January 2013 (Issue 56)
It’s the start of a new year and one that many working in housing believe will prove to be a watershed for both landlords and tenants.
Months of planning, recruiting, educating and training will finally be put to the test as two of the Government’s most significant welfare reforms come into effect.
For housing professionals, the ‘bedroom tax’ and Universal Credit have become the two most significant phrases of recent times. Combined with other changes to the welfare system, especially the benefit cap, they pose a considerable threat to the financial prospects of society’s poorest.
For the public at large, however, the Government’s concerted attack on welfare spending has received widespread approval. In purely abstract terms, few could argue that the size of the welfare bill needs to be reduced and that there are people who take advantage of the benefits system.
Up until now, the human face of the welfare cuts has been well concealed. The media has largely been obedient and shied away from running stories about the impact they are having on families and individuals across the UK. Which is why the BBC’s Panorama special ‘Britain’s Hidden Housing Crisis’ was such an important piece of television.
Aired in the run up to Christmas in a prime-time slot on BBC One, the programme provided millions of viewers with a much-needed insight into the misery being inflicted on ordinary people whose lives have been thrown into disarray through no fault of their own. Some of the stories were truly heart-wrenching, particularly those involving young children, while the account of the woman who had her house repossessed because she had to give up work after being diagnosed with cancer was simply appalling.
While it may not be a ‘Cathy Come Home’ game-changer as some have suggested, we can only hope that it helps to soften public attitudes towards people who have no choice but to rely on state support simply to survive. It’s important to remember the BBC filmed the programme back in the summer of 2012, long before the harshest benefit cuts come into effect.
To kick off the new year, we have asked Jules Birch to compile a series of features analysing the welfare changes and the impact they are likely to have on both landlords and tenants. His first dispatch starts on page 24.
January is also the month we officially launch our Young Leaders award. Now in its third year, the award has firmly established itself as a much sought-after accolade among young housing professionals. For all the details on how to enter see page 18.