Tag Archives: housing

Human rights campaigning wins in Ireland in the end

At the All Party Parliamentary Group for refugees Nick Henderson from the Irish Refugee Council told us about the “Direct Provision” Accommodation Centres in the Irish Republic.

Asylum Seekers live in these privately run Accommodation Centres whilst their case is being assessed.  They were originally meant for short stays when started in 2001, but are now used for much longer one’s and the median stay is 27 months.  Around 7,000 people are currently housed like this.

Those housed there have little privacy, no cooking facilities, and they are excluded from any community life.  Nearly 2,000 are sharing bedrooms with people they are not related to.  Guardians who manage it appear to have oversight of children from families in there, which causes a lot of problems for the future as well as present.

The Centres are very expensive to run and there has been a lot of opposition to them from Human Rights groups since they were started in 2001.  The system could not be amended to be done better, but needed to be replaced.  One woman said that dignity, independence and freedom had been taken from her and her children had lost their self-confidence.

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Working together to end homelessness and rough sleeping in York

Earlier in April I was pleased to join the national Kerslake Commission on Homelessness and Rough Sleeping alongside representatives from local government, housing, health and homelessness bodies, to examine and learn the lessons from the emergency response which supported people sleeping rough during the Covid-19 pandemic.

At the start of the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, the Government launched the Everyone In initiative, which sought to ensure that anyone who was sleeping on the streets was immediately provided with safe and secure accommodation.

This involved unprecedented collaboration between government at central, regional and local levels, alongside work between health and local authority housing colleagues to identify health and housing options for clients in real time. This resulted in immediate assessment of their health needs and positive moves for many clients. In many areas this work has continued with a coordinated approach to vaccinations and GP registrations.

Councils across the country are determined to build on the success of the Everyone In initiative, which has demonstrated what can be achieved when all parts of the public and voluntary sector work together to get people sleeping rough off the streets and into safe accommodation.

In joining the commission I will work to share learning from local government, from Liberal Democrat led councils and on York’s approach to tackling homelessness and rough sleeping. In York, intensive and personalised work by City of York Council and partners continues to offer support to rough sleepers and homeless families. The work is underpinned by the Council’s Homelessness Strategy, focusing on prevention, early intervention and local integrated services that step in when things go wrong. Beds are being offered in a wider variety of accommodation, supporting people to stay in their accommodation and to manage often complex needs that contribute to rough sleeping. This has been supported by over £433k funding secured from the Rough Sleeping Initiative as well as the extra capacity offered by James House, York’s newest purpose-built temporary accommodation, which opened last summer.

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Tim Farron: Planning reforms are an ineffective, illiberal and dangerous power-grab

There is a housing crisis in this country and it has been going on for years. Lack of housing is forcing people out of their areas where they grew up, while high rents mean young people cannot afford to save for a deposit. That’s why Liberal Democrats want to build 300,000 new homes a year, including 150,000 homes for social rent.

But decisions on local housing should be made by local authorities working with their communities. Not by Tories in Whitehall. Local authorities, working with their communities, know best where homes are needed and what infrastructure is needed to support them.

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Robert Jenrick’s Grand Designs

The government launched the National Model Design Code on Saturday.

Releasing important consultations over the weekend has become rather a tradition for MHCLG. Maybe they’re not fans of The Masked Singer.

Key to the Design Code is a belief that beautiful design can be objectively determined, and that people are more likely to support development in their area if the new neighbourhood looks attractive.

The Model Design Code is a good piece of work. Developed by consultancy URBED, it sets out a concise and understandable recipe for high quality places and attractive buildings. It includes guidance on coding plans, masterplans, movement, nature, public space, the built form, use of space and buildings, car parking and design.

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Embracing New Communities: Championing Community Infrastructure

The pressure for new housing, especially affordable, has highlighted the gap between the party’s national policy of pressing for new homes for new families through the community-focused effort by the local Liberal Democrat parties and the opposition from the communities they try and serve.

Because of this gap, the housing campaign becomes two-dimensional and revolves around arguments on the new development’s location, construction times, transport links, and on-road access. There is an easy (dare I say lazy) tendency to slip into NIMBYism; allowing those who shout the loudest drown out the area’s needs and those who want to call it home. …

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Homes within homes – a vital complementary approach to the housing crisis

Our reliance on new build to solve the housing crisis fails us. Walk through most new housing estates and you will discover cheaply constructed flats that are unsuitable for families and children or houses that are largely unaffordable, whose price is inflated by a shortage of supply and not by the cost of house building – but credit availability. New build comes at a huge environmental and social cost, with implications for the well-being of our communities. The conventional response is to set targets for new build, ones that are never met; a case of setting the wrong measure to drive the wrong policy. It ends with the disgrace of algorithms determining how we build communities.

