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Today's News, Wednesday 09 October

 
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News
29 young mums facing eviction from Stratford hostel due to funding cuts
London Assembly member calls on developers to 'use it, or lose it'
Wandsworth Council agree credit union partnership
Your chance to grill Mayor and London Assembly on housing priorities
1,000 local jobseekers head to RHP's ONE event in Twickenham
MP impressed with Greenwich project that invests in young people's futures
SHP residents celebrate Older People's Day

Jobs / Tenders
Regional Service Manager – Shelter
Executive Assistant – Coast & Country Housing
Non-Executive Director – Trent & Dove Housing
Housing News: Jobs and Tenders Round Up

National News
Kris Hopkins appointed housing minister
Critics warn of ‘unintended consequences’ as Help to Buy phase two launched
Benefits crackdown ‘will hit single parents hardest’
HCA appoints permanent Director of Regulation
People not ready for government’s new lump-sum digital benefit system, warns housing association
Young carers to receive more support than ever before


News

29 young mums facing eviction from Stratford hostel due to funding cuts


Twenty-nine single mums - all aged under 25 - are being evicted from a hostel and could be relocated hundreds of miles away after the mother and baby unit was closed following funding cuts.

Since the women received a letter last month stating they had to leave by October 20, housing organisation East Thames has offered them new accommodation as far away as Manchester, Birmingham and Hastings, the Newham Recorder reports.

The young parents have been living in Focus E15 Foyer with their babies for anything from a few months up to three years, paying rent or receiving housing benefit.

Many were homeless before being given accommodation at the hostel in Victoria Street, Stratford.

Newham Council funded a range of support services for the young mothers but in August reduced this by £41,000.

In response East Thames decided to close the mother and baby unit, saying the the foyer would not be the right place for children without appropriate support on hand.

The majority of the young mothers grew up in Newham and are reluctant to leave their friends and family.

Jasmine Spone, 19, was staying on friends’ couches until she moved in 15 months ago when her daughter Safia was born.

She said: “We want our children to grow up around our families. I’m 19 and I have a baby and we both need support.”

Another, Javea Samuel, 22, mum to three-year-son Jofiah, fears she will have to drop out of college if she is forced to move away.

“I can’t move outside of London. I’m trying to make a life for my son and get myself off benefits,” she said.

An East Thames spokeswoman said staff were working to help the mothers stay in Newham.

She added: “We are aware that some young residents have been offered a home outside of the borough and understand the particular difficulties this presents when they have built up local support networks.”

A Newham Council spokesperson said that as the landlord it was East Thames’ decision to stop providing accommodation to the women.

She said: “A decision was made in May to reduce the funding for support services for young mothers at Focus E15 by £41,000 as these requirements could be met elsewhere, either within the council or via other agencies. The council will still provide funding for support services for 90 young people at Focus E15 at a cost of £250,000 a year. It is up to East Thames to decide how this funding is allocated between its 210 units.”

The women are holding a public meeting this Saturday at Ithaca House, 27 Romford Road, Stratford, starting at 2pm to campaign against their eviction.

www.east-thames.co.uk


London Assembly member calls on developers to 'use it, or lose it'


A call for action over the 210,000 homes in London with planning permission but which are not being built has been sounded by the London Assembly member for Hackney and Islington.

Jennette Arnold wants to see an end to“land banking”, where developers maximise land value by sitting it instead of building on it.

She wants councils to be given powers to impose escalating fees on developers who refuse to build, backed up by the threat of compulsory purchase orders for the very worst offenders.

Jennette Arnold (pictured) said it is an “innovative response” to the land banking, which is partly to blame for the housing crisis.

“Use it or lose it planning permission is a fair yet forceful way to shift the 210,000 homes in London which have planning permission but are not being built,” she said.

“Under the current system, developers find it more profitable to sit on land than to build on it.

“Only 18,000 homes were completed in London last year, but the Mayor admits he needs to build 40,000 homes a year, this is far short of the 52,000 to 60,000 that experts say are needed.”

House prices have increased 21 per cent in Hackney in the last year making the average price for a flat or maisonette £377,603 in June, and in Islington prices have increased 2.5 per cent bringing the average flat or maisonette prices up to £446,366.

