Campaigners to step up challenge to benefits cap
Local people united in the fight to keep families in their homes will meet next week to plan the next stage of their campaign.
Last week saw women from the All About Me group joined by North Edinburgh Housing Action Group alongside Royston Wardieburn’s Spring Chickens and Power to the People groups to protest over local families being forced from their homes as a result of welfare reforms. More than forty children could find themselves being made homeless over the coming weeks.
Following the recent introduction of a benefits cap setting a maximum limit on benefits received, many families’ Housing Benefit has been drastically cut, meaning families have the impossible task of finding up to £200 extra per week for rent. The women applied to the city council for Discretionary Housing Payment – but found that there has been a severe reduction in the DHP payments.
Some families have already lost their homes; some have been split up, some have been housed in dirty, unhygienic and insanitary temporary hostels without basic cooking and laundry facilities.
Others have been moved far from home to accomodation in Bathgate or Broxburn, causing even more stress and anxiety – and additional expense – trying to get children to and back from their schools in North Edinburgh.
Last week, the groups showed solidarity to a local mum and her young family being made homeless and staged peaceful protests at North Local Office on Tuesday and Wednesday before lobbying councillors at the first meeting of the new city council on Thursday.
Meetings of the groups at Royston Wardieburn Community Centre had previously agreed to tackle the issue on two fronts. The first, most pressing, priority is to ensure families due to lose their homes are found suitable accommodation.
And then there is the political engagement, putting pressure on the elected memebers at all levels: at the City Chambers, at Holyrood and at Westminster to make them aware of the devastating effects the welfare reforms are having on ordinary families.
The campaigners have drawn up a list of demands which will be presented to councillors, MSPs and candidates in the forthcoming General Election:
Edinburgh council must
- pay full discretionary housing payment (DHP) to completely cover rent
- house homeless families in decent flats in suitable areas – not in substandard hostels/ B&B’s
- build more social housing – only 30% of the new Pennywell/ Muirhouse homes in north Edinburgh are regular council tenancies. 1n 1994, Edinburgh had 62,500 council tenancies. Today it’s only 19,842, with 18,827 Housing Association ‘social properties’.
- ensure temporary accommodation meets acceptable standards
- immediately repair empty houses – temporary accommodation flats are lying empty
Scottish government must
- allocate sufficient funds to councils to cover full discretionary housing payment for the benefit cap – as campaigners won for the Bedroom Tax
Westminster government must
- scrap the benefit cap
The group is also calling for private sector rents to be regulated and is urging politicians to halt evictions due to the benefits cap.
Campaigners will reconvene next week to plan next steps. Lobbying, a public meeting and a Westminster election hustings are among the ideas to be discussed.