Seen through a societal lens promoting the common good, exclusive reliance on new build is wrong. We need to seek complementary solutions, ones consistent with our core Lib Dem values, policies whose outcome is not determined by privately owned companies or the State.

Our largest, physical, social asset is our existing housing stock. By encouraging homeowners to create social tenancies, providing separate areas for living for tenants at affordable, freely negotiated, social rents we can increase the supply of homes. Social rents include the provision of household services: energy, council tax and water charges which become costs shared between homeowner who pays them and tenant through the rent they pay. There are no shared living areas, with homeowners and tenants only sharing access ways. By sharing services there is no cost for converting metered services keeping internal conversion works to a minimum, works that are reversible. Energy use becomes a shared resource. Every single house in the UK has the potential to provide what I refer to as a “home within a home”.

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Why should we have to move?

“Why should we have to move everywhere and everything because of him?”

That question is on the front of Change, Justice, Fairness, a Scottish Women’s Aid community research project into homelessness caused by domestic abuse in Fife.

Too often, the trauma suffered by victims of domestic abuse is exacerbated when they are forced to leave their homes, often with their children. It is not acceptable that they should be forced into this situation.

It is unlikely that the event that led to them seeking help was the first incident. Safe Lives suggest that someone will endure 50 incidents of abuse or violence before getting effective help.

So you have very vulnerable, traumatised individuals, the vast majority of whom are women, having to declare themselves as homeless. That means that they are put in temporary accommodation, perhaps for short periods into bed and breakfast accommodation with no cooking facilities, where they don’t have the comfort of having their own things around them, the children don’t have their toys. They are perhaps in an unfamiliar area away from their support networks. They could get moved at any time to different temporary accommodation. That instability and insecurity piling even more distress on to them.

Those who aren’t married and aren’t named on the tenancy face a lengthy and complicated battle to gain occupancy rights if they wish to stay in their home.

The process of transferring a tenancy can also take time, during which the victim can be homeless. This needs to be sorted with greater speed. The Scottish Government needs to produce guidance that strengthens the rights of the victim to prevent them going down the stressful homeless route.

This is why I persuaded the Scottish Liberal Democrats to pass policy calling for better support for housing for victims of domestic abuse. In a very moving debate, members shared their own experiences.

We call on the Scottish Government to do more to ensure that they have the right to stay in their own home if they wish to do so. If they are to be moved, that should be done in a planned way. We recognise that the statutory homeless route is not appropriate for families who are suffering the effects of abuse.

I was surprised to learn that not all social housing providers have stand alone domestic abuse policies so we call on housing associations to do more to support people in this situation

The Women’s Aid research identified serious flaws in the way victims were treated. Women described how they had to talk about what had happened to them in an open plan office.

A third of the staff who dealt with disclosures of abuse said that they had not had any training.

Particularly troubling was the fact that the majority of service providers didn’t have any idea that the moment of leaving an abusive partner was the most dangerous for the victim.

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Heartbreaking report on the effects of housing insecurity on children

The Children’s Society has produced a report, Moving always Moving, on the effects of housing insecurity on children.

What does that actually mean in practice?

For the purpose of this report we define it in a way that most closely reflects the experiences of relevant participants, and there are three main elements to the way we conceptualise it: with reference to multiple moves, to those moves being involuntary, forced or reactive, and to those moves being related to poverty.

When I was Scottish Housing Spokesperson, every Christmas we would do a freedom of information request on the number of children in temporary accommodation at that time of year. Imagine what that must be like, not having your things around you, not knowing whether you might have to move at a moment’s notice and often being accommodated away from your support network and friends.

The effect of this on  physical and mental health, behaviour and educational attainment is profound:

It is clear that however it is labelled, poverty-related housing insecurity is associated with potential harm to children in terms of physical

and psychological health, health behaviours, risk-taking, ‘delinquent’ behaviour, emotional and social well- being, and education. The vast majority of the literature that paints this overall picture is quantitative. While statistical analyses are crucial to understanding the prevalence of broad trends and the strength of their effects, they are necessarily limited in terms of the depth of understanding they can enable about the lived reality of housing insecurity experienced over time.