The Greater London Authority’s report Barriers to Housing Delivery identified 210,000 potential homes in London which have planning permission but are not being built.

www.london.gov.uk/jennette-arnold

Wandsworth Council agree credit union partnership 


Anyone living or working in Wandsworth will soon have access to a new range of financial services after Wandsworth Council entered into a partnership agreement with a credit union.

Earlier this year, the council announced it had started working with London Plus Credit Union to decide what financial support could be offered to people when the service officially launches in the coming months.

This week, a formal partnership agreement was drawn up to offer ethical savings, affordable loans and a range of other services such as Christmas savings schemes. London Plus has now extended its ‘common bond’ so that anyone who lives or works in Wandsworth can become a member and access these services.

By offering people new financial support services like this, the council and London Plus hope to eliminate the potential for situations in which people turn to loan sharks or payday loan companies.

London Plus will deliver services in the borough under the name Wandsworth Plus Credit Union when it launches in the New Year. 
      
Wandsworth’s finance spokesman, Councillor Guy Senior, said: “We want to make sure that access to credit union services is available to as many residents and borough-based workers as possible – whether they are having difficulty managing their finances or whether they are simply looking for new ways to save.

“By creating a financial community in Wandsworth through this credit union agreement we especially hope to see financial help given to people those who are often excluded from mainstream financial products.

“And, as well as providing a welcome alternative to payday loans or doorstep lending, one of the best things about credit unions is that members mutually benefit as there’s no profit for third party shareholders.”

Vincent Thomas, the chair of London Plus Credit Union, said: “We are excited to be working in partnership with Wandsworth Council to provide credit union services in the borough.

“Wandsworth residents and workers will soon have an alternative to major banks and high cost lenders. At last there will be an affordable alternative to the payday lenders and home credit companies.

“But Wandsworth Plus Credit Union will offer financial services to all sections of the community, however much you earn, whether you're looking for a competitive loan or an ethical place to save.”

Anyone who lives or works in the borough will be able to become a credit union member, and be eligible for loans of between £50 and £7,500.

Loans under £7,500 are often cheaper from a credit union than from anywhere else – banks, doorstep lenders or payday lenders – and there are no hidden charges like late or early repayment fees.

Many people working in the borough will be able to have payments to the credit union made directly from their pay packet, making it easy to save regularly or repay a loan.

www.londonpluscu.co.uk
 

 Your chance to grill Mayor and London Assembly on housing priorities 


Boris Johnson and Assembly Members are inviting Londoners to pitch them questions about the issues that matter most to them at a People’s Question Time.

The event, at Imperial College’s Great Hall on November 5, will see the Mayor (pictured) and Darren Johnson, Chair of the London Assembly, invite audience members to quiz them on their priorities for the capital.

The topics up for discussion include housing issues, jobs, London economy, transport, environment and policing.

People’s Question Time will be chaired by Kit Malthouse, Deputy Mayor for Business and Enterprise, and is free to attend, but Londoners need to register for tickets here.

There is a maximum of two per person.

It takes place on Tuesday, November 5 from 7pm to 9pm, at The Great Hall, behind the Albert Hall at Imperial College’s South Kensington Campus.
 

1,000 local jobseekers head to RHP's ONE event in Twickenham


Local people flocked to RHP’s job & training event at York House, Twickenham, last Thursday.

The housing association’s third annual ONE Event saw 25 local and national employers showcase over 100 live vacancies and expert employment consultants helped visitors polish their CVs and submit applications for a variety of roles.
 

 
The event was opened by Dr Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills and MP for Twickenham.

Dr Cable also attended a breakfast round table event designed to highlight how local employers could maximise opportunities for people to find work in and around the Borough.

Dr Cable said: “Lots of local people find it hard to get work despite the fact that there are local vacancies, so finding a system to match people with the right jobs is really important. The work that RHP and other local employers are doing to help people who lack confidence or skills into real work is really proactive and I think it’s absolutely terrific.”

Visitors to the ONE Event were overwhelmingly positive about the help they were given to search for work, including a fantastic range of sessions giving hints and tips on how to make CVs and cover letters stand out from the crowd.

