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Local Housing Allowance: Supreme Court Ruling

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:14 am on 13th June 2019.

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Photo of Marsha de Cordova Marsha de Cordova Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) (Disabled People) 11:14 am, 13th June 2019

I am grateful to Mr Speaker for granting the urgent question. Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled on the case of Samuels v. Birmingham City Council, a case in which a single mother with four children was found “intentionally homeless” for not using her subsistence social security to pay the shortfall between her local housing allowance and her rent. Since 2016, the Government have frozen LHA, while private rents have continued to rise. That has meant that housing benefits no longer cover the cost of renting in the private sector.

Research by Shelter has found that for a two-bedroom home, even for the cheapest third of rents, LHA rates do not cover rental costs in 97% of areas in England. In the case that the Supreme Court ruled on yesterday, Ms Samuels was expected to use her social security to find an additional £150 a month to top up her local housing allowance to cover her rent. That put Ms Samuels in an impossible situation, essentially forcing her to choose between housing her family and feeding them. That is happening in the context of local authorities being forced to spend £1 billion a year on emergency and temporary accommodation, with the costs of preventing homelessness being pushed from national to local government.

The Government cannot continue to expect the poorest people in our society to find a way of paying for what the Government refuse to. The judgment sets a precedent. Will the Minister make a clear statement on the Supreme Court’s judgment and tell the House how the Government intend to respond? When will the Secretary of State reset LHA rates in response to the judgment? Finally, will the Minister tell us what assessment the Government have made of the hardship caused by the freeze in LHA rates?