Sunday, 18 November 2012

Too often the debate about welfare reform is evidence-free and based on wildy inaccurate stereotypes of spongers living it up at the taxpayers' expenses, here is some brand new research about the reality of "life on benefit" for private sector tenants.  I am pleased to have been one of the research team:

New Report: ‘Poor homes, poor health- to heat or to eat? Private sector tenant choices in 2012′


Stark choices for private tenants on benefits and increased demands on the NHS

“The health of tenants in the private rented sector who are in receipt of housing and other benefits, is
clearly being put further at risk as a consequence of the Government’s welfare reforms and poor conditions within the sector, and this is not just a London issue”, said Dr Stephen Battersby, Chair of the Pro Housing Alliance at the launch of a research report commissioned by the PHA – Poor homes, poor health- to heat or to eat? Private sector tenant choices in 2012.
He continued, “The study by GLHS shows that lack of security and high costs for what can be dangerous and unhealthy housing contributes to poor health including mental health. This is made worse by the difficulties of finding the money to keep warm and eat – sometimes tenants cannot do both. This will lead to greater demands on the NHS, and one wonders if this is part of a policy of coercion by destitution” he said.

Gill Leng who led the research said “Talking to tenants and advice agencies up and down the country has shown just how the cuts are impacting on people who already have very little money to live on. It is clear that health inequalities will be further increased not reduced”.
She highlighted one quote from a tenant interviewed in Blackpool where rent is comparatively cheap and the PRS accounts for 22% of the housing market, but who could not move to cheaper accommodation:

“It would have to be a tent in a field.”
A single pensioner interviewed said:
I have lost contact with all my old friends because I am embarrassed about the circumstances I am living in and my lack of money.”
It is difficult for advice agencies too, who are in their own words “drowning under demand”. One adviser interviewed said
“People will live in dangerous situations with their fingers crossed rather than tackle their landlord.”
The worries about landlords and lack of security at the cheaper end of the market condemn tenants to suffer. As two quotes from the report highlight:
“Went to CAB about damp. Have had difficult conversations with landlord who threatened he would not renew my contract if I pursue this.”
“[Landlord] is not a nice bloke to get on the wrong side of.”

The report concludes that the Government should be doing more to assess the public health impacts of the welfare reforms, particularly as cutting one budget which merely reflects the high cost of housing, increases demands on other budgets such as GPs in the NHS.
The full report can be downloaded 

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