If you are living in private rented accommodation, your landlord may decide to sell up for all sorts of reasons meaning you have to find somewhere else to live. If you have pets, it can be really difficult to find another private let and social housing is so difficult to get.  I spoke to someone who had had to move twice within ten months because of landlords selling up. And moving is not cheap, even in the best of circumstances. If you are living in poverty, the costs associated with constant moves are even more damaging and impact on your ability to provide even the basics.

Some of the stories in the report are absolutely heartbreaking.

All the moving that Tiffany had done, and in particular this latest move far from the things that structured her everyday life, affected her. It meant that currently she had a really long journey between ‘home’ and school, which in turn meant that she had relocated herself outside of her nominal home a temporary two bedroom flat where she had been placed with her mum) for more than half the week. It also meant that she felt stuck at school, unhappy
but trapped because moving schools would require knowing where home was.

Tiffany also felt a certain tension around where it was she belonged – she didn’t feel a strong attachment to her new area and still identified strongly with the place where she had lived before, but she knew it wasn’t really hers to call home anymore. When we asked if she was hoping to move again, she responded by talking about her mum – about how her mum was going to be moved because her current place was only temporary and they could move her at any time –
and she absented herself from the narrative completely, suggesting a lack of attachment to the area where she now officially lived (albeit temporarily).

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Reaching zero carbon with an ambitious approach to housebuilding in York

Plans have been submitted by City of York Council for the first stage of what the Guardian recently has called “arguably the UK’s most ambitious council-led housing programme in a generation”.

As a Liberal Democrat led council we are embarking on our biggest housebuilding programme since the 1970s. Work is already under way to deliver more than 600 new homes across the city, including at least 250 affordable homes, each designed to have a net carbon emissions figure of zero.

This plan is just one element of our work to deliver more housing and tackle the climate emergency. Our target of reaching zero carbon by 2030 requires a bold and holistic approach to tackling the climate crisis.

Currently, we are leading the way nationally by introducing ambitious plans across the city to improve York’s air quality – from the largest zero emission Park&Ride fleet in the country and the first voluntary Clean Air Zone in the UK, with ambitions to become the first all-electric bus city.

This is on top of major investment in refurbishing and improving council housing, using the very latest low carbon technologies in construction, maximising the generation and storage of renewable electricity on council land and buildings, and planting 50,000 trees in 3 years as part of the Northern Forest initiative.

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Yes – in my back yard: The Lib Dems need to TRULY be the party of housebuilding

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To NIMBY or not to NIMBY, that is the question that has plagued local parties since time immemorial. But to be a progressive party today, we need to embrace a radical house-building agenda. That means supporting development projects locally across the country, and gritting our teeth and taking a constructive stance towards the Governments planning reform.

Nationally, the Liberal Democrats talk the good talk. Our manifesto includes ambitious housebuilding plans that seek to tackle the huge supply deficit in the housing market. Locally, it’s a different story altogether. It’s a faustian pact that most local politicians have to make regardless of party: the reason is that homeowners vote, and opposing more development, that will bring the value of their houses down, will win them over.

This is the unspoken reason many local parties oppose development in their area. They’ll couch it in terms of “inappropriate development” or “lack of infrastructure”, but the truth is they don’t want to see development at all. They’re caving in to parochial local homeowner pressure and it’s deeply regressive. We need to support homeownership, not homeowners. The simple fact of the matter is that you can’t be a NIMBY and progressive at the same time.

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22 September 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Government must make more help available to pubs and restaurants
  • Liberal Democrats secure urgent question to challenge Government on eviction loophole
  • PM must take responsibility for failings in test and trace system

Government must make more help available to pubs and restaurants

Responding to reports that the PM will set a 10pm closing time and only allow table service in restaurants and pubs, leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

For millions of people this will feel like a step backwards. After months of disruption to our daily lives many will feel anxious and worried about this latest development.

The Government must immediately put forward a detailed plan to fix the track and trace system, which is the only way to avoid further measures being necessary.

The Prime Minister must also financially help pubs and restaurants who will inevitably lose business. After people have already been through so much hardship, we cannot allow thousands of jobs to disappear overnight.

Liberal Democrats secure urgent question to challenge Government on eviction loophole

Today, Liberal Democrat Housing Spokesperson Tim Farron has secured an Urgent Question in the House of Commons following a loophole in the Government’s legislation to end the eviction ban, which has left an estimated 55,000 households at risk of being evicted since Monday.

