The Care Bill: The road to more private medical assessment injustice?

The Bill

At a time when almost one million carers, older, disabled and sick people are not receiving the care and support they need, the Care Bill is currently meandering its way through the chambers of Westminster. It is described as:

A Bill to reform the law relating to care and support for adults and the law relating to support for carers, to make provision about safeguarding adults from abuse or neglect, to make provision about care standards, to establish and make provision about Health Education England, to establish and make provision about the Health Research Authority, and for connected purposes.

The aims of the bill are:

  • Create a cap on care costs
  • Extend the current means test threshold for financial assistance
  • Ensure nobody has to sell their home in their lifetime to pay for residential care
  • It will merge sixty years of care and support law into a single Act, which according to the government will be “built around the person not the service”
  • Enshrine in law the right for carers in England to receive support from their local council
  • Ensure that people requiring care can be moved between local authority areas without fear that their care will be interrupted
  • Provide a new legal entitlement for everyone to a personal budget , which they can opt to receive as a direct payment to give them more control where desired
  • Clarify in law what protection will be put in place to ensure care is not disrupted if a care provider goes out of businesses
  • Establish Health Education England and the Health Research Authority as non-departmental public bodies, to give them the independence to carry out their roles

With the principle of introducing a capped cost social care partnership model set out in the Care Bill, the next step will be to resolve the Pandora’s box of issues that need to be resolved in time for April 2016. From then on, people’s qualifying social care costs could count towards reaching the cap of £72,000, after which the state will help towards the cost of the person’s care.

Concerns about the Bill

The heads of 38 leading charities including Age UK, the Alzheimer’s Society, Scope and the British Red Cross, have sent a letter to the Prime Minister warning that a change in how needs are assessed could strip 135,000 frail and vulnerable people in England of state-funded care on which they currently rely.

The charities have warned David Cameron that almost 900,000, who already have to pay if they want help with basic tasks such as washing and dressing, would not be able to benefit from a cap on the cost of care.

They say that the Care and Support Bill, which will usher in a cap on the cost of care to prevent people being forced to sell homes, should transform the system for future generations. But they add that they are now “seriously concerned” that when the final details of how the system is to be implemented are worked out, huge numbers of frail, elderly people will still be left without any help with their care.

Under the current system, only elderly people with assets, including their family home, worth less than £23,500 get help with the cost of care. Even then, only those deemed to have the greatest physical needs qualify.

Those are assessed on a four-point scale ranging from “low” to “critical” with just people above a threshold — decided by local social services – getting help.

In recent years, with funds squeezed, councils have tightened up criteria, meaning that in most areas only those deemed to have “substantial” needs qualify — usually meaning they can no longer live on their own.

Concerns about Assessments and the private providers

Another area of major concern is a part of the Bill introducing a national assessment framework to assess people’s eligibility for care, and also to have the associated costs count towards the cap. This gives local authorities the power to contract out the assessment process of people – to determine how bad their care needs are and what services they might need.

Over the last few years we have seen similar processes adopted via Work Capability Assessments (WCA) of the disabled and sick with contracts awarded to companies such as Atos. If you are aware of these assessments, no doubt, you will also be aware of the hundreds of accounts of people who are clearly unable to work due to health problems being declared “fit for work”.

Even if we are to take the giant leap of ignorance and put aside the obvious injustices suffered by many, many individuals, the use of companies like Atos being used to assess the needs of care raises many concerns, including:

Dr Greg Wood, a former Royal Navy doctor, resigned from Atos in May after working as an assessor for the company for two-and-a-half years. He said said the system was “skewered against the claimant”. He also stated that a number of the tests were staged in such a way as to find people fit for work and an excuse cutting their benefits.

Last year Atos – which in total earns £1.6billion in Government contracts – ‘won’ a government contact, worth £184 million, for London and the South of England on the promise of a tender stating that it had a network of 740 assessment sites across this area.

