Suspension of benefit cap urged to protect tenants

Kevin Stewart has written to the UK Government identifying five areas he believes should be improved.

Calls have been made for the UK Government to suspend the benefit cap and make accommodation more affordable to protect renters during the coronavirus outbreak.

Scottish housing minister Kevin Stewart has written to the UK work and pensions secretary identifying five areas he believes should be improved in the benefits system.

The measures include lifting local housing allowance rates further to make more homes affordable to renters; suspending the removal of the spare room subsidy; suspending the benefit cap; suspending the shared accommodation rate for under-35s; and extending the backdating of benefits.

In his letter to Therese Coffey, Stewart said: “In this unprecedented crisis, the Scottish Government and local authorities swiftly took a range of steps to protect renters from eviction through extended notice periods and extension of mandatory grounds.

“We have also moved to provide additional financial support within our devolved powers and budgets.

“We know that many people will find themselves in financial difficulty for the first time from job loss or substantial income reductions.

“Given the scale at which this is occurring for households across the country, it is vital that the safety net of social security is accessible and sufficient to support people through this national crisis and a new approach to the housing element of social security is now needed.”

The Scottish Government has introduced legislation to ban tenant evictions for at least six months as a result of the pandemic.

It has also made an additional £5m available in discretionary housing payments to support those who are renting.

A UK Government spokesman said: “We’re committed to supporting people affected by Covid-19 through these unprecedented times and we’ve implemented an enormous package of measures to do so, such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and Self-employment Income Support Scheme, as well as speeding up the payment of Statutory Sick Pay.

“We’ve injected more than £6.5bn into the welfare system, including increasing Universal Credit by up to £1040 a year and helped over one million households by raising Local Housing Allowance rates.

“Meanwhile, the Scottish Government has significant welfare powers and can top-up existing benefits, pay discretionary payments and create entirely new benefits altogether.”

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