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2020 – The year the housing was hit by a maverick algorithm 

Alongside Planning for the Future White Paper (see previous article), ministers published without fanfare a second consultation on changes to the planning system. Council housing targets will be set centrally using a crude formula that distributes responsibility for the government’s ambition for 300,000 new homes a year round the country. But the formula will allocate more housing to higher priced areas such as the south and east, while reducing ambitions for the Northern Powerhouse. A ‘short-term’ waiver of S106 requirements for most small sites could cut affordable housing delivery by up to 20%. A quarter of affordable housing delivered will be for sale at a 25% discount at the expense of social and affordable rented homes. 

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The Independent View: Overcrowded housing, BAME groups and COVID-19

As the COVID-19 era has progressed, more and more data has pointed towards a deeply harrowing truth – the virus is having a disproportionate impact on BAME groups. According to research from ICNARC, approximately one-third of the COVID-19 patients admitted to Intensive Care Units (ICUs) have been from BAME groups, despite the fact that just 14% of the UK population is BAME.

Added to this, black ethnic groups have experienced the highest diagnosis rates, and both black and Asian groups have experienced higher death rates than the white British majority. In order to understand this disparity, it is important to take a close look at one of the factors thought to play a part: overcrowded housing.

All minority ethnic groups are statistically more likely to live in overcrowded housing than the white British group. Taking the Bangladeshi ethnic group as an example, just short of 30% of households have more residents than rooms. For white British households, this figure stands at just 2%.

Overcrowded housing is of huge significance for two main reasons. Firstly, it dramatically increases the risk of COVID-19 transmission, as the virus can spread easily among those who live in close proximity to each other and share facilities such as bathrooms and kitchens. Secondly, it makes adhering to self-isolation guidelines essentially impossible, as a person cannot minimise their contact with others if their circumstances are such that they did not have enough personal space to begin with.

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Building back better

After Covid-19, we all must rise to the UN challenge to ‘build back better’. The impacts of the pandemic and the lockdown have accelerated changes that had been predicted would take decades to happen. We all have a new appreciation for housing, outdoor spaces, community services and the welfare state. The uncongested streets, cleaner air and slower pace of life have hopefully served as a sign that we could do things differently.

The planning system has a critical role in making the ‘new normal’ a better one. The government’s policy statement in March, perhaps due to its timing (written at the beginning of lockdown), seems to miss the public mood. For its laudable commitments on brownfield regeneration, infrastructure first and better design, government thinking on planning continues to be based on the Conservative obsession with home ownership. For sure, home ownership should be more accessible, and I acknowledge the pledges on affordable housing, social housing and the rental sector. Unfortunately, I think the statement missed the need for the planning system to take a more holistic approach – fulfilling the right to decent housing, making liveable places and delivering sustainable growth with wellbeing and tackling the climate emergency at its heart.

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Housing: A basic human right?

According to the charity Shelter, three million new social homes must be built in England over the next 20 years of which 1.2 million homes are needed for younger families who cannot afford to buy and “face a lifetime in expensive and insecure private renting”. The Government intends to build 250,000 homes by 2022, including homes for rent.

Travelling around the UK one gets the impression that there is more house building going on than ever before gobbling up agricultural land. This is at the time that we are leaving the EU, the “single market” and the “common agriculture policy”. About 30% of all our food is currently imported from EU Countries and for some products it is 100%. In 2016 more than £30.3bn of Britain’s food imports and £12.3bn of its food exports were with the EU, highlighting the scale of economic disruption if the current trade negotiations result in tariffs.

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Reducing income inequality

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This is the second of three articles on housing

Huge profits are being made out of housing when the Government estimates 4,266 people are sleeping rough. For example Barratts made pre-tax profits in 2019 of £909.8m – even after paying their Chief Executive £3.6m. Nationwide made £833m after paying its Chief Executive £2.37m and the Government collected £9.3m in Stamp Duty.

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26 November 2019 – the overnight press release

Lib Dems respond to Shelter report on private renters spending £11bn more than they can afford

Responding to a Shelter report that found England’s private renters are paying out £11 billion more a year on rent than they can afford, Liberal Democrat Housing Spokesperson Tim Farron said:

These shocking figures expose the Tories’ failure to tackle the housing crisis, leaving people across the country struggling with soaring rents and insecure tenancies.