RHP is also working with its customers to boost skills and get them on the path to work with local job clubs, accredited training courses and a scheme that provides free clothing for interview.
 

MP impressed with Greenwich project that invests in young people's futures


On Friday Nick Raynsford, MP for Greenwich and Woolwich, visited ‘The Money House’ in Greenwich, London, an exciting project where young people aged 16-24 learn skills to better cope with their finances so they can confidently live independently and successfully maintain their housing tenancies.

The Money House is part of the BIG Lottery Fund’s Improving Financial Confidence Programme. The £1 million project, led by housing association, The Hyde Group, and delivered in conjunction with the Royal Borough of Greenwich (RBG), Greenwich CAB (GCAB), Meridian Money Advice (MMA), MyBnk and YMCA, will last for four years.


 
The project is being delivered to young people leaving care or supported housing as well as those who are already social housing tenants. 

At what was the 5th Open Day at The Money House, visitors to the Big Brother-style flat - where young people receive a week’s training - were shown how the trainers engage with the young people using various approaches and tools.

This includes the ‘Diary Room’, for personal and peer reflections; the Money Map, a large section of the wall to show off completed activities and My Money Diary, a personal workbook completed daily.  

“I am immensely impressed with commitment and professionalism of those who deliver The Money House programme, and their ability to communicate information about budgeting and finances to young people. It’s an excellent scheme which I’m sure will make a big difference to the lives of young people in Greenwich,” commented Nick. 

Tom Gardiner, host of the event and Hyde Plus Manager, East Region, added: “It’s great to welcome new people to ‘The Money House’ - especially visitors like Nick who has a background in housing and can talk about it to his peers in parliament. I really enjoyed seeing our guests learning about the project and getting stuck into the tasks set by our training team.”
 
So far, 11 groups of young people have attended the training course and over 60 have achieved an AQA accreditation in Participating in a Group Work Programme and Budgeting and Debt Management. 
 
Carol Carter, Hyde’s Group Director of Housing said: “Today young people face challenges they would never have had to deal with before, so this project is very timely. It’s very encouraging that The Money House is having such a positive impact and that young people who have learnt to be more confident about financial issues are recommending the benefits of the programme to their friends.” 

Tom concluded: “The Money House is proving, with every new group that attends, that it is needed.  Young people who take on tenancies are often unprepared for the overwhelming amount of information and responsibility they take on. The Money House addresses this with our expert training team, exciting setting and bespoke materials which make the information easy to understand.

“We recently contacted young people who attended in Apriland all of them feel that their  financial confidence has at least doubled based on where they were before they started the course.”

To refer a young person for the training or to find out more please e-mail themoneyhouse@hyde-housing.co.uk or visit The Money House Facebook page for financial tips and points of interest and updates on training. 

www.hyde-housing.co.uk

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SHP residents celebrate Older People's Day

 
Residents from sheltered housing schemes across Sutton celebrated Older Peoples Day last week.

In a series of daily events lasting throughout the week, some of the games and activities on offer included Wii sports games, Jenga and scrabble.
 

 
Whilst residents at various schemes including Crownebourne Court, Milton House and St Pauls Close competed against each other, Sutton Housing Partnership (SHP) staff were on hand to provide much needed refreshments.

Joyce Payne from Beadlow Close said: “We had a real laugh playing games, it was great to see everyone happy and a good time was had by all.”

Dawn Eustace, Head of Sheltered Housing said: “SHP provide housing services to a large number of older people in Sutton. We wanted to celebrate Older Peoples Day UK with them and recognise the contribution older people make to society.
 
"The events last week encouraged different generations to share their skills and experience to create a better understanding and respect. It was great fun for our staff to get out and meet some of our older residents.” 
 
Other sheltered housing schemes taking part in celebrating Older Persons Day UK included Olveston Walk, Church Hill, Clarence Road, Seven Acres and Thomas Wall Close.

www.suttonhousingpartnership.org.uk

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Jobs / Tenders

Regional Service Manager – Shelter

Regional Service Manager
£39,671 pa (plus £4,382 if based in London) – with more available for the exceptional candidate, plus excellent benefits 
London or Birmingham + travel
 
Closing date: 23 October 2013 
 
We’re looking for an entrepreneurial Regional Service Manager – Urban Centres with a firm grasp of housing and welfare issues and new business development experience, to lead and manage Shelter’s main service hubs in Birmingham and London.
 
