Letter to Secretary of State from G15

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
DWP Caxton House
Tothill Street
London SW1H 9NA

7 September 2016

Dear Secretary of State,

Congratulations on your appointment as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. I would like to take this opportunity to introduce the g15 and to outline our research programme ‘Real London Lives’ undertaken in collaboration with the University of York.

The g15 represents the largest housing associations in London, providing homes for one in ten people across the capital. Our group is committed to investing in our communities and supporting our tenants into training and employment and we are proud of our successes in this area.

As part of our work to ensure that social housing and policy is meeting the needs of our tenants, we undertook an extensive three year research study with the University of York. Our Real London Lives project tells the real story of living in affordable housing in the capital and how our tenants have adapted to the changing social and welfare environment. As the study has now concluded, we wanted to outline some of the realities faced by our tenants and to ask for a fundamental review of the welfare benefit system to ensure that work pays.

The report shows that a majority of our tenants are in work, with around 86% of workers in stable and long term jobs, and that a third of people interviewed have improved their financial position during the course of the study. The increase in employment is encouraging, but more than half of all of those interviewed highlighted that a small event or unexpected bill of a little as £50, including for example a broken oven, would push them into financial hardship.

Whilst employment is the best route out of poverty, our experience and research shows that at present the system does not always make that a reality. For many, work is complicated by childcare commitments, unsuitable tax credit arrangements and the high cost of transport in London which in some circumstances hinders seeking employment.

The University of York’s in-depth reports show that for many people social housing provides the stability that enables them to find work, lift themselves out of poverty and live independently of any benefit support. Clearly, we must collectively do more to provide additional housing, and a clear long term rent policy will further enable us to do this.

This stability, which for many is crucial, can and will be extended by the delivery of more new homes through our development programmes.

However we believe that the Government should also consider greater investment in social housing to support these aims and to tackle the housing challenge in the capital.

The Government has made a number of welcome steps to meet these aims and objectives, including increased provision for childcare and the increases to the minimum wage. We would welcome the opportunity to work with you and your department to review whether the current system is meeting the Government’s aims, what future measures should be considered, and to demonstrate the benefits of greater investment in social housing.

In the Prime Minister’s first speech, she outlined that the Government would work to support those who work hard but who worry about the cost of living. We welcomed these remarks as they described the majority of our tenants. Our research and experience show that whilst the majority of our tenants 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. It also demonstrates that in this area we collectively have much more to do.

The g15 has collectively and individually worked closely with successive Governments and will continue to do so. However, we believe that in light of this research and following a change of Government it would sensible to conduct a fundamental review of the Government’s welfare policies to ensure that they are meeting their aims and objectives.

I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this with you in more detail and if I can be of any help on this or any other matter please do feel free to contact me.

Yours sincerely,

David Montague CBE
Chair, g15 and Chief Executive, L&Q

Click here to read the letter sent to Secretary of State from G15.

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