The Liberal Democrats will fix the broken housing market and build a brighter future, by building at least 100,000 social homes a year.

We will limit rent hikes, strengthen protections against rogue

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Help make the Lib Dems the renters’ champion

On Tuesday morning, the last day of conference, I moved a motion calling on conference to support renters. To support them by instructing our party to scrap section 21 of the housing act (1988). Section 21 is the part of the act that allows no-fault evictions. You can see the debate that followed here. Please do watch it, but to save you time, I’m very happy to be able to tell you that they did. So, it is now party policy to scrap section 21, either directly as a government, or indirectly, in response to a vote in the Commons, or in response to a consultation (and of course, one is already running and offering that very approach).

But as I said in my speech, as I have in other LDV articles, I’m interested in more than just scrapping a pernicious piece of legislation. Section 21 is the legislative bullet of no-fault evictions, but it’s not really the cause. There are in fact many causes. In my speech I identified the biggest. We have too few homes, whether for rent or for purchase. And what are available are either too expensive for the vast majority of our fellow citizens, or are in seriously unfit for habitation, in dangerous states of repair or maintenance.

I, like many people, am not in a place to be able to afford to buy a home anytime soon, so I will be reliant on the private rental market (a term I hate as much as I hate the term ‘luxury’, which seems to appear in front of every new home advert my news feed seems to see fit dangle in my face) for the foreseeable future. And in itself that’s not a problem. I’m not a ‘stuff’ person, so ownership has never been the epitome of existence for me; I’m much more of a Gig person, using my local cycle hire scheme to get around and buying ‘pre-loved’ tech whenever mine finally gives up.

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Revoking Article 50 alone isn’t enough

With the prospect of a general election on the horizon, we have just finished another successful Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference in Bournemouth. Jo Swinson delivered a stirring first leader’s speech and Conference backed several new policy motions, most notably the party’s new policy on Brexit. A future Liberal Democrat Majority Government would revoke Article 50 and instantly stop Brexit.

British politics now has a party that is prepared to do its utmost to put an end to Brexit, either by getting a democratic mandate to revoke Article 50 or failing that, by securing a People’s Vote with the option to Remain in the EU. Brexit has developed into the biggest peacetime political and constitutional crisis arguably since the 17th century. It is shaking British politics to its very foundations with our constitutional settlement being tested like never before.

It is not just enough to stop Brexit by revoking Article 50, we also need to heal our broken democracy. At the time of writing this, the case against the prorogation of Parliament is playing out at the Supreme Court. The Executive branch has been made to answer a case presented to the Judiciary in regard to its actions towards the Legislature. There is conflict between the three branches of government.

Britain unlike many countries does not have a single written (or codified) constitution with clearly defined checks and balances. In the absence of this, Boris Johnson’s government is able to railroad Parliament by utilising the ancient powers of the royal prerogative to enact a five-week long prorogation. The potential for an extremely authoritarian government being able to take power is very real under the current British constitutional settlement; a fact which is underlined by the majoritarian nature of the first past the post voting system.

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Rentier Capitalism

The Financial Times  (on Wednesday, 18th September) carried an article by Martin Wolf “ Why rigged capitalism is damaging Liberal Democracy “ .He writes “Economies are not delivering for most citizens because of weak competition, feeble productivity growth and tax loopholes”

Guy Standing in his 2016 book “The corruption of capitalism” explained how capitalism has been corrupted as the security of the many has been weakened to strengthen the position of those who hold the bulk of society’s wealth. He wrote, “we have a rigged system that leaves those without much property with few rights”. He borrows from John Maynard Keynes’ critique of the rentier class — broadly, those who live on income from property, including patents and copyright, and investments. And like Keynes, he wants to see the end of the rentier on the grounds that the system they have created is both inefficient and grossly unfair. Those at the bottom Standing calls the precariat — the workers most exposed to the insecurity typical of this era of rentier capitalism driven by globalisation.

The unfairness of housing policy in the UK, one of the more egregious examples of the power of the rentier, is highlighted as are labour conditions in the era of apps, where data are used to monitor and control a workforce with little by way of employment rights. Standing writes that “the precariat’s vulnerability today is everyone’s tomorrow.”

Wolf asks the question “Why is the economy not delivering?” The answer lies, he says, with the rise of rentier capitalism. In this case “rent” means rewards over and above those required to induce the desired supply of goods, services, land or labour. “Rentier capitalism” means an economy in which market and political power allows privileged individuals and businesses to extract a great deal of such rent from everybody else.

