PRS landlords have welcomed Amber Rudd’s concession to thaw the benefits freeze next year, saying the freeze as it applied to housing benefit has been a key driver of homelessness from their sector.
Chris Town, Vice Chair of the Residential Landlords Association, said the thaw would enable benefits to keep up with the reality of market rents.
The thaw is the second major concession on welfare ‘reform’ from Rudd within a week.
She previously announced a partial rollback to the two-child limit on payments as the ‘reform’ is reformulated.
While welcoming both concessions, NHF chief executive Kate Henderson warned that families with more than two children born before the two child policy was introduced were still unfairly penalised by the cap.
“Social housing tenants told us that the cap pushed them into poverty and rent arrears, and that ultimately it was their children who were suffering,” said Henderson.
“We must remember that the change to the two-child policy will not apply to families with children born after the cap was introduced in 2017.
“These families will still be just as vulnerable to falling into poverty as those who are now being exempted.
“This policy causes real hardship for thousands of people, and we would urge the Secretary of State to remove the cap altogether,” she said.
Labour also approved of the seemingly Damascene turn around by the Work and Pensions Secretary, but wants acknowledgement of the damage welfare ‘reform’ freeze has done.
Taken at face value, Rudd’s concession does come as a ‘maybe’ – and she remains committed to the migration of Universal Credit by 2023.
Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, she said: “It is inevitable that, as we roll it out, as we make the changes, we are learning about how to do it better.
“Maybe things that were proposed previously weren’t effective or weren’t compassionate in the way that I want them to be – so I’m going to be perfectly bold about making those changes where I need to.”
The freeze is estimated to have cost some working families hundreds of pounds a year over the five years since it was imposed.
But Rudd defended the freeze as “the right policy at the time”.
Pressed on the future for the freeze, Rudd said: “It’s got one more year to run…I look forward to it coming off…do not expect that to be renewed at all.”
The benefits freeze was initially imposed for a two-year period and renewed in 2017 for three more years.
Two separate pieces of research released since then by the Resolution Foundation suggested the worst-hit households would lose between £200 and £300 a year.
The freeze affects benefits including tax credits, child benefit, jobseeker’s allowance, part of employment and support allowance and Universal Credit.
In 2017, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation predicted it would drive almost half a million people into poverty by the time it came up for renewal in 2020.