There was outrage last year when a Liverpool Housing Association boss claimed that those facing a shortfall in housing benefits due to the bedroom tax could carry out odd jobs such as “litter picking” on estates to cover rent payments.
But Hammersmith and Fulham intend to go much further and are enshrining unpaid work as a condition of maintaining a social housing tenancy.
Under the borough’s complex and draconian new regulations for social housing tenants, priority for housing will be given to those who make a ‘community contribution’. One of the ways that prospective tenants can qualify for this is by volunteering, which must have been for at least 20 hours a month for six months prior to any housing application being considered.
Astonishingly, if those housed stop volunteering at any point then they may face being sent on workfare by the Council or lose their home completely when their tenancies are renewed. The Council have declared that (PDF):
“Where an applicant for housing has been made an allocation of housing from Band 2 of the Housing Allocation Scheme, based on a Community Contribution award and the basis for that award ceases to apply during the term of the tenancy, the Council may seek to provide opportunities for the tenant to make a community contribution in an alternative way. Non-performance against an award of a community contribution may be one factor taken into account in the consideration of the renewal of a flexible tenancy.”
Volunteering can include working for non-profit organisations run by the council themselves. It should not apply to those in work, which is also counted as a community contribution by the council. However this is only the case if the tenant has worked nine out of the last twelve months. Very soon Hammersmith and Fulham council flat tenants who become unemployed even temporarily, may find themselves compelled to work for free*.
This will not be a condition of receiving benefits, as Jobcentre workfare schemes currently are. It will not even be to make up a bedroom tax shortfall to help pay the rent. Instead forced unpaid labour will be built into tenancy agreements with the direct threat of homelessness for those who refuse.
*these rules are for new tenants. Existing tenants will not be affected.
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