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Reforming Private Renting – Making it fairer for all is within our grasp 

For those of you who follow my occasional posts this probably won’t be news, but for everyone else, yea, I’ve made a motion.

On Tuesday, at 11:10 I will be in the auditorium, moving a motion with a simple call, for our party to back the removal of Section 21 of the Housing Act (1988). For a small piece of legislation S21 (as we like to call it…) has a big impact. It’s the cause of many evictions, including so called ‘revenge eviction’, where landlords quite legally turf out tenants that they no-longer want with only two months’ notice… and often because those tenants have complained about something, such as faulty electrics or leaking walls or rooves.

S21 makes many private renters second class citizens, forced to endure circumstances that compromise their health or risk their safety, because they are poor or low waged or can’t get a foot on the ‘property ladder’. It threatens young and old, single folks and families, and as the size of the private renting population grows, it’s reaching into more of our communities. 

Even Theresa May recognised its invidiousness and promised to scrap it. But in typical Tory style, her passion for improving our lot only ran as far a running a consultation on the matter (I urge you to respond to it –  which our new overlord is less than likely to honour. And certainly not unless progressive parties, of which we are the epitome, hold his feet to the fire. Tim Farron has written to the new Housing Secretary to do just that. 

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4 April 2019 – today’s press releases (part 2)

And, in part two…

  • Lib Dems call for mental health support to be included in Ofsted Inspections
  • Moran: SEND funding crisis a moral failure of Government
  • Welsh Lib Dems: Embrace Green Tech to Tackle Climate Change
  • Lib Dems lead Eating Disorder Campaign in Parliament

Lib Dems call for mental health support to be included in Ofsted Inspections

The Liberal Democrats have written to the Chief Inspector of Ofsted to urge her to include assessments of mental health support in schools in Ofsted Inspections.

The Liberal Democrat lead on Mental Health, Claire Tyler, has written to the Chief Inspector as the new draft Ofsted framework does …

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Scottish Lib Dems pass policy to make it easier for domestic abuse victims to stay in their homes

I was really pleased that Scottish Conference passed a motion I proposed which aims to ensure that victims of domestic abuse don’t have to suffer the added nightmare of going through the homeless procedure when they finally seek help. It should be much easier for them to be able to stay in their home and for the perpetrator to leave.

Commonspace reported on the debate:

Across the UK, two women are killed by their partner or ex-partner every week.

Scottish Lib Dem member, Vita Zaporozcenko told the conference of her personal experience of being raised in a house with domestic abuse.

She said: “I have always wondered why my mum did not leave and I have come to the conclusion that she had simply no where else to go.”

Zaporozcenko added: “I want you to support this motion because I don’t think anyone who has gone through this at whatever age can understand the emotional strain that this puts on the person or the people who have been abused and the fear of leaving. We should not be making it harder and by removing the perpetrator is the right way to do it.”

Specifically, the conference backed calls for the Matrimonial Homes Act – where abusers can be swiftly moved out of the family home – to be updated, claiming that it is not fit for purpose.

Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP told the conference how the rollout of Universal Credit has impacted on those who are victims of domestic abuse, saying the ending of split payments within the household was “a tool of coercive control” for men.

Below is the speech that I made proposing the motion.

“Why should we have to move everywhere and everything because of him?”

That question is on the front of Change, Justice, Fairness, a Scottish Women’s Aid community research project into homelessness caused by domestic abuse in Fife.

Too often, the trauma suffered by victims of domestic abuse is exacerbated when they are forced to leave their homes, often with their children. It is not acceptable that they should be forced into this situation.

It is unlikely that the event that led to them seeking help was the first incident. Safe Lives suggest that someone will endure 50 incidents of abuse or violence before getting effective help.

So you have very vulnerable, traumatised individuals, the vast majority of whom are women, having to declare themselves as homeless. That means that they are put in temporary accommodation, perhaps for short periods into bed and breakfast accommodation with no cooking facilities, where they don’t have the comfort of having their own things around them, the children don’t have their toys. They are perhaps in an unfamiliar area away from their support networks. They could get moved at any time to different temporary accommodation. That instability and insecurity piling even more distress on to them.

Those who aren’t married and aren’t named on the tenancy face a lengthy and complicated battle to gain occupancy rights if they wish to stay in their home.
The process of transferring a tenancy can also take time, during which the victim can be homeless. This needs to be sorted with greater speed. The Scottish Government needs to produce guidance that strengthens the rights of the victim to prevent them going down the stressful homeless route.