Shelter is now developing regional ‘Hubs’ that bring together advice, legal, support and family services in holistic client centred packages. Destined to be centres of excellence, Shelter hubs will work closely with local statutory and voluntary agencies, and develop close links to the local community. Hubs will also provide the focus for higher profile local campaigning; we want to see a much closer link between services on the ground and Shelter’s national policy and campaigning role.
 
London and Birmingham are our priority areas for Hub development. As the new Regional Service Manager you will be responsible both for managing our existing service groups and developing the model and concept. Join us in this brand new role and you could soon be leading a multi-disciplinary team and playing a major part in the development of the Hub’s success.
 
Your key responsibilities:
  • Having operational control of both hub groups, developing a service model and raising our profile through local partnerships and engagement
  • Taking the lead in implementing an integrated advice/support concept and developing best practice for a full range of hub services and other key initiatives
  • Managing the development and growth of hub services and working with business development colleagues to identify and secure funding opportunities
  • Helping the Operational Management team to develop hub models in other locations.
 
And what you’ll need:
  • A good understanding of housing and welfare policy, legislation and good practice and the ability to apply your knowledge to deliver customer focused services
  • In-depth knowledge of contractual and procurement issues and senior level experience of successful contract delivery in a complex and highly regulated environment
  • A proven track record of developing and delivering new business and managing key external relationships at all levels
  • Excellent financial/budget skills, a flair for using multiple influencing styles and a good understanding of project management approaches.

Benefits include 30 days annual leave, the possibility of flexible working and significant opportunities for learning and development.
 
For further information about the role, the benefits of working for Shelter and to apply please visit our website.
 
At Shelter, we welcome and encourage applications from everyone regardless of age, disability, gender, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation. We are facing diverse problems, so need diverse people to tackle them.
 
Shelter helps over a million people a year struggling with bad housing or homelessness – and we campaign to prevent it in the first place.
 
We’re here so no-one has to fight bad housing or homelessness on their own.

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Executive Assistant – Coast & Country Housing

Executive Assistant 
 
Commencing at £ 21,304
 
A vacancy has arisen for an Executive Assistant in the Corporate Assurance division to cover Maternity leave for a fixed term contract of one year.

The successful candidate will provide executive secretarial and administrative support to the Leadership team.

In particular you will have the skills and experience to:
  • Provide proactive, forward thinking executive diary management for both internal and external meetings utilising Microsoft Outlook
  • Arrange, attend and minute both internal and project meetings as well as preparing, monitoring and updating action plans
  • To assist the Assurance Manager in co-ordinating and delivering effective Board Governance
  • To offer ‘advanced’ presentation and report writing skills ensuring compliance with quality and corporate standards
  • To manage the corporate contacts database by liaising across all service areas to ensure continuous review/update.

For further information, or an informal discussion about the role, please contact Lyn Peacock, Head of Corporate Assurance on 01642 836082 or via e-mail at lyn_peacock@cchousing.org.uk
 
Closing date:                                  13 October 2013

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Non-Executive Director – Trent & Dove Housing

Transforming homes, lives and neighbourhoods
 
NON-EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Remuneration: £4,944 per annum with expenses paid.

Trent & Dove is a dynamic, top performing housing association based in Burton upon Trent and Uttoxeter. We have an impressive portfolio of new developments including a purpose built extracare scheme and provide a diverse range of support services.
 
The Trent & Dove Board is seeking an enthusiastic and committed Non-Executive Director who can offer strategic thinking and business management skills. We would be particularly interested in hearing from individuals with a background in construction/development, finance, audit or legal. An understanding of the social housing sector may be an advantage but of primary importance is a passion for customer centred service delivery and knowledge of local demographics.
 
As a member of the board you will help direct strategy and contribute to decision making. You must be willing to give a commitment of both time and energy. Main board meetings are held 10 times a year in the evenings starting at 5.00pm. You will also need to be able to attend 3 full day strategy events and some training.

