A Dundee housing chief has warned that “horrendous” changes to welfare payments could plunge some of the city’s poorest people further into poverty.
Bruce Forbes, director of Angus Housing Association (AHA), spoke to the Tele following the announcement that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will pay social tenants a new benefit — the Local Housing Allowance — from early 2019.
Under the plans, single people under 35 with no children will see their benefits limited to the shared accommodation rate.
That means a person in Dundee, who would normally be entitled to £79.24 per week under the current system, will receive £57.69.
Mr Forbes, who has worked in housing for 37 years, said: “This is probably the biggest worry about welfare we have ever had as an organisation.
“The UK government is essentially saying to people who are under 35 ‘you’re only being given enough to allow you to live in a shared room in a house; the equivalent of a room in a boarding house’.
“The shared room rate is £57.69, so you are looking at a differential of £22 a week.
“That’s a high percentage of the overall income that person receives, and these are often people who are already struggling to live.
“How the UK Government expects people to build a life up and get on their feet, I don’t know — it’s absolutely horrendous.”
Mr Forbes said the people this could affect were some of the most vulnerable people in Tayside.
He said: “We have some tenants coming out of care, foster homes or prison, who often have problems with addiction or their health.
“This will, in some cases, prevent them from obtaining secure housing to build a future for themselves. Some tenants are already having to find a way to pay part of their rent on a very low budget because of the brutality of the welfare system in the UK today. Their current payments don’t cover it so they make up the difference.
“People in our properties are already being referred to foodbanks by my staff. These are the sort of the people who will be affected by this.”
A DWP spokeswoman said: “These changes are about restoring fairness to the system and ensuring that those on benefits face the same choices as everyone else. The reality is, nothing will change until April 2019, and existing tenancies signed before April 1 2016 will be unaffected.
“We will have provided £1bn in Discretionary Housing Payments across Great Britain by 2020 to support people transitioning to our reforms.”