1. ITV Report

London councils prepare tenants for benefits cap

A mattress lies next to similar ones on a patch of wasteland on the corner of Commercial Street and Pomell Street in Tower Hamlets. Photo: PA

London councils are acting now to prepare tenants for a benefits cap that will come in from April 2013. From that date no household in the UK will be able to claim more than a combined total of £500 a week in benefits, now matter how many people live in the house and what age they are.

This includes the total amount given for Job Seekers Allowance, Child Benefit, and Housing Benefit.

That figure includes the cost of rent in the form of housing benefit, which historically is much higher in London than elsewhere in the country.

So if rent is £340 a week, which is a typical lower end market rent for a family with two or three children, it leaves about £160 a week to live on.

The government says nobody will be disadvantaged when Universal Credit comes in in October 2013.

Emma Walden met one woman who will lose £200 a week in the New Year.

Assessors look at damage to a property on Chamberlayne Road in the Kensal Rise in Brent the day after a small tornado struck. Credit: Reuters

London Tonight asked 33 local authorities in the capital about how they would prepare tenants for benefits cuts and received responses from 26 of them.

Of those, 18 already provide some temporary/emergency accommodation outside their own borough. If you include private rented accommodation outside the borough, the number is 20.

Eleven boroughs provide temporary/emergency/private rented accommodation outside of the capital.

Five councils are considering relocating people on the housing waiting list to new locations outside their borough in the future.

A housing centre situated on Commercial Street in Tower Hamlets in east London. Credit: PA

Waltham Forest has provided temporary accommodation as far away as Walsall.

Harrow Council says it is “developing housing solutions in a number of towns/cities in the Midlands. The majority of the properties are houses with gardens in the private rented sector and all are affordable. The areas are within Northamptonshire, Corby, Rushden, Wellingborough, Northampton and Kettering".

Brent Council says that they “already procure properties in Luton and Slough but are also exploring the following areas – Birmingham, Manchester, High Wycombe and Milton Keynes".

Tower Hamlets Council has launched a Prepare and Act Now campaign to raise local residents' awareness about the raft of government welfare reforms which they say will negatively impact thousands of families in Tower Hamlets and countless more across the country.

Their campaign aims to provide information about the broad welfare changes that are taking place and provide essential information about local support agencies that can help residents with finding a job, advising on the advantages of increasing working hours and valuable guidance on benefits, debt advice and money management.

Together, with many of its Housing Association partners, the council is planning to visit more than 1,500 social housing tenants and families in temporary accommodation over the coming months, highlighting families' options and potential ways forward.

Tower Hamlets Council's Lorraine Douglas interviews Shazna Begum about her benefits below:

Attending the Prepare and Act Now launch, Councillor Rabina Khan, Cabinet Member for Housing, said:

The welfare reforms will have a devastating effect on the borough's most vulnerable people.

It will increase overcrowding, drive up rent arrears and force many residents to move home.

I am absolutely committed to working with our housing associations, partners and the NHS, to ensure that residents and households in Tower Hamlets have the information that they need to prepare and act against the impact that the changes will have.

– Tower Hamlets Mayor, Lutfur Rahman

Ealing Council says that in the future it may be forced to house more families outside the borough.

It is not possible to accurately predict if we will need to place families outside of Ealing, because this will depend on how many landlords are prepared to drop rents to reflect the new LHA rates. However, we expect the gap will be too great for many landlords - particularly with the borough’s larger family-sized homes.

– Ealing Council