TO: SECRETARY OF STATE IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
of 2,000 signatures
Dear Mr Duncan Smith, please make an allowance in the application of the definition of "dwelling", in terms of Housing Benefit, in the context of a homeless person's period of stay at a night shelter, so that a night shelter will automatically qualify as a dwelling and enable Housing Benefit to be claimable.
Why is this important?
There has been a change to a point of law regarding what qualifies as a dwelling in order for Housing Benefit to be paid. Specifically, where a homeless person stays for a night at an emergency night shelter, if that night shelter does not allow: a) the ability for the homeless person to stay for at least 24 hours in a space they can call their own, and ... b) somewhere for the homeless person to leave personal belongings if they leave the shelter, and ... c) a guarantee that they can have access the following day then that shelter, since the 6th February 2013, appears to no longer qualify as a "home" for housing benefit purposes. The difficulty is that staff and volunteers who run night shelters need to sleep during the day so that they can provide the service the following night. Until the 6th February 2013, night shelters offering a place to stay, typically between 8.00pm and 8.00am have had no problem in being able to receive Housing Benefit and to rely on this as a key income stream in their budgets. Since the 6th February 2013, individual Councils have interpreted a court decision regarding a night shelter in Anglesey, Wales, in one of two ways, either: 1) They have decided that certain night shelters must stop receiving Housing Benefit; or: 2) They have decided that "Night shelters play a very important role and we are pleased the support they receive via Housing Benefit will continue." Quote from Blackpool Council Cabinet Member Gillian Campbell. Stopping Housing Benefit payments to night shelters means a significant reduction in their income stream, and may mean they have to close. For a case study, look at the Narrowgate Night Shelter in Salford, Greater Manchester - http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/may/15/benfits-rule-closing-night-shelters?INTCMP=SRCH Please add your voice to this campaign and help to ensure homeless people continue to receive life saving help.
How it will be delivered
Deliver in person.