A group of London’s largest housing providers is calling on the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to undertake a fundamental review of the welfare benefit system to ensure that work really does pay.
The call follows the conclusion of an extensive three-year research study by the g15 – the group representing the largest housing associations in the capital which provide homes for one in ten Londoners – into the lives of people living in social housing.
It was made in a letter that the chair of the g15, David Montague, has written to Damian Green, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, which also calls for greater government investment in social housing.
The Real London Lives research project tells the real story of living in affordable homes in the capital, and how people have adapted to the changing social and welfare environment of the last three years. Commissioned by g15, the in-depth longitudinal study has been carried out by the University of York.
The research shows that whilst the majority of people in social housing are committed to working, and indeed view work as the only way out of poverty, for many work does not yet pay and welfare has instead become a series of traps to be negotiated.
The majority of people who live in social housing are in work, with 86% of workers in largely stable and long term jobs. Around a third of people interviewed have improved their financial position during the course of the study.
However, financial difficulties came despite a high commitment to work. More than half of those interviewed – 53% – said that a small event or unexpected bill of as little as £50 could quickly push people into financial hardship as it could only be covered by borrowing, while a third found it a constant struggle to pay their basic bills.
For many, making work pay is further complicated by childcare commitments, unsuitable tax credit arrangements, and the high cost of transport in London which can also create barriers to people looking for work.
At the same time, clearly social housing provides a vital foundation for many hard-working Londoners, and more is needed, which is why the g15 is also calling for greater investment in social housing.
David Montague, chair of g15 and CEO of L&Q adds:
“People who live in affordable homes are committed to working, but after three years of research it is clear that the welfare system is no longer fit for purpose.
“Clearly affordable homes play a crucial role in the lives of all the Londoners that we studied, and many more are needed. The g15’s commitment to work with our partners to create 180,000 additional new homes in London will help, but is only a start, which is why we are calling for more government investment in social housing.
“However we also need a welfare system which is fair, simple and flexible if it is to meet its stated aim and make work pay. We look forward to working with the Secretary of State to help set up the fundamental review that is needed.”