However the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has now admitted that Atos only has “up to” 108 centres available that meet its requirements.

The boss of Atos, Thierry Breton, has been awarded a £280,000 pay rise after his firm helped to heap misery on thousands of disabled people who are deemed fit for work. His total package of pay, bonuses and perks is now £2,329,250. For the same period in 2011, Breton received £2,049,250.

The parent company of Atos is American based “Unum Provident”, a company that makes its cash selling sickness insurance policies. Their “medicals” have been declared illegal in the states and branded “disability denial factories”.

Part of the WCA process is that people are allowed to seek advice and take another person with them to the interview. However there have been numerous accounts that this right is often challenged or refused at Atos centres. At an assessment centre in Liverpool recently, Atos staff called the police to remove a demonstration that was “threatening and upsetting people”. It subsequently transpired the ‘demonstration’ consisted of 2 Councillors handing out leaflets giving advice to people attending assessments and the Atos staff also refused to carry out an assessment after a person being assessed requested one of the ‘demonstrators’ to attend the ‘medical’ with them.

We all need to ask ourselves, would we entrust the determination of our own care needs, or those of our parents, to companies such as Atos? And at the same time we must remind ourselves, and make everyone aware, that hundreds of thousands of disabled and sick people have already had this inflicted upon them and suffered the utter despair and injustice that goes with it.

Sources:
Care Bill [HL] 2013-14 – Parliament.uk
Million ‘at risk’ from Care Bill – Telegraph
DWP finally reveals ‘shocking’ number of Atos PIP assessment sites – The Fed Online
Fury as boss of Atos gets £280k pay rise while thousands of Scots are plunged into poverty by their benefits assessment tests – Daily Record
Queen’s Speech 2013: Care bill – Politics.co.uk
Police called after welfare experts offer advice to disabled ahead of Atos sickness benefit assssments – Liverpool Echo

Related links:
Stop Atos Work Capability Assessments
Video – Filming of an ESA Assessment Carried Out by French Firm ATOS
Video – Simon Hickmans Atos assessment
The Hardest Hit
How To Deal With Benefits Medical Examinations
Victory as judges rule controversial disability benefits procedure is unfair

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NHS 65th Birthday Celebration – Poole Hospital

Campaigners and supporters of the NHS took part in a celebration of its 65th Birthday outside Poole Hospital. They were joined by patients, thanked by staff and received hundreds of ‘Honks’ from passing traffic in response to a sign reading ‘ Honk to Save the NHS’. The celebration was called by Bournemouth and Poole Anti Cuts Coalition in order to take some time out to celebrate the wonderful achievements of our NHS over the last 65 years and to highlight the threat the Tory led Coalition is to the wonderful service continuing.

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Stewart MacArthur of Poole and Bournemouth Anti – Cuts Coalition said “The NHS has given us improved life chances, security in times of need, pioneering treatment, and care, life without the NHS is hard to imagine. Three years of this coalition government has seen the dismantling, the selling off, the privatisation of the NHS…and the next 65 Years could look very different.

945677_10151547784072684_1984017719_nThroughout the country members of the public and medics are extremely concerned at the privatisation route this government has chosen for the NHS, campaigners are adamant a USA insurance system is slowly being introduced. The recent move to set up a system whereby migrants are to pay towards treatment is a way to have the pay system in place within the NHS ready for top up fees and insurances and is the beginning of a slippery slope whereby other sectors of society will be asked to contribute. This should be a huge concern to all of us and we owe it to future generations to fight for the free health service we have all had the privilege of.”

65 fascinating facts about our glorious health service

1. The NHS is one of the largest employers in the world, along with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, the Indian railways and the Wal-Mart supermarket chain.

2. The NHS in England and Wales employs around 1.3 million people. This is approximately one in 23 of the working population.

