Today I found out about a potentially disturbing and possibly illegal decision made about new lettings at the Stonebridge Park development of so-called 'social housing'.
The last time we heard about this particular development was when the nearby City Farm was presented with an apparent fait accompli by NCC to have 10% of their land taken away for parking for residents of the new estate. A portent of the levels of user friendliness to come maybe?
Anyway, it seems that at least some of the new social housing is to be subject to a 'local lettings policy' to restrict the type of people eligible for a tenancy. The policy aims, in short to '...improve the social profile of the area' by introducing a lettings policy that '...tackles crime and antisocial behaviour and also takes a different approach to the letting of the properties by focusing particularly on potential residents who are in employment or training.'
Ok, that looks a lot to me like they consider people who aren't in employment or training as having a negative impact on the social profile of an area. No?
Further into the report the following condition is cited (among others) -
"You are in employment or on a training programme i.e. apprenticeship and you can demonstrate the ability to pay rent subject to income assessment. Applicants in receipt of Disability Living Allowance will not be subject to employment/income conditions and those of pensionable age will be considered."
Preumably, the concessions to those on DLA and pensioners are there in a ham-fisted attempt at avoiding legal action for disability discrimination or the political fall-out of having a 'no pensioners' rule. Indeed, the appended Equality Impact Assessment notes no problems caused to people with disabilities by the policy other than some tosh about problems caused by having to wait for adaptations.
The problem here is, yet again, NCC's utter inability to understand the meaning of 'disability', both in everyday life and as defined by the Equality Act. Not all disabled people get DLA by a long chalk and, contrary to the policy's apparent expectations, quite a lot of people getting DLA do in fact work.
On the other hand, all those on Incapacity Benefit or its replacement Employment Support Allowance are UNABLE to work, that is a key defining condition of the benefit and a great deal of them will be defined as disabled under the Equality Act. I think what I'm saying here is that NCC is about to face a number of disability discrimination claims if the policy remains in this state.
That aside (and I haven't even mentioned that their crappy EIA accepts that the policy may well discriminate against women due to most lone parents, who are significantly less likely to be working, being women. The justification is basically that they can go somewhere else. I kid you not) we should have a look at the whole basis of this belief that out of work benefit claimants are undesirables. NCC's evidence for this is based entirely on the experiences of the Victoria Centre flats which has had a similar policy for 25 years, according to the report. This 'evidence' includes the 'positive opinion of the Housing Patch Manager' (srsly) and that a 3 year survey of the dreaded anti-social behaviour' fingered 66% (27 in all) of miscreants being out of work.
First of all, that figure is meaningless without knowing the overall work status rates of the whole population of the flats. If 66% of all tenants are out of work then it cannot be argued that those out of work are more likely to be involved with ASB. Furthermore, it turns out that 12 of the 27 were receiving DLA or Incapacity Benefit so this raises questions as to the effectiveness of the entire policy i.e. they want to stamp out ASB but they are planning to allow DLA claimants in, but not Incapacity Benefit claimants, even though past evidence has shown they may commit ASB. So, the policy is an irrational shambles as well as likely to be discriminatory, think we've seen this somewhere before.
The sheer crapness of the evidence combined with a determination to go ahead anyway is the kind of policy based evidence that keeps the Daily Mail warm at night and has no real basis in fact. Anti-social behaviour will NOT be reduced by not accepting benefit claimants as tenants but it WILL result in fewer housing choices for some of the most vulnerable members of our society.
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