Closing date: 8 November 2013
Interviews will take place on 25 November 2013
 
For an application pack please email barbara.richardson@trentanddove.orgor telephone 01283 528540

For an informal discussion about the role, please contact Ron Dougan, Chief Executive on 01283 528501 or e mail:ron.dougan@trentanddove.org
 
We are committed to making appointments to the board on merit by a fair and open process. We welcome applications from all sections of the community.
 
www.trentanddove.org

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Housing News: Jobs and Tenders Round Up

Housing News is advertising the following jobs and tenders on its regional newsletters:



JOBS

Regional Service Manager – Shelter. London or Birmingham. Salary £39,671 pa (plus £4,382 if based in London). Closing date: October 23. More details

Housing Officer – Viewpoint Housing Association. Edinburgh. Salary £25,995.12. Closing date: October 18. More details

Executive Assistant – Coast & Country Housing. North East. Salary £21,304. Closing date: October 13. More details

Non-Executive Director – Trent & Dove Housing. Burton upon Trent and Uttoxeter. Remuneration: £4,944 per annum with expenses paid. Closing date: November 8. More details

Group Chief Executive – Hillcrest Housing Association. Dundee. Salary £89k - £111k. Closing date: October 18. More details

Chief Executive – Fife Housing Association Group. Dunfermline. Salary c £70,000. Closing date: October 14. More details

Money Advisor and Financial Education Officer – Hillhead Housing Association. Kirkintilloch. Salary £29.287 – £32,159 (pro-rata). Closing date: October 11. More details

TENDERS

Design Teams – Hillhead Housing Association. Kirkintilloch. Tender return date: October 16. More details

Housing Jobs & Tenders

National News

Kris Hopkins appointed housing minister

Yorkshire MP Kris Hopkins has been appointed as the new housing minister, but his post will be a significantly lower rank to that of the previous minister Mark Prisk, who lost his job on Monday.

In an apparent downgrading of the housing role, the government has not appointed a minister of state for housing, choosing instead to lower the brief to a junior ministerial position.

Hopkins (pictured), a former soldier, is among a group of Conservative MPs to be promoted from the 2010 intake.

He is a former leader of Bradford Council and before that was responsible for social services and housing at the council.

His achievements over this period included overseeing the delivery of the housing stock transfer in Bradford and the building of five new children’s homes, as well as a commissioning process for the Council’s community development provision.
 
Welcoming the appointment, National Housing Federation chief executive David Orr said Mr Hopkins’ previous involvement with housing associations will be of benefit but warned that housing should be managed at ministerial level.
 
He said: “We welcome the appointment of Kris Hopkins as housing minister. As somebody who has been involved with and understands housing and housing associations, he can make a real difference and help deliver the homes we desperately need. We look forward to working closely with him to put housing on top of the political agenda.
 
“However, we’re surprised and disappointed that, given the scale of the housing crisis and how crucial housing is to the country’s long-term economic recovery, the government has decided that the housing brief should be taken up at an Under-secretary of State rather than Minister of State level.”
 
These sentiments were echoed by the Chartered Institute of Housing, which said: “We welcome Kris Hopkins to his new post and look forward to working with him to help come up with solutions to our national housing crisis. However, we are very concerned that the housing portfolio appears to have been demoted to a more junior ministerial post. On the day that Help to Buy phase two is launched, the government appears to be sending mixed messages on the importance of housing to our economic recovery.”
 
Mark Henderson, Home Group chief executive, said: “It’s very disappointing the role of housing has been apparently downgraded by Government. As a minister Mark Prisk brought stability and a long term view and it is those qualities which are needed to tackle the housing crisis.
 
“We believe housing supply of all tenures should become a greater political priority. Help to Buy won’t solve the housing problems we currently face - indeed we’ve warned the policy could create another bubble.
 
“The new undersecretary of state needs to address how the UK is going to build 250,000 homes each year every year for the next two or three Parliaments.”
 
www.gov.uk

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Critics warn of ‘unintended consequences’ as Help to Buy phase two launched

The second phase of a scheme to help first-time buyers could instead raise house prices, critics have warned.
 
The £12bn Help to Buy scheme which aims to help thousands of people buy a home of their own was officially launched yesterday by Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne.
 
