New housing policies will protect families

mehboob khan, for FOI story
mehboob khan, for FOI story
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changes to Kirklees Council’s social housing policy will help to shield families from the impact of housing benefit and welfare cuts.

That’s according to council leader Mehboob Khan, who criticised welfare cuts being made by the Coalition government at a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

Welfare reforms set to come into effect in April under the Welfare Reform Bill will see households have their benefits cut if their home has empty rooms and is under occupied.

Foster carers will also lose out as foster children are not counted as part of the household for benefit purposes.

State benefits will be restricted to a limit of £500 per week for couples or lone parents, and £350 for single people.

Coun Khan (Lab, Greenhead) said more households in Kirklees were falling into rent arrears.

He said: “It’s a shame at a time when we see the government making cuts in taxes for millionaires we’re seeing more families at risk of becoming homeless.”

In a bid to help families affected by welfare cuts, the Cabinet has approved a number of changes to Kirklees’ social housing policy.

Reforms include adjusting the level of home-related debts that would result in a tenant being placed in a low-priority category for council housing, to an amount that takes into account the impact of cuts to housing benefit and universal credit.

Council officers say the change will benefit those who need to move because they can no longer afford their current home.

In addition, foster carers and adoptive parents will be able to bid for homes large enough to accommodate the number of children they have been approved to foster or adopt.

An open age policy will also be adopted for all council properties – unless part of a retirement scheme – to avoid age discrimination in bids for council properties in certain communities.

Under the Localism Act 2011, spouses and civil partners are entitled to remain in a council property after a tenant has died.

Kirklees will extend the right of succession to include other people where there is no surviving spouse or partner, if another person has been living with the tenant as their principal home.

The changes will come into effect in January.