3. Around 77% of today’s NHS workforce is female.

4. There are more than 100 volunteering roles within health and social care.

5. Nurses make up the largest part of the NHS workforce, at just under 30%.

6. Staff across the NHS are in contact with more than 1.5 million patients and their families every day.

7. Approximately 170,000 people (the capacity of the Glastonbury music festival) go for an eyesight test each week.

8. In 2005/06 the NHS helped to deliver around 16,000 babies at home.

9. Almost a quarter of all babies born in 2005/06 were delivered by caesarean section.

10. Each month, 23 million people (more than three times the population of London) visit their GP surgery or practice nurse.

11. In a typical week, 1.4 million people will receive help in their home from the NHS.

12. Full-time GPs treat an average of 255 patients a week.

13. NHS chiropodists inspect more than 150,000 pairs of feet every week.

14. Seventy-five per cent of women aged 53 to 64 in England are screened for breast cancer at least once every three years.

15. NHS Direct receives around 20 calls a minute. More than a million people called NHS Direct over the 2007 Christmas period.

16. The NHS Ambulance Service received 6.3 million emergency calls in 2005/06, which is roughly 360 an hour

17. Community pharmacies dispensed 745 million prescription items in 2006/07

18. NHS ambulances make over 50,000 emergency journeys each week

19. There are now around 90 NHS walk-in centres, offering convenient access to services, including treatment for minor illnesses and injuries

20. The oldest person in the world to have a hip replacement was a 101-year-old lady who was treated at Good Hope Hospital in the West Midlands. More than 89,000 hip replacement operations were carried out in 2006/07.

21. When 13-year-old Sylvia Diggery (nee Beckingham) was admitted to a Manchester hospital with a liver condition in 1948, she became the first patient to be treated by the NHS.

22. Britain’s first sextuplets were born to Sheila Thorn at Birmingham Maternity Hospital in 1968.

23. There was nothing ordinary about the birth in Oldham of Louise Joy Brown on July 25 1978. She was the world’s first test-tube baby. In vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment is now common and since then, more than a million test tube babies have been born worldwide.

24. The first heart transplant in the UK took place on May 3 1968 at the National Heart Hospital in Marylebone, London. By December 2007, 5,328 heart transplants had been carried out in the UK.

25. NHS Direct was first launched in 1998. It now handles 20,000 calls a day, that’s around eight million calls a year.

26. The man in charge of introducing the NHS was Health Minister Aneurin Bevan. Launching the service on July 5 1948.

27. There are more than 530 NHS trusts in England. The trusts include: Acute trusts, Primary Care trusts, Mental Health trusts, Ambulance trusts and Care trusts.

28. The first NHS trusts were established in 1991.

29. In December 1942 Sir William Beveridge’s report, Social Insurance and Allied Services, proposed major changes to create the foundations for a welfare system and, in its support, a national health service. The NHS was born.

30. The National Health Service Act was published in 1946.

31. Charges for prescriptions, dental treatments and spectacles came into force in 1952. Prescription charges were abolished in 1965 and remained free until June 1968, when the charges were reintroduced.

32. The first UK kidney transplant took place at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary on October 30 1960 and involved a set of 49-year-old identical twins.

33. Polio and Diptheria vaccines were introduced in 1958, prior to that cases of polio could climb as high as 8,000 in epidemic years, with cases of diphtheria as high as 70,000, leading to 5,000 deaths.

34. Initially, the contraceptive pill was only available to married women when it was introduced in 1961. Six years later, laws were relaxed and by 1967 one million women were taking it

35. Abortions were made legal on October 27 1967

36. Professor Roland Levinsky performs the UK’s first successful bone marrow transplant on a child at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in 1979.

37. John and Rosemary Cox from the West Midlands lauched a campaign for a national register for people to donate their organs after their son Peter died in 1989 – he had asked for his organs to be used to help others. Five years later the NHS Organ Donor Register was launched.

38. More than 18 million people have signed up to the NHS Organ Donor Register.

39. NHS Direct was launched in 1998 and at its peak handled more than half a million calls per month. It was replaced by NHS 111 this year.