The mortgage guarantee is aimed at thousands of people frozen out of the housing market because they cannot afford large deposits of up to 20 per cent of a property’s value.
 
It means someone trying to buy a £200,000 house currently needs to save up a deposit of £40,000.
 
Leading banks will offer a range of new Help to Buy mortgages – up to 95 per cent of the property’s value – for homes worth up to £600,000.
 
Under the scheme, buyers will only need a deposit of as little as 5 per cent.
 
Depending on the size of deposit, the government will then guarantee up to 15 per cent of the property’s value, in return for a fee from the lender.
 
Critics, however, said the scheme could backfire by creating a housing bubble and distorting the economic recovery.
 
Grainia Long, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), said: “CIH has already warned that the government still has more to do to address concerns that the second phase of Help to Buy could have unintended consequences for the housing market. We welcome the principle of government using its balance sheet strength to try to help increase housing supply – but we remain concerned that Help to Buy could simply increase prices if it is not matched by an increase in house building.
 
“We were pleased to see the Bank of England given a role in monitoring the impact of the policy on a yearly basis, but the housing market can move very quickly and we would like to see more clarity around the government’s proposals for monitoring the scheme between formal reviews. Only through effective monitoring can ministers have the information they need to make changes to the policy or withdraw it if it is proved to be having unintended consequences.
 
“We would also like to hear more about the government’s proposals for managing the end of the scheme. Help to Buy has the potential to be a major market intervention - which needs as much care around arrangements for its withdrawal as around its implementation.”
 
MPs on the Treasury Select Committee warned George Osborne (pictured) the Help to Buy initiative could “raise house prices rather than stimulate new supply”.
 
The MPs said: “Given the chequered history of government interventions in residential property, great care will need to be taken in both the construction and running of this scheme. Mistakes could distort the housing market or carry threats to financial stability. The Government has yet to allay the committee’s concerns about the Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme. It may not have the effects intended....”
 
The MPs said that when the initiative runs out, “the government of the day will face strong incentives to extend the scheme, with the attendant risk that the mortgage guarantee scheme becomes a permanent feature of the UK mortgage market”.
 
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “This is not so much Help to Buy as Help to Sell. And worst of all, it will not build a single extra affordable home – the only long-term solution to our housing crisis.”
 
The Council of Mortgage Lenders warned: “Fundamentally, there is a need for everyone to acknowledge the sheer scale of the challenge.
 
“The annual supply of new housing currently adds considerably less than 1% to the housing stock.
 
“So even measures with the potential to increase new supply significantly can only have a very small impact in the short term on housing need and costs.”
 
High Street banks including NatwestRBSHalifax and Bank of Scotland will start offering new Help to Buy mortgages this week.
 
Virgin Money also confirmed they will participate in the scheme, and will be offering new guaranteed mortgages to borrowers in the New Year. Aldermore Bank is joining the scheme in January, and is exploring whether this date can be brought forward.
 
HSBC has confirmed that it would begin offering mortgages worth up to 95% of property values under the initiative.
 
Natwest and RBS customers will be able to start the process of applying for a mortgage now, with other banks to follow in the next few days.
 
The launch of the scheme has been brought forward by three months, as the details are finalised and lenders are in a position to start offering the mortgages.
 
Lenders can start offering the mortgages now, and they will be guaranteed by the government from January 2014. As it usually takes a few months for borrowers to go through the mortgage completion process, this delay is not a problem for lenders. If borrowers do complete before January their mortgage will be included in the scheme.
 
The government has also confirmed the final scheme rules including the level of the commercial fee the lenders will be charged.
 
On the launch of the scheme, George Osborne said: “Through Help to Buy: mortgage guarantee I want to help those families that have saved for years, earn decent salaries, but cannot afford the deposits currently being asked for by the banks. I want young people to have the same chance of getting on the property ladder as their parents and grandparents.
 
“Too many people are still being denied the dream of owning their own home, which is why we have brought forward the launch of this scheme, so as of today borrowers can start applying for a mortgage with a five per cent deposit.”

How Help to Buy works
Why do we need Help to Buy?

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Benefits crackdown ‘will hit single parents hardest’

Single parents would be the biggest losers under David Cameron’s plan to deny under-25s an automatic right to state benefits.
 
