Last week the Lords threw a spanner in the works regarding housing benefit sanctions to tackle anti-social behaviour. The Welfare Reform Bill and the government’s hilariously named Respect programme includes a section on having a two-year pilot scheme where sanctions will be used to those who have been evicted for anti-social behaviour and who refuse to address their behaviour using the support and help offered to them. After the two-year pilot it was expected to go nationally.
The government couldn’t get their own way as the Lords have said “the new sanctions were not intended to be imposed widely and that they would be judged to be a success if they were never applied as 'that would suggest that the households involved would have engaged in rehabilitation”. (Lord McKenzie of Luton).
Adam Sampson, chief executive of Shelter, said: ‘The House of Lords’ decision to prevent the government rolling out housing benefit sanctions nationally is an encouraging move.’
The ‘sunset clause’ will mean the government will be forced to return to Parliament to roll out the regime that will ensure primary legislation and “all that entails”.
Subject to the Welfare Reform Bill receiving Royal Assent the following areas will have the pilot scheme:
o Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council;
o Blackpool Borough Council;
o Dover District Council;
o Manchester City Council;
o New Forest District Council;
o Newham London Borough Council;
o South Gloucestershire Council; and
o Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council.
Organisations such as Shelter, Citizens Advice and Turning Point lobbied hard and pressurised the government to rethink its proposals towards dealing with anti-social behaviour. So they are cautiously welcoming this partial victory. It also shows that all is not well consensus wise in the establishment.
But…I am an eternal pessimist who sees the glass half empty and full of dragons (usually to do with dropping too much acid!) .The above local authorities will still pilot this programme by applying sanctions to people they deem displaying “anti-social behaviour”. Where are the safeguards?
The proposals state that anyone evicted due to anti-social behaviour could have their benefit cut by 10% for the first 4 weeks after a possession order is made. The reduction would be raised for the next 4 weeks and 100% for the maximum of 5 years.
Even with the programme not going nationally it could potentially cause more poverty and destitution....