40. Following a number of high-profile deaths, and AIDS advertising campaign using images of tombstones and icebergs was launched in 1986.

41. The First keyhole surgery operation using 3D cameras took place at Manchester Royal Infirmary in April 2012.

42. Around one in eight newborn babies requires some kind of special care following birth, usually due to premature birth or low birth weight.

43. Breast screening was introduced in 1988, offering free mammograms to women over 50.

44. Eighteen-month-old Rhys Evans was the first person to have successful gene therapy to cure Severe Combined Immunodeficiency or ‘bubble boy’ disease at Great Ormond Street Hospital in 2002.

45. The NHS Plan in 2000 sets out targets to ensure no patient spends more than four hours in an accident and emergency (A&E) department from arrival to admission, transfer or discharge.

46. Foundation trusts were first introduced in 2004. There are now 112 across the country.

47. The NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme introduced in 2006 was one the first cancer screening programme in England to include men as well as women.

48. Around 50,000 people develop an irregular heartbeat each year. It’s a major cause of strokes and heart attacks.

49. Babies were first given vaccinations against pneumococcal meningitis in 2006.

50. British pensioner Kenneth Crocker, 70, was the world’s first patient to have heart surgery using a fully remote-controlled robotic arm. The operation took place at Glenfield Hospital, Leicestershire, in 2010.

51. Teenage girls aged 12 to 13 were offered vaccinations against human papilloma virus (HPV) to help prevent cervical cancer for the first time in 2008.

52. The amount of people enrolling at medical school rose by 58.7% between 1997/1998 and 2011/2012.

53. In comparison with the healthcare systems in Australia, Canada, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand and USA, the NHS was found to be the second most impressive overall by the Commonwealth Fund in 2010.

54. The NHS deals with more than 1 million patients every 36 hours.

55. Over the past 10 years, the number of calls resulting in an emergency team arriving at the scene has almost doubled.

56. The average life expectancy for men in the UK is 78.2 years, for women it’s 82.3 years

57. Hospital admissions linked to alcohol rose to 1.22 million in 2011/2012, a 51% increase from nine years earlier.

58. Latest NHS statistics show that 26% of women and 24% of men were obese in 2011.

59. The Care Quality Commission was launched in April 2009 to regulate the quality of services in health, mental health and adult social care.

60. Consultant otolaryngologist Mike Pringle fitted the UK’s first single cochlear implant capable of giving sound in both ears.

61. In April 2011, researchers from Cambridge University successfully demonstrated for the first time, the potential of an artificial pancreas in preventing night-time hypoglycaemia in adults with diabetes.

62. Matthew Green, 40, became the first UK patient to receive an artificial plastic heart implant at Papworth Hospital, Cambridgeshire, in August 2011.

63. More than 600 real-life NHS nurses and other healthcare workers took part in the London 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony

64. On 27 December 2012, a surgical team at Leeds General Infirmary carried out the UK’s first hand transplant operation on Mark Hill, 51, from Halifax.

65. In March this year, Ian Christie, 62, became the first person to receive a transplanted liver kept alive on a machine outside the body at King’s College Hospital.

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DPAC Report into abuse of statistics by the Department for Work and Pensions and UK Government Ministers

At the end of June, the Department for Work and Pensions will be releasing their Annual Report.

Iain Duncan Smith and his hench-ministers will no doubt be touring the TV studios to deliver more propaganda about worklessness and disability.

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) have released their own report of the DWP.

The report outlines 35 cases where Ministerial claims using statistics on the subject of Work and Benefits have fallen short of the standards expected of Government Ministers. DPAC believe that this demonstrates a consistent pattern of abuse of official statistics by Ministers of the present Government to paint a false picture of benefit claimants in the UK in support of policies which are aimed at cost cutting to the detriment of jobless, sick and disabled people.Within the document, each case is presented, and fully referenced to source material throughout.

When you next see Iain Duncan Smith on the TV News, ask yourself – is he lying? or is he simply making it up out of thin air again?

