Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney MP Gerald Jones raised concerns in Parliament at a recent session of Prime Minister’s Questions, regarding the UK Governments plans to introduce a cap on the amount of housing benefit a household is eligible for from 2019.
This local housing allowance is set by the UK Government and it is different in each local area. In Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, the allowance is lower than the rents charged by housing providers and it will mean that housing benefit will be capped and any shortfall towards the rent will have to be paid by the tenant.
Gerald Jones asked the Prime Minister about the Proposals:
“These proposals will hit people on low income in Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney hard. While in places like the Prime Minister’s constituency of Maidenhead the cap will be higher so people are unlikely to be affected, here people could be expected to pay upwards of £500 a year towards their rent.”
Despite a plea to the Prime Minister to issue clear guidance to ‘at the very least exempt older people from these crude cuts and ensure the Local Housing Allowance is in line with local rents’, Theresa May did not have an answer.
The lack of clear guidance from the UK Government could mean that thousands of people on tight budgets could fall into rent arrears.
Mike Owen, Chief Executive of Merthyr Valleys Homes wants the UK Government to look again at the reforms and the consequences that any changes will have:
“We’re obviously disappointed that so far the UK Government has not given any indications that there will be exemptions for older people or other groups who will be affected by the cap.
“As things stand, the cap on the Local Housing Allowance will mean that the tenant will have to find the extra money, which will undoubtedly put pressure on the lowest paid and those on pensions and Universal Credit leaving people with the impossible choice of feeding themselves or paying the rent.
“We hope the UK Government will look again at the reforms and its consequences and think seriously about offering exemptions for the most vulnerable in society”.
“The Westminster Government’s welfare reform agenda has already caused significant hardship for many people here in Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney and now these further proposals will create further anxiety & stress for people. I will continue to press the UK Government to address this issue and at the very least exempt older people. I will also be pressing for more consideration for a realistic local housing allowance rate for our area.”