Conference, this motion demands better for victims of abuse.

We call on the Scottish Government to do more to ensure that they have the right to stay in their own home if they wish to do so.

If they are to be moved, that should be done in a planned way. We recognise that the statutory homeless route is not appropriate for families who are suffering the effects of abuse.

We call on housing associations to do more to support people in this situation. I was surprised to learn that not al social housing providers have stand alone domestic abuse policies.

The Women’s Aid research identified serious flaws in the way victims were treated. Women described how they had to talk about what had happened to them in an open plan office.

One said:

“having to repeat my circumstances over and over again was humiliating and distressing to me. I was also worried about a negative reaction of not being believed every time I had to explain to a new person.”

A third of the staff who dealt with disclosures of abuse said that they had not had any training.

Particularly troubling was the fact that the majority of service providers didn’t have any idea that the moment of leaving an abusive partner was the most dangerous for the victim.

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Paul Scriven: We need to fund Councils properly and give them the powers to create great communities

Local Government is an issue of paramount importance to Liberal Democrats. Last week in the Lords, Liberal Democrat peer Paul Scriven led a debate on the essential services that local authorities provide. He outlined how chronic underfunding of local government, combined with rising demand for services was creating unsustainable problems.

Here is his speech:

I am very pleased to be leading this debate because to me it is a vital issue that affects every village, every town, every city and every region: local government has a positive power to change people’s lives. Just think of the older person who is becoming vulnerable and possibly losing their independence. With good public health, good housing services and good social services that person can continue to lead an independent life with dignity. Just think of the young man who might be on a crossroads between violence and going forward to have a fulfilling life. With good youth services and education services that young person can be supported to make the correct decision and have a successful life.

Local government can facilitate enterprise and business locally with good business development services, planning and support services provided by local authorities. They can help to create vibrant, successful and sustainable communities: libraries, parks, clean air, shared spaces and bringing people together to give them opportunities to achieve. That is the vision that I think most people have of a good local service: bottom up and delivering for people—not just a service provider of last resort but a local democratic hub that facilitates and brings opportunities for people and businesses to succeed.

I will mention my own journey in Sheffield in the local authority, first as a back-bench councillor helping individual constituents, then as leader of the opposition, ​many times clashing with the then chief executive, the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake—I am not sure whether he will raise that—then as chair of scrutiny, holding the executive to account, and then having the great pleasure of leading that great city and that great council. I was then put on early retirement when I lost my seat and am now back again as a local councillor. I saw the power that local authorities can have to affect individuals and communities and make a real difference to people’s ability to succeed in their life.

That is what the situation should do, but we must look at what it has now become in many cases. Sadly, in some cases local authorities have not just become the provider of last resort but are struggling to be even that—we only have to look at Northamptonshire, Somerset, Norfolk and Lancashire County Councils, and the National Audit Office warning that reserves are running out. In some cases they are not just unable to provide the opportunities that I talked about but are unable to provide the very statutory services that they are there to provide in an emergency as a safety net.

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LibLink: Olly Grender: The sooner the Renters’ Rights Bill becomes law, the sooner tenants get a fair deal

A bill going through its final parliamentary stages cuts letting agents’ fees for tenants. This is down to the hard work of Lib Dem Peers, mainly Olly Grender. She writes for Politics Home about what this will mean for people:

When I first proposed this change in 2016 through a Private Member’s Bill, it was a flat “no” from the Conservative Government.  However, they could not keep ignoring the overwhelming evidence that people on low incomes or benefits who were renting privately were being ripped off with shocking admin fees.

The worst part is that families who are evicted or cannot afford a rent rise are pushed into homelessness by the astronomical up-front admin fees.  The option to move is not feasible, as even when they try to move to a cheaper home, agents were charging both landlord and tenant these up-front fees. With homelessness continuing to rise, and the leading cause being the end of a private rented sector tenancy, it is clear reform is needed – and fast. This is why this Bill is so vitally important. The double dip with both landlord and tenant being charged these extortionate fees will soon be a thing of the past and this change in the law cannot come soon enough.

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LibLink: Wera Hobhouse: Solving the housing crisis means using the empty houses we’ve already got

Housing spokesperson Wera Hobhouse has written for the Huffington Post about how a Liberal Democrat amendment passed in the Lords this week will help alleviate the housing crisis.