We’ve decided that he’s lying.

dpacDPAC is a grass roots campaign body. It was formed by a group of disabled people after the first mass protest against the austerity cuts and their impact on disabled people held on the 3rd October in Birmingham 2010, England. It was led by disabled people under the name of The Disabled Peoples’ Protest. DPAC has over 15,000 members and supporters and works with many anti-cuts groups, Universities, Disabled Peoples’ Organizations, and Unions

Friday 5th July – NHS 65th Birthday Celebration – Poole Hospital

Meet on the pavement by the main entrance steps to Poole General Hospital from 6pm on Friday 5th July.

The NHS will be 65 years old on the 5th July 2013. Take some time out to celebrate the wonderful achievements of our NHS over the last 65 years. And to highlight it’s biggest threat since its founding.

The NHS has given us improved life chances, security in times of need, pioneering treatment, and care, life without the NHS is hard to imagine. Three years of this coalition government has seen the dismantling, the selling off, the privatisation of the NHS… and the next 65 Years could look very different. Help be part of the celebration of what we have had, and show our intentions to defend it against government cuts.

Bring a banner, placard, cake, flask, balloon,flowers, tributes, and highlight our NHS for the good it’s done and the threat it’s under.

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Child Poverty Action Group Monthly News and Views – June 2013

Shown below is the “News from CPAG – Child Poverty Action Group e-newsletter, a monthly round-up of our news and views”. If you would like to subscribe to CPAG news, please click here.

Latest child poverty statistics

The newly-released annual statistics for 2011/12 showed no change to relative poverty, but 300,000 more children in absolute poverty. The relative poverty statistics also showed that two-thirds of the children below the relative poverty line are now from families in work. Read more on the statistics

Alison Garnham’s blog: ‘We are leaving our children utterly exposed’

Child poverty costs UK £29 billion a year

New research commissioned by CPAG has estimated the cost of child poverty to the UK. It is currently £29 billion a year – or £1,098 for each household – but would rise to £35 billion if Institute of Fiscal Studies projections on the impact of the government’s cuts prove to be correct.

Read Alison Garnham’s blog on this research.

Public backs more action on child poverty

A new poll shows more than 8 out of 10 people believe that tackling poverty should be a priority for government. And two-thirds of people believe the current government is not doing enough. This backing for action on poverty came from supporters of all the main parties. The poll is published by the End Child Poverty coalition, hosted at CPAG. Find out more

Help monitor the impact of benefit changes in London

We are looking for help to monitor the real impacts of welfare reform, particularly housing benefit. If you advise London families please use our quick and easy to use online tool to provide information on how the benefit changes are affecting your clients. Individuals can also use it to tell us about their own experience. We will publish a report this autumn as part of our Trust for London-funded project, and will let you know when it’s available on our website.

Welfare rights conference 2013: Surviving Welfare Reform

Under two weeks to claim your early bird discount, offer closes on Monday 1 July. Places booking fast, book now to avoid disappointment.

  • The Northern Conference in Manchester on Thursday 5 September.
  • The Southern Conference in London on Wednesday 11 September.
  • Further information and booking

Exhibition space: if you are interested in exhibiting your work, products and services at our conference, contact Naomi Jessop – njessop@cpag.org.uk.

Last-minute places available: Virgin London Triathlon and the British 10K

Test your endurance and champion the work of CPAG by signing up for one of these two fantastic events today. Limited spaces are available and all support will be provided by the London Legal Support Trust. To find out more email natalia@llst.org.uk, stating that you’d like to run, ride or swim (or all three!) for CPAG. The British 10K is on Sunday 14 July and the Virgin London Triathlon is Saturday 27 and Sunday 28 July.

Meanwhile, cycle fever has officially hit CPAG! Housing specialist Keepmoat have organised a fantastic Doncaster to Manchester Cycle Challenge in support of us. And Simon Veit-Wilson and friends will be taking on the Pashley & Chopper C2C Challenge. Please support all our cyclists generously!

