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The government planned to reduce housing benefit for tenants in supported housing. The proposed plan is to cap housing benefit payments on social rented properties to the same level as the local housing allowance for private rents. This would be a significant cut in support that people depend on to pay for equipment and adaptations to their homes to accommodate special needs due to old age or disabilities. It also allows those people who have experienced domestic violence, homelessness or a mental health crisis to to live independently. This measure would affect vulnerable tenants the most. 

Bridget Phillipson MP raised her concerns with the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Communities and Local Government, calling on ministers to properly assess the impact of their plans before pressing ahead with the change. 

In answers to her parliamentary written questions on this issue, Justin Tomlinson MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary for Work and Pensions stated that the two departments are working together to conduct an “evidence-based” review of supported accommodation, and expect to publish the report soon. He also claimed that the government “recognise the importance of assessing the potential impact on specialist homes”, and that is why the local housing allowance cap for those living in social sector supported housing have been deferred by a year. Further policies and changes will be subject to the outcomes of the review.

In response to the answers, Bridget Phillipson MP said:

“This proposal will hit those who depend on support to live independently and specialist housing providers in the social sector. 

“I think it is unfair that this group of social housing tenants and providers are being targeted, while the government have cut taxes for the wealthiest in our society. 

“I am also worried that cuts to social rents and means-tested housing benefit would threaten the survival of social housing providers in our area. This would have a long-term impact on our local community and the wellbeing of residents who rely upon this much needed assistance. 

“I welcome the temporary pause, but I urge ministers to consider carefully the impact and protect the most vulnerable.” 

Bridget Phillipson MP also wrote to the Department for Communities and Local Government on behalf of many constituents who got in touch on this issue, and received a letter from Brandon Lewis MP, Minister of State on Housing and Planning. You can view the letter here.

Bridget Phillipson MP raises impact of housing benefit changes on supported housing

The government planned to reduce housing benefit for tenants in supported housing. The proposed plan is to cap housing benefit payments on social rented properties to the same level as...

This week is the State Opening of Parliament where plans for new legislation are announced. 

In the past twelve months the government has suffered major defeats in the Commons - from cuts to disability support and tax credits to the U-turn on academies, to name but a few.

Government ministers and the Tory Party as a whole are so split over the EU referendum that they don't seem to have much energy left to get on with the day job of governing. Their focus should be driving growth, supporting investment and helping local families.

A fair share of investment and funding for our region is long overdue. I want to see the government doing all they can to boost the competitiveness of local businesses so they can create more jobs.

We also need greater investment in infrastructure and additional support for adult training and education to boost skills.

For too many local people, our economy isn't working and holds them back from realising their potential.

We hear all the time about the so-called Northern Powerhouse, yet the gulf between our region and London and the South East has never been wider. For our area to make its full contribution, we need to be given a chance to succeed.

What we need is an industrial strategy that supports productivity, exports and jobs creation.

We have a great track record - we are the only region to export more than we import - but there is still so much more to be done.

We still don't have enough highly skilled, well paid jobs for our young people.

I know many working families have been pressed hard in recent years by rising energy bills, low wages, unemployment and cuts to their household income. Jobs are increasingly insecure and working poverty and child poverty are both set to rise. 

As workers have felt the squeeze, the government is not doing enough to tackle the big companies who seem to believe paying tax is optional and everyone else pays more as a result.

Our area has great, untapped potential - what we need is a government on our side.

 

This article was originally published by the Sunderland Echo on 19th May 2016. You can read the online version here

Bridget Phillipson: Queen's Speech was devoid of a plan

This week is the State Opening of Parliament where plans for new legislation are announced. 

With the increase in litigants in person since 2013, the safety for domestic violence victims when facing their abusers in family court hearings has raised concerns and demands action. 

Bridget Phillipson, Houghton and Sunderland South MP, recently raised this issue to the Ministry of Justice in a parliamentary written question. Caroline Dinenage MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice responded that HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) takes safety for all court users “extremely seriously”, and that security measures are put in place, including “mandatory bag searches, the use of modern security searching equipment and surveillance cameras, and panic alarms in hearing rooms”. 

With the increase in litigants in person since 2013, the safety for domestic violence victims when facing their abusers in family court hearings has raised concerns and demands action. 

However, Bridget is concerned that these measures do not take into account the intimidation and verbal violence that survivors often have to face in family courts.

Responding to the answer from the Ministry of Justice, Bridget said:

“Unfortunately, the Minister’s answer does not reflect the reality facing many survivors of domestic abuse.

“All too often, women face the risk of further verbal abuse, intimidation, and even physical assault when attending family court hearings. The case studies collected by Women’s Aid are part of a much wider problem. The family courts have a long way to go until survivors of abuse and their children receive the support and protection they need.”

Women’s Aid, a national charity working to end domestic abuse against women and children, recently published Child First report, of nineteen case studies on child contact arrangements and the family courts. The report highlighted the shocking experience of survivors in family courts, and the dangers children are exposed to from formal or informal contact arrangements with the abusive parent.

On behalf of constituents who supported the Child First campaign, Bridget also wrote to the Ministry of Defence to emphasise putting children’s safety first in family court rulings on contact arrangements with the abusive parent concerned. Caroline Dineage MP replied in a letter to Bridget, which you can view here

Responding also to the Ministry of Justice, Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, said:

“In the criminal courts, there are protection measures in place to give victims fair access to justice. This is not always the case in the family courts.

“Women’s Aid launched the Child First campaign to call for protection measures to be available to all survivors of domestic abuse in the family courts.”

Before entering Parliament, Bridget managed a refugee for women and their families fleeing domestic violence. Between 2010-2015, Bridget also worked as Secretary to All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Domestic and Sexual Violence, which published the report The Changing Landscape of Domestic and Sexual Violence Services in February 2015. 

Bridget Phillipson MP calls for safer family courts for domestic violence victims

With the increase in litigants in person since 2013, the safety for domestic violence victims when facing their abusers in family court hearings has raised concerns and demands action.  Bridget...


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