead and especially so with any form of mental health condition unlike ‘seen’ physical disabilities for instance. This goes way beyond the offensive notion that the discredited work capability assessments (WCA) are somehow fair and right and quite how anyone with SEVERE mental health conditions could ever be fit for work simply beggars belief.

This is extremely offensive and a political sham that reveals the Tories as the nastiest of nasty parties.