Politicians have a moral obligation to help solve this crisis, and one part of the process must be bringing empty properties back into use. Of course, we must build more homes – 300,000 per year to be precise – but bringing empty properties back into use is an excellent way in the short-term to help families in desperate need of a home, whilst saving valued green belt land from development. Equally, by bringing empty homes back into use, we can help regenerate struggling communities. After all, regions with the highest number of vacant dwellings are often also the areas that have been left behind in terms of economic growth.

Last year was the first year since the recession that the number of empty homes in England did not decrease. This is unsurprising. Tory Government cuts to local authorities hamper their enforcement capabilities. All dedicated empty homes investment programmes, programmes that my colleagues in Coalition fought tooth and nail for including my predecessor in Bath Don Foster, were severed in 2015. It was a 2010 Liberal Democrat manifesto promise to reduce the number of empty homes by 250,000, and that is something they delivered in Coalition and can be incredibly proud of.

t is clear something must be done. The Liberal Democrats strongly supported the calls to double the council tax on empty homes, but now we have gone one step further. Yesterday in the House of Lords, the Liberal Democrat amendment, which increases council tax the longer you leave it empty, has been adopted and passed by Parliament. There are of course exemptions, for example where a resident is in residential or nursing care or when a member of the armed forces serves overseas for long periods. These premiums on council tax are not statutory. Councils have the flexibility to apply them or not.

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As MPs jostle for power, Tories take eye off house building

Construction output has continued its recent decline, the third consecutive fall. In May alone construction fell by 1.7%, mainly driven by a sharp decrease of 2.5% in new work.

Commenting on the statistics, Wera Hobhouse, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Housing said:

“These figures show the Government’s complete failure to tackle the housing crisis. Last year social housing numbers hit the lowest since records began while the numbers of people sleeping on our streets rose dramatically.

“If we are to build the houses so desperately needed, smaller-scale builders must be given access to finance to break the stranglehold of big developers, and the borrowing

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Vince Cable outlines pragmatic steps to boost housing supply.

In a keynote speech today (below, in full) Vince Cable analyses the failures of the housing market in terms of the poor incentives to developers and banks, and the effect of the planning system, and offers some pragmatic solutions to boost supply and tackle the shortage of housing that is pricing many young people out of homes altogether.

The text below is quite long but you can use these links to jump straight to the analysis of the housing market, building for social rent, the compulsory purchase of housing land for affordable housing, existing stock, comments on the green belt, and homelessness.

Also reported in the Guardian.

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Radical Ideas for the Future

At the moment, virtually all of our policies – save for our stance on the EU – amount to tinkering at the edges of a flawed, if not broken, political system. This is a result of the fact that there is generally a fair amount of consensus within mainstream politics on a number of key issues.

All parties agree that we need to build more housing, that we need more funding of schools, the NHS and the police, and that we need to protect the environment. The major policy debates at the moment concern immigration, nationalisation of public infrastructure, the EU, education and public sector borrowing – most of which are couched in simple binary yes/no terms, depending on whether you support Labour or the Tories.

Rather than trying to join in the political consensus or meet Labour and the Tories halfway (e.g. see our current policy on housing), I genuinely believe that we have an opportunity to pursue an alternative set of policies that will mark us out as distinct.

Along with electoral reform and being pro-European, six policy ideas from various places within the liberal political tradition, come to mind:

1. A national housebuilding company

A national construction company set up to build houses, with the government taking a majority stake and offering financial guarantees. Instead of just pledging a high-sounding number of homes to be built each year and leaving it to the private sector, a government-backed company would have the opportunity to take responsibility for recruiting and training construction workers (with a focus on British workers), building homes and maintaining homes – with profits going back to the Treasury.

Combined with relaxing the rules preventing local authorities from borrowing to fund social housing, a national housebuilding company would be an exciting yet pragmatic way of building homes while balancing the risk and reward of construction projects.

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New Committee report out saying tenants needed more protection

The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee has released a report today saying that the “most vulnerable tenants need greater legal protections from retaliatory evictions, rent increases and harassment so they are fully empowered to pursue complaints about repairs and maintenance in their homes.”

This report on the private rented sector found that many properties were sub-standard, calling on the Government to address the ‘clear power imbalance’, with

tenants often unwilling to complain to landlords about conditions in their homes such as excess cold, mould or faulty wiring.

I am appalled that this …

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