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I pay tribute to Ms Samuels, who brought her case as far as the Supreme Court. Hopefully her struggle will result in change so that others do not have to go through this.
This case should be a wake-up call for many local authorities in how they process homelessness applications, while acknowledging that Scotland has much stronger homelessness legislation. Local authorities have been left in a very difficult situation because of this Government’s policies, which drive cases like that of Ms Samuels. Local housing allowance rates have been frozen at 2015 levels by this Government. Why will that freeze continue into next year? The Minister simply cannot say that this is about not wanting to subsidise the private rented sector, because the Government are actively doing that by not building social housing.
In the four years to 2018, Scotland delivered 50% more affordable housing units per head of population and—this is the important one—five times more social rented properties per head of population, and more in total, than England. The Scottish Government are also spending £12 million on discretionary housing payments to mitigate the Government’s freeze on benefits such as local housing allowance and £50 million to mitigate the bedroom tax.
A perfect storm has led to so many of us having cases like that of Ms Samuels at our surgeries—punitive, arbitrary and punishing cuts to social security, including housing benefit, coupled with rent increases and a devastating under-supply of social housing. When will the Government wake up to the crisis they are causing?