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg (pictured) is worried that parents could be affected by proposals to restrict housing benefit for the more than one million “Neets” – young people not in education, employment or training – under a strategy announced by the Prime Minister at last week’s Conservative Party Conference.
 
Official figures show that 166,000 (46 per cent) of those under 25 who claim housing benefit are lone parents. So are 8,000 (2 per cent) of those claiming jobseeker’s allowance, which could also be limited under the “learn or earn” strategy being drawn up by the Downing Street Policy Unit.
 
A senior Liberal Democrat source told The Independent: “We are not opposed to conditionality in the benefits system, which currently exists. However, we are completely against turning the most vulnerable in society into easy targets.
 
“That is why when the Conservatives put forward plans last year to remove housing benefit from all under-25s, they were quickly blocked by the Liberal Democrats.
 
“The Conservatives have provided absolutely no details about what this idea entails but even they must see the need to support young parents.”
 
Groups representing single parents are warning that they would be badly affected if housing benefit were included.
 
Fiona Weir, chief executive of Gingerbread, said: “Almost half of the young people supported by housing benefit are single parents, and the overwhelming majority rely on this support because there is nowhere else for their family to live. Moving back in with mum and dad simply isn’t an option for everyone.”
 
She added: “Many young single parents are keen to skill-up and enter the job market, and provide a better income for their family. The barriers they face are a lack of flexible jobs and access to childcare, not a lack of aspiration to work. It is not clear from what we’ve seen of the ‘earn or learn’ policy if any of these barriers would be tackled.”
 
Charities are warning that under-25s will already lose out under the Government’s plans to streamline the benefits system by bringing in universal credit.
 
At present, single parents are exempt from rules that provide young adults a lower rate of support. Universal credit will remove this exemption, resulting in 240,000 young parents losing around £780 a year.
 
The Government’s figures show that the changes to support for all parents under 25 will result in 100,000 more children being pushed into poverty.
 
More than 70 charities and community groups have launched a campaign in support of people who rely on benefits at some point in their lives. Polling for the “Who Benefits?” drive found that, despite attempts by some Conservatives to portray claimants as “skivers”, 81 per cent of the public say that benefits should be there for people who need them.
 
The groups backing the campaign to give claimants a “voice” include Gingerbread, The Children’s Society, Crisis, Macmillan Cancer Support and Mind.

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HCA appoints permanent Director of Regulation

Matthew Bailes has been announced as the permanent Executive Director of Regulation at the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA).
 
Matthew (pictured) is currently on secondment to the HCA from the Department for Communities and Local Government, where he was Head of Affordable Housing. He was appointed to the permanent role following an open recruitment process.
 
Andy Rose, Chief Executive of the HCA, said: “I am delighted to be able to announce this appointment. Matthew has a wealth of experience of the social housing sector and his strong leadership has helped steer the Regulator and our partners through some tough challenges. He is an outstanding candidate and I know that Matthew will bring a real sense of continuity to help provide the support and reassurance that the sector needs in this ever changing economic climate.”
 
Julian Ashby, Chair of the HCA Regulation Committee said: “Continuing to have Matthew as Director of Regulation will bring certainty and continuity in a period of rapid change. The Regulation Committee is very happy with this appointment.”
 
Matthew Bailes added: “I am very pleased to be able to continue to lead Regulation within the HCA. This is a very challenging, but exciting time for the Regulator. I am looking forward to completing our work on changes to the Regulatory Framework in response to continued diversification of the sector, and to working with the Chair of the Regulation Committee, and my colleagues, in meeting our objective to protect social housing assets.”
 
Matthew will continue on secondment at the HCA until he takes up the permanent position.
 
www.homesandcommunities.co.uk

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People not ready for government’s new lump-sum digital benefit system, warns housing association

Raglan Housing has welcomed delays to the roll-out of the government’s new Universal Credit benefit which it says will give social landlords more time to help prepare and arm their tenants with the budgeting and IT skills they will need to access and manage their benefits.
 
Over the next four years, Universal Credit will merge several main means-tested benefits and tax credits into one lump sum monthly payment which will be paid in arrears just like a salary. The housing association believes that people are not ready for the new internet-based benefit system which it fears could result in high levels of rent arrears and homelessness.
 