Film news

Remember the story last month about the new CPAG film? It’s in the editing suite right now so expect to see something exciting in our next e-news! Or follow us on Facebook or Twitter to see it as soon as it’s released.

Meanwhile if you want to be a cinema ‘angel’, the new documentary based on The Spirit Level is accepting pre-orders to fund the UK leg of the filming. Find out more.

We welcome any comments on this newsletter – send your feedback to Liz Dawson – ldawson@cpag.org.uk

With best wishes from everyone at CPAG.

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Bournemouth Council give no assurances not to evict for Bedroom Tax rent arrears

Shown below is a public question submitted to Bournemouth Borough Council full council meeting on 18th June and the council’s response. BPACC are currently considering the council’s response and will be responding soon.

Public Question from Mike Cracknell

“The Government has introduced the Welfare Reform Bill which limits the total amount of Welfare benefits with an increase capped at 1%. This coincides with the introduction of the Social Housing Size Restriction policy equating to a reduction of 14% for one spare bedroom and 25% for two spare rooms which is monetary terms equates to circa £14/15 per vacant bedroom in Housing Benefit for tenants occupying social housing. Will the Council give an assurance that if the rent debt is accrued because of these factors there will be no eviction of tenants?”

Reply from the Leader of the Council, Cllr John Beesley

Tenants who are affected by the Social Housing Size Restriction policy (also referred to as the “Spare Room Subsidy”) will be of working age, receiving Housing Benefit and here in Bournemouth will be either local authority tenants or housing association tenants.

There are 577 Housing Benefit recipients affected in Bournemouth, of whom 328 are Local Authority tenants and 249 are in Housing Association properties.

All those who are affected and are Local Authorities tenants were written to twice by the Housing Benefits team with an explanation of how their Housing Benefit could change. The Council’s Housing Management team has been most proactive in contacting these tenants in order to discuss their options. They have been provided with information and advice on downsizing, applying for Discretionary Housing Payment, maximising income, returning to work and taking in lodgers. The Housing Management team is working closely with the Allocations team to ensure that all tenants wishing to downsize are placed on the ‘gold band’, significantly increasing their chances of winning a bid on a suitable property. tenants who wish to downsize will also be encouraged to arrange a mutual exchange of tenancies with other social housing tenants.

The Council is currently reviewing the incentives that it pays to tenants who wish to downsize to smaller properties in order to provide more assistance with the costs associated with moving, such as replacement of carpets, removals and decorations. The Council is also considering the level of practical assistance that it can provide, such as help with the connection and disconnection of white goods.

One of the Council’s 8 Housing Strategy priorities for Bournemouth is to ensure that we are making the best use of all our existing housing. The Social Housing Size Restriction policy forms part of this strategic priority by freeing up much needed family accommodation to help meet the housing needs of many who are on the Council’s waiting list. In April this year there were 3,177 households on the waiting list. 933 of these needed 2 bedroom accommodation and there were a further 645 who needed 3 bedrooms or more. We have reduced the waiting list from the 9,425 who were on it a year earlier through a much stricter allocations policy and are doing all we can to increase the number of new properties available to those most in need. It seems only fair therefore that we use our existing and future housing stock to best suit the needs of tenants, through downsizing where appropriate, in order to free up larger homes for those who need them and who are included on the revised waiting list, in the main through having a Bournemouth connection.

The Council’s policy in dealing with tenants who fail to pay their rent is available on the website. The policy is flexible enough to ensure that each case is dealt with on its own merits by specialist and experienced staff. They will become involved in cases of non-payment quickly in order to provide assistance and advice and have been successful in helping tenants who experience problems in paying their rent. However, if a satisfactory arrangement to manage the rent account cannot be agreed, the Council would take action to recover the property, nut only ever as a last resort.

