Image: Isobelle Hamilton, North Down Community Network & Bloomfield Community Association (centre) with Melissa Lynas, Greater Village Regeneration Trust (right); and Frances McGee, Habinteg Housing Association, at the conference on welfare reform organised by Housing Rights and Supporting Communities in Belfast
By Una Murphy
“We are at the coal face,” Isobelle Hamilton, chair of North Down Community Network and a trustee of Bloomfield Community Association in Bangor, Co Down, has told a conference on welfare reform in Belfast.
“What communities need to know is how much am I going to lose…and how am I going to feed my children,” she added,
Ms Hamilton told an audience of staff and volunteers from community organisations, housing associations and advice organisations: “Communities have been on the ball for a long time on what is happening with welfare reform and we knew from the start what was wrong with it.”
The event was organised by Housing Rights and Supporting Communities at Skainos Centre on the Newtownards Road, east Belfast.
Eileen Patterson, Director of Communities at Radius Housing, the biggest housing association in Northern Ireland, and the conference chair said: “The challenge for us all is to make sure people know what is coming down the line.”
Ms Patterson told the conference that some social housing tenants did not understand the ‘mitigation’ payments, introduced by Stormont to offset cuts, would end.
She added that there was not enough one bedroom accommodation in Northern Ireland’s housing stock.
Stormont mitigation of the ‘bedroom tax’ in Northern Ireland will end by 2020
The Westminster government has said ‘the removal of the spare room subsidy’ was designed to cut the housing benefit bill. This policy has already been put in place in Britain.
The conference heard from Douglas White, Head of Advocacy at the Carnegie UK Trust on the overlap of digital exclusion and lack of affordable credit among poorer households in Scotland.
“Being digitally engaged is a good measure of how socially included people are,” he added. “Digital exclusion exacerbates the social divide.”
Read also: Call for measures to secure provision of new social housing – http://viewdigital.org/2017/05/11/call-measures-secure-provision-new-social-housing/