Emma Gill, Raglan Housing’s financial inclusion officer, said: “People on benefits are used to having to manage their money on a fortnightly basis and/or various payments made through-out the month, Universal Credit will mean a change as it will be paid as a lump-sum of money, tenants may need help and support getting to grips and up to speed with the new system. All their bills and living expenses including their rent money, will have to come out of their universal credit and people may find it difficult to make their benefit money last to the end of the month.
 
“This is going to be extremely challenging for people living on limited incomes who are used to having their rent automatically paid directly to their landlord. Putting money aside to pay their landlord every month as well as make other household payments is going to be a struggle for many tenants, particularly those who are subject to the benefit-cap. They are going to have less money to balance their household budgets.
 
“Most tenants have never had to do this before and may need to get some advice or training on how to budget and effectively manage their income and expenditure from organisations like us.”
 
Universal Credit is also an online, web-based system which means recipients who don’t know how to use a computer or the internet will have to be trained-up so they can use the system to claim their benefits.
 
“It’s not going to be easy,” explained Emma. “If for example, you don’t have a computer or internet access, you’ll have to go to a local library, job centre or council office to make an initial claim or check your payments.”
 
Later this year, Raglan will be launching a programme of workshops around the country aimed at helping tenants plan their budgets, set up bank accounts and direct debit facilities, and improve their IT and internet skills.
 
Raglan is also working with the East Midlands Credit Union to offer tenants a rent account.
 
The new service enables them to have their wages and benefits paid directly into a credit union account which then deducts their monthly rent and pays the remaining money into a bank account of their choice, or onto a prepaid debit card.
 
Universal credit will be rolled out to the rest of the country in phases starting from next month when six job centres in Hammersmith, Rugby, Inverness, Harrogate and Shotton will start taking universal credit claims. The whole process is scheduled for completion by 2017.
 
www.raglan.org
 
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Young carers to receive more support than ever before

The government has tabled an amendment to the Children and Families Bill to help improve services for young carers.
 
Children and young people who care for family members are to benefit from a full assessment of their support needs so they receive help and assistance to experience the same opportunities as their friends.
 
The government has tabled an amendment to the Children and Families Bill - currently making its way through Parliament - which will help improve services for young carers by:
  • extending the right to an assessment of support needs to all young carers under the age of 18 - regardless of who they care for or how often they provide it
  • supporting local authorities to combine the assessment of a young carer with an assessment of the person they care for - providing a co-ordinated and rounded package of support for the whole family
  • simplifying the law relating to young carers - making their rights and duties clearer to both young people and professionals
Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson said: “Young carers are the unsung heroes of the care system, selflessly providing support around the clock for the people they love. Yet carers of all ages, for the most noble of reasons, can often overlook their own needs - missing out on the important things their friends take for granted.
 
“This is why we must put in place a system that supports them and enables them to live a full life, as well as protecting them from excessive or inappropriate caring responsibilities. (Yesterday’s) amendment to the Children and Families Bill will make it easier for these vulnerable young people to get the help they so desperately need, and I know it will be welcomed by many young carers and their families.”
 
Caring for a family member can have a detrimental impact on the life of a young carer, including their educational achievement. The government is committed to improving outcomes for these children and young people, yet research shows that too many remain ‘hidden’ from the health, education and social care services they need most - partly as a result of these services needing to do more to identify them.
 
Yesterday’s announcement, alongside the measures proposed in the Care Bill, is the latest step in ensuring that a ‘whole family’ approach - one which assesses both the needs of the adult who requires support and the child who cares for them - is taken in providing personalised and integrated packages of support to help young carers.
 
Since the publication of the revised Carers Strategy, published in 2010, the government has:
  • created specific training guides for teachers and teaching staff to enable them to better identify and support young carers
  • provided £1.5 million to the Children’s Society and Carers Trust to encourage children and adult services to adopt ‘whole family’ approaches to supporting young carers
  • supported young carer pathfinders to develop ways of supporting young carers and their families
  • worked with the National Young Carers Coalition to develop the ‘healthy schools’ e-learning module for teachers to help better understand the challenges and responsibilities faced by young carers.
 
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