In the Budget statement, the council recognised that Welfare Reform would be likely to cause hardship for some. Although there is no direct requirement by the government for us to do so, in Bournemouth we made provision in the Budget of £1.0 million for this year (2013/14) to establish a Local Welfare Assistance Fund. Bournemouth residents can apply can apply for emergency one-off payments through this fund to help with their living expenses where they are struggling financially. This fund is therefore very much targeted to those who are are most in need of support. In addition, the Council has also created a new earmarked reserve of just over £500,000 to further address the impact of the changeover to Universal Credit as the next stage of the governments Welfare Reform programme. This will provide an additional safety net for the most vulnerable local people here in Bournemouth. It should be stressed that neither of these additional funding streams are required by the government to be provided by the Council, but were nevertheless contained in our Budget Statement in February. They were introduced because we wanted to protect the most vulnerable local people and because it was simply the right thing to do.

Poole Council give no assurances not to evict for Bedroom Tax rent arrears

Shown below is a public question submitted to Borough of Poole full council meeting on 18th June and the council’s response. BPACC are currently considering the council’s response and will be responding soon.

Public Question from Kevin Smith

“The Government has introduced the Welfare Reform Bill which limits the total amount of Welfare benefits with an increase capped at 1%.  This coincides with the introduction of the Social Housing Size Restriction policy equating to a reduction of 14% for one spare room and 25% for two spare rooms which in monetary terms equates to circa £14/£15 per vacant bedroom in Housing benefit for tenants occupying social housing. Will the Council give an assurance that if rent debt is accrued because of these factors there will be no eviction of tenants?”

Borough of Poole Response from, Leader of the Council, Cllr Ms Atkinson

Response in respect of properties where the Council is the Landlord

The Council and it’s partner Poole Housing Partnership (PHP) are working hard to address the issues raised by the governments welfare reform programme. Planning for these changes has taken place over a long period and a package of assistance is now offered to residents effected by these changes. Everyone in a PHP property who has lost benefit because of the under occupation penalty and the benefit cap regulations has been contacted by PHP and offered assistance. Advice has been given about how tenants can move to more appropriate sized accommodation either by way of a transfer or by exchanging their home with another social housing tenant. We have also changed our transfer incentive scheme to give a greater emphasis on people effected by welfare benefit changes. In addition we offer tenants advice about how to maximise their income by either accessing the jobs market or ensuring that they are receiving all the benefit to which they are entitled.

We are committed to working with residents affected by these changes to ensure that they retain access to appropriate secure accommodation. We are not able to give an assurance that no one will be evicted because of arrears that have arisen as a result of welfare benefit reform, each case will be considered on it’s merits.  However we can confirm that tenants will be offered every possible assistance to deal with such problems and that eviction will always be the very last resort.

Response in respect of properties where the Council is not the Landlord

Again we are not able to give an assurance that no one will be evicted because of arrears that have arisen as a result of welfare benefit reform as the decision will be made by the respective private sector landlords. However the Council has a Discretionary Housing Payment fund, that is limited by Government grant, which it is using to help mitigate the impact of several welfare reforms taking place in 2013. Any claimant on housing benefit who is unable to meet the reduction in award can make a claim for additional financial assistance from this fund.

The Government grant is not enough to meet every claimant’s housing benefit shortfall and to prioritise awards from this fund payments are made in accordance with the Council’s Discretionary Housing Payment policy. The Council’s policy is designed to support the implementation of the Government’s welfare reforms whilst making sure we have a process in place to protect our most vulnerable residents, sustain tenancies where we can and prevent homelessness.

Where an application is made and it is established that the claimant cannot afford the housing benefit shortfall awards may be made to financially support claimants whilst they take action to change their circumstances so they can afford their accommodation in the longer term. Each application is considered on a case by case basis, and the length of award will vary. The policy expects claimants who make applications for the additional financial support to engage with relevant support services, such as work programmes, budgeting and debt advice agencies, health programmes etc. and, where appropriate, take steps to